A Guide on How to Properly Cut and Preserve Burl Wood

A Guide on How to Properly Cut and Preserve Burl Wood

15th Apr 2022

burl wood

Technically, burl wood is a defect on the trunk of a tree, but they are some of the most beautiful defects to be found in the world!

Yes, these knotty pieces appear when bacteria disrupt the plant's growth process, causing an offshoot to grow away from the trunk's perfectly grooved grains. While people may like the latter for, say, planks in a hardwood floor, burl wood is en vogue these days — perhaps even more so than its pristine counterpart.

After all, burl wood makes an eye-catching focal point for artwork, coffee tables, end tables, and more. To get to that point, though, you need to know how to cut and preserve burl wood.

Here is what you need to know on how to cut and preserve burl wood.

1. Skip Living Trees

You should never cut burl wood from a living tree. Excising a bit of its trunk can kill the entire plant. No matter how beautiful a burl you have found, you need to skip it if the tree's still alive. Otherwise, you will end up with a dead tree and the burl wood might not be as beautiful or ready to be worked with.

Instead, scope out downed trees — they will have plenty of knots and imperfections for you to find, too. You will not have to worry about causing damage since the tree is chopped down already. Plus, a downed tree will have begun to dry out slightly, which can end up giving you a piece of wood that is ready for the next stage of the process when you are ready to begin creating your wood project.

Call local arborists if you need help finding trees to use. They will be able to point you to areas where trees have recently been cut. Also, make sure that you have approval from the owner of the land to cut the burl wood from the downed trees. If you do work on a downed tree on someone’s property, make sure that you do not leave any potential trip hazards behind.

2. Cut Out the Burl

Once you have a tree and have pinpointed a burl, it is time to make your slice.

You will cut burl wood with two slices: one a few inches above the knot and one a few inches below it. Give yourself plenty of wiggle room, so you do not cut away any of the wood you want. Plus, having more wood around the burl will slow the drying process.

3. Preserve the Burl 'Til It's Time to Create With It

You do not want your burl to dry out before you can use it. So, store it properly until creativity strikes.

Brush the outside edges with latex paint and store the wood outdoors — but out of direct sunlight. When it is time to helm your burl wood project , you will want to dry out the trunk.

4. Dry the Burl Wood

You want to avoid drying out your burl — until it is time to create something new with it, anyway. So, when you know what you want to make out of your burl, you will want to air out your trunk piece, so it is ready for its new life in your home.

To make this happen as quickly as possible, cut your burl into a rough version of the shape you envision for it. Give yourself a quarter-inch of additional length when you chop your slabs — they can shrink up as they dry, and you do not want to lose any surface area of your beautiful burl. Once it dries up, then you can begin working with your burl wood to create a beautiful piece for your home or office. The drying process make take a few days or weeks to complete. The goal is to let the wood dry slowing and not to rush the process. Doing so will help you to avoid having your burl wood develop a large crack that can make it difficult to work with. On the other hand, if you do develop a crack, consider using wood from an adjacent piece to repair it. Cut a pie-shaped piece from the burl wood slab that includes the crack. Then cut an identical piece of a similar size from the adjacent slab. Then glue your newly cut piece into the opening of slab where you took out the damaged wedge. The grain should be a nearly perfect match, which can make the slab workable for your project without having to deal with any cracks.

As part of slowing the drying process, you can use a heavy coat of paste wax over the exposed burl areas. You could also use a grain sealer. Store the drying wood in a cool and dark place. After the surface has dried out somewhat, then you can removed the paste wax, allowing the burl wood to dry slightly faster to minimize any potential warping of the wood.

Make Imperfections Into Art

Burlwood teaches us that beauty is in the imperfections. When you cut, preserve and create with your burl, you will see that for yourself.

If you cannot find a downed tree with a burl to give you, we are here to help. Click here to see our selection of walnut burls or maple burls and start creating ASAP.

Global Wood Source is a family-owned and operated lumber yard and mill specializing in exotic woods from around the world and rare domestics. We personally acquire and inspect each piece of log and timber obtained from forests and jungles worldwide.