A Guide on How to Properly Cut and Preserve Burl Wood

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Burlwood is a unique and rare type of lumber that can be found in nature. It comes from trees with twisted bark, which creates natural patterns and shapes on the tree’s exterior. Some people may have seen pieces of burl wood being used for decorative purposes such as furniture or artwork. If you’re interested in cutting burl wood to preserve or use it for decoration, there are ways to do so without damaging this precious resource! In this guide, we will share some tips on how to properly cut and preserve burl wood so that it lasts as long as possible.

What is Burl Wood?

Burlwood is a type of figured timber that has grown in response to stress, such as fungal infection or insect attack. The result is an attractive irregular pattern on the surface of the wood, and it can sometimes grow into spectacular shapes resembling grapes or tentacles.

What are some common uses for burl wood?

Burls typically make beautiful tables, chairs, cabinets, and other furniture pieces because they have striking patterns with often deep grains at their center—from which these woods get their name. These qualities also make them famous for veneers, bowls, platters, and more. Even though they’re small compared to regular logs used for lumber production purposes, there’s enough quantity available from the few yards left untouched by logging operations to make them more than worth their weight in gold.

Burlwood is still available, but it’s rare to find a usable piece of the wood that hasn’t been damaged by insects or fungi from which this irregular pattern originates. Woodworkers must process these burls quickly and carefully with care not to damage the surface—or risk spoiling an otherwise beautiful, unique material.

Action Steps:

Burls are unlike any other type of tree because they have distinctive patterns created by fungus or insect activity deep within their core—and sometimes even grow into spectacular shapes resembling grapes or tentacles (hence where their name comes from). This makes them popular with woodworkers, who must process them quickly and carefully with care not to damage the surface—or risk spoiling an otherwise beautiful, unique material.

Here are a few things you should know about handling and working with burl woods:

  • Burlwood from a living tree should never be cut, tipped, or twisted from the natural shape.
  • When you are cutting burl wood, be sure to use a saw meant for crosscutting and not ripping. This will help keep your cuts clean and straight with little effort on your part.
  • You should also cut the ends of the board at 45-degree angles, so they do not split or splinter when being worked with.
  • Cutting and treating Burls is delicate work that requires patience—great attention should be paid to protecting the pattern from injury during shaping or finishing.
  • Cutting a burl in any other way will lead to an ugly, distorted piece of furniture that is only good for firewood or scrap wood rather than turning it into something truly magnificent and breathtaking. 
  • Do not use power tools as this can damage the grain patterns on the surface of your pieces—or even crack its brittle core, which may lead to cracking during drying.
  • The best tool you can use when cutting out your part would be a coping saw; it will allow you to cut in between growth rings without damaging any of the patterns on edge. If this isn’t possible due to size constraints, then take some extra caution as you’re making your cuts so that wounds inflicted by regular tools don’t get infected or cause unnecessary cracking patterns.
  • Making the right cuts and following the proper steps will help you preserve burl wood while creating a beautiful piece of furniture that can be enjoyed for generations to come. If possible, cut them into boards or slabs to reduce the size and make their weight easier to handle.
  • Making sure the wood is adequately dried before cutting it will help protect the burl’s natural beauty. Dry for at least three months before sanding or polishing. Also, when sanding, always sand in the direction of growth rings.
  • Since burl is not a very hardwood, it’s susceptible to splitting and cracking when being worked with or exposed to different conditions over time—this means that you’ll need some extra care as you’re finishing your project so that everything stays intact. 
  • When using stains on your finished product, make sure they are color-safe for use on delicate surfaces by choosing one with minimal chemical content. If this isn’t possible, then opt for one specifically labeled “for fragile woods” instead. 
  • Your decision about which type of finish to give it can make a big difference in how well it looks after long periods as well as what kinds of environments it can be placed in without damage happening. There are many different finishes available out there, such as lacquer, polyurethane, satin varnish, gloss varnish, shellac, and other options depending on what you are looking for.
  • You should also consider how you want to use it before deciding on the finish type. If you plan to use it in a moist environment such as near water, then sealed with polyurethane or lacquer is recommended since it will not be damaged by moisture like other types of finishes would be and can protect from damage happening faster than if they were left unsealed.
  • Only seal your burl wood after finishing rather than prior unless there is no concern about moisture at all. If, instead, we’re talking about placing this piece somewhere where there isn’t moisture, then water-based or oil finishes are appropriate.
  • The type of finish is also essential to consider when choosing what you want the burl wood to look like. Shellac and lacquer give a clear coat that will create a shiny surface, while polyurethane gives a satin finish which means it adds depth but not as much luster. Water-based paints can have different levels of sheen, too, so make sure you know what you’re going for before deciding on one!
  • When storing your piece long-term, be sure to store it flat and out of direct sunlight so avoid contact with moisture. Wood storage help keeps humidity levels low, which can stop splitting and cracking.

It’s vital that you keep these tips in mind so your valuable piece of art does not become an unusable decoration.

As you can see, there are many steps to take in order to preserve burl wood. Eric Christopher Art has years of experience caring for these beautiful pieces. We want to share that knowledge with our customers to enjoy their purchases as long as possible. If you have any questions about this process or how we can help give your furniture a longer life span, contact us today!

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Call Eric Christopher Art (707) 815-4724