What is a Burl?

Burls are irregular growths on trees, usually caused by stress, insects or fungus. The grain inside a burl is irregular and has very unique and intricate patterns. Burls are also quite rare and this makes them highly prized by craftspeople and artists. Each carved piece is unique from the next. Exact reproductions would be impossible to produce. I work primarily with hardwood burl from Northern Ontario. The top picture shows a large Yellow Birch burl I located in 2007. Also in the picture is Maggie, my faithful bush companion. If only I could teach her to hunt for burls instead of chasing birds.

The Process

For me, the first step in creating a burl carving is obtaining the right burl. This search for burls takes me deep into the forests of Northern Ontario. The burl is cut away with a chainsaw, and then lugged back to the truck. I use a sled or a pack board to move the wood. This is the most physically demanding part of the process. Once the burl is safely in the workshop, I start shaping the piece with cutting tools such as a chainsaw and angle grinder. The roughed out piece is then put away for several months to slowly dry. I then sculpt and refine the piece to its final form. Then I sand, finish and polish to enhance and protect the beauty of the wood. The process from bush to polish can take months, even years to complete, and the journey is different and rewarding every time.

image showing the process image showing the process image showing the process