Burl or not to Burl ? Whazzaa ?

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Forum topic by Porchfish posted 10-29-2011 04:38 PM 1636 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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823 posts in 2528 days

10-29-2011 04:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: burl figure best approach north florida sand oak

OK so no mystery about what we have here, we has a red oak 80” in circumference 4' from soil which puts it at about 25+ " in diameter. and it is scabby with surface burl. It is what we refer to here abouts as a skanky sand oak. It has a small lanceolate leaf like it's cousin the live oak. I have seen this kind of surface scabbing before but I have never had the opportunity to see what is underneath till now. The tree was hit by lightning earlier this summer and it's crown was blown off at about the 30' height. My concern is that my neighbor could be correct that these are more than surface blemishes and the figure of the wood underneath the scale is highly affected by the critters than made it react in such a weird way to begin with. Now if I plan on collecting bowl blanks, I have no problem, but if I want to cut it into 8 ft. lengths and take it to a band saw mill to be sliced up (flat, Rift, or Quartered) I would like to know a little ahead of time so I could figure out the best approach. The band saw mill trip requires the rental of a trailer and $$ invested. If I take it to the mill and find it is rather ordinary red oak lumber I'll not be happy about the investment made. If on the other hand it is highly figured, It would have been a good trip. My question is: has anyone out there had experience with this situation ? Does anyone have any idea as to what would be the best approach ? Have you seen this type scale/burl before and cut into it ? It isn't like it is going anywhere because it's just a few feet away from my driveway and is stable. And besides I have my "friends" keeping an eye on it for me. Their den is less than 30yards away ! This may not seem like a big deal to some but that could be material for an awful lot of projects for years to come out there, and I should probably take it down before it begins to deteriorate from exposure after the lightning strike. I plan on waiting till mid December when the "sap is down" to drop it. Let me know what you folks think about this ! Thanks don.s Havana Florida , porchfish porchfish studio.

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

9 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2689 days

#1 posted 10-29-2011 04:50 PM

I don’t know what’s prettier, the tree or the foxes. I’m interested in the answer to this question, so I’ll be tuning in if you don’t mind. My gut tells me that bowl blanks will be the answer but I’m on page 5 of Understanding Wood. But you’re right, that’s a ton of red oak that someone (not me, don’t like red oak, no offense, I’m sure none taken, etc.;) would love to have. On the other hand, it’s an expensive chore. I will wait anxiously.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 2942 days

#2 posted 10-29-2011 05:12 PM

Poor ol’ tree, pretty ugly most of it’s life, sure deserves to morph into something beautiful!
Like Al, I’ll be watching, really want to how this turns out.

-- Smitty

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4214 days

#3 posted 10-29-2011 05:22 PM

I have no clue what the best approach is, but I’m pretty sure something good is gonna come of this. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3035 days

#4 posted 10-30-2011 03:27 AM

After you fall the tree. I think you should cut a slab about eighteen inches long off the bottem. Split or saw that slab with the grain and see what it looks like. If it turns out to be something special, take it to the saw mill. If it is just run of the mill lumber, try to sell the logs on site. I wish you luck and hope you find that you have a treasure. I love red oak.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3046 days

#5 posted 10-30-2011 04:29 AM


I have no experience with this sort of thing, but from what I understand of the way trees grow, I doubt the burls will affect the figure much below the surface. I’m probably wrong though. Oluf has a good idea. If it looks ordinary, slice off the burls and find a way to use them and rift or quarter saw the rest. Rift and/or quartered red oak can look very distinguished, and it looks as if you have a good bit of lumber there. You can allways sell some on Craig’s List to offset your costs.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View JayCop's profile


37 posts in 2430 days

#6 posted 10-30-2011 04:43 AM

From the pic it looks like small burls, no? I doubt below the surface they will have any effect on the grain an inch or two down. I had a birch tree that I cut into boards a month ago that had little burls like that, too bad they weren’t bigger because when cut they were very cool.

If that was my tree I would quarter saw the whole thing, and cut off any of the larger burls if they are usable. It is a good chance to get large post material for bed/table legs and things like that you cant get in stores.

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3121 days

#7 posted 10-31-2011 07:29 PM

Since, from what I understand burls are always created by meristem cells in the cambium layer to encompass some sort of damage which may threaten the tree. So since the damage can be insect, fungus or broken branches, to name the major causes… I always look at the bark layers to determine the inside wood structure. It looks pretty straight from the root bulb up, but the dips and waves in the bark kinda suggests major parenchyma rays in some areas. I doubt the burls go too deep and some seem smooth enough to be remains of discarded branches. I have an unusual suggestion.. I read that trees of different species can take on similar growth traits because they share a common environment. IF that is a maple in the background. Chop of them down and see if there is any difference in the more recent growth rings, tighter rings means the Oak could just be too old to resist climate change (less moisture) and dropped small beaches a few years back.. or is it just forming cankers and will die in the next 20 or so years. BUt then. I am still learning and refining my knowledge base. :)

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2954 days

#8 posted 11-01-2011 06:50 PM

I have sliced up many maple trees that were similarly burled, and the burl reached to the center of the tree, getting smaller as it went toward center of course. If this works right, I’ll put in a photo of one of them. I have never cut up an oak log like that so I cannot promise anything but I would take the chance if I were you; I would definately gamble on very nicely figured wood. All of this provided that the center isn’t rotted and that the lightning didn’t shatter the wood thru and thru.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2954 days

#9 posted 11-01-2011 06:55 PM

Hey, it worked! Anyway, those are about 7’ long and the tree was about 36” at the center, these slabs are about 14” at the smaller widths. Lots of tiger stripe and burl figure thru and thru. Slabs or turning pieces, it’s nice stuff.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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