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Forum topic by Bob #2 posted 03-04-2009 08:13 PM 1900 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bob #2

3809 posts in 4015 days

03-04-2009 08:13 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question turning cherry

I got this message today from an acquatintance that dropped off a burl to me about 7 years ago.
I appears that the original owner now wants the finished piece back.

I have to admit I am a little taken back by this.
None of what is mentioned in this note was ever conveyed to me prior to accepting the burl.
I did give him and his helper each a turned bowl in exchange for the piece and thought that was the end of it.
How would you handle it?

Hi Bob.
Hope things are going good for you.
Anyway the reason I’m contacting you is about that beautiful cherry bowl that you turned and sent pictures. The wonderful lady that it came from is Xxxxx Xxxx. It has sentimental value associated with her late husband.
When we removed the tree she was overjoyed that I knew a quality turner and was excited about the idea. So now 6 or 7 years later she mentioned it again and I would really like to arrange, with your permission of course for her to have it back.
Of course to pay what the value of turning it was.”


From turning tools

From turning tools


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

38 replies so far

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3452 days

#1 posted 03-04-2009 08:26 PM

Wow… it’s so sad that the burl was destroyed while you were turning it.

Edit: let me clarify what I am saying… if the person that GAVE this to you didn’t mention anything about a possible re-compensation down the line, I wouldn’t think twice about saying no to this situation. But, to soften the blow, and keep hostilities down, I would claim it is no longer whole.

-- San Diego, CA

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4024 days

#2 posted 03-04-2009 08:37 PM

A very difficult one! – As I see it, as you have turned the burl, you have two choices.

1. Forget the mail, stating what you have stated here on LJ (no mention of working for a commission). Giving two bowls for receiving the burl, I would say was payment enough (hardly a lot of work to isolate that burl from a tree). How a burl can have sentimental value, I just do not know, if did why remove it or give it away in the first place?

2. Sell the turned burl back to them at the correct market price ($300, $400, $500???) for the work you have done, not forgetting the drying, design, turning, sanding, finishing processes.

I guess it depends upon how much you value the relationship with your acquaintance and should you decline to return it, would it put a strain on that acquaintanceship?

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3889 days

#3 posted 03-04-2009 08:45 PM

Depends on how much you value your friendship with this gentleman. But 6 or 7 years is a long time for you to have something and then to ask for it back. You are not a storage facility and he can’t expect you to keep things for such a long time and then return them. It does not work that way. I think there is a theory in law that covers you as far as not being required to return something that you thought was a gift and that you, in fact, actually paid for by giving two bowls. Secondly, I think there is even a time period, that once passed, makes it yours.

Maybe I’m missing the point. But I don’t think you have to give it back. You may want to, but you don’t have to.

Just my two cents.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4212 days

#4 posted 03-04-2009 08:50 PM

I agree with Tony and Pat…. you have no moral obligation to do anything but ignore this request. But if you are not terribly attached to the piece, I would offer to sell it back for the fair market value of your labor on the burl, plus the fair market value of the two bowls.

Another option, if you’re so inclined, would be to ask for the lady’s contact info and approach her yourself. It sounds to me like your friend is trying to butter her up for some reason. Giving her the turning yourself would sort of cut him off at the knees. Bloodless revenge, if you will. :-)

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

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3951 days

#5 posted 03-04-2009 08:54 PM

Not to sound like a jerk, but nobody ever said anything to you about her getting the burl back, especially now that you used your time and skills to turn it into a beautiful piece. And to ask this seven years later? I think that the person asking you to give this back is more than a little out of line. He should have made it clear to this woman that he gave the burl away, or he should have made it clear to you that she would have wanted it back when he was offering it to you. I guess i would email him back and say in a very nice way that when you accepted the burl he never told you she would want it back, and if you want to sell it back to her (thats up to you) then she will have to pay market price minus the material cost.


View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4030 days

#6 posted 03-04-2009 09:00 PM

Option A:

Well, just give her the bowl. The goodwill that it will generate will go miles for you on judgment day. Ignoring the mail, charging her for the bowl, saying no? There is an obvious misunderstanding…as to whose? It doesn’t matter. If you needed the cash, you could sell it, but I’m pretty sure you don’t. It might come down to an argument of who has the closer sentimental attachment to it, but frankly, that’s too intangible.

Option B:

Oh for Heaven’s sake. People just get more unreasonable every day. Her sentimentality to her husband is going to be fed by a tree? My only answer would be, “Uh, no. Thanks for calling. Stay in touch.” Trying to justify your position to deny a ridiculous request, only makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. I make a habit of getting VERY clear of knucklehead stuff.

Which option you would get from me? Well, Bob, you know as well as anyone, it depends on the day.


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3520 days

#7 posted 03-04-2009 09:16 PM

Yup a hard one indeed… But 6 or 7 years is a very long time and what of the two bowls that you gave in exchange? Sounds like there could be three payments due you if you decide to give up the turning. Freinds just don’t do this sort of thing to friends. I have been there.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3642 days

#8 posted 03-04-2009 09:22 PM

I’m with everyone else- there is no obligation on your part to give anything back -especially now after 7 years – all of a sudden they “remembered” that they had plans for this piece? give me a break..

BUT, with that said – it is all about how you want to handle it? following reason? or following your heart? in any other case, I’d prob follow my heart, and give it back, for a set price (market value), but in this case- it just sounds bit off that this requests comes in after such a long time… I’d have somewhat of a hard time accepting it as genuine and sincere… I’d prob. keep the piece and say out front and clear – “this was never discussed, nor accepted, sorry”

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jcame's profile


72 posts in 3570 days

#9 posted 03-04-2009 09:22 PM

Since you referred to this person as an aquatance and not a friend I would be offended to start with. I have a strict definition of the two and would not expect such a request unless it were friend or family. I also don’t see how she finds sentimental value in this piece of wood, (only we woodworkers would!). Therefore, explain how ludicrous such a request is. TMO!!

-- Jed,Ala,

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 3386 days

#10 posted 03-04-2009 09:25 PM

Thank you for getting back with me about this piece. The best offer that I’ve recieved for it has been $5000.00. I did not sell it however because I’ve always known (just had this funny feeling) that someday she would want it. I know… 6 or 7 years is a long time but …. now knowing “It has sentimental value associated with her late husband.” I’m really glad that I’ve hung onto it.

Please have her forward a check for the above amount plus shipping, and I’ll get it out to her right away.
Oh and please have her include the address she would like it shipped to.

Thanks again and next time don’t wait so long to say hi.
Yours truly,

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3387 days

#11 posted 03-04-2009 09:32 PM

7 years later they come with this story?? sounds weird!
If you finally decide to price the bowl and send it to her, DO NOT FORGET TO PRICE THE OTHER TWO BOWLS you gave to your aquitance and his helper!!!!

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3673 days

#12 posted 03-04-2009 09:33 PM

My initial reaction was there there’s something in it for HIM. Burls go for a BIG amount of money at the local wood shop here in STL. While I see the idea behind people questioning the idea that a tree can have sentimental value, I also see the sentimental value in a tree as I have a cedar tree that I planted at my Fathers house 30+ years ago, dug up by my Grandfather and I. I’m very protective of that tree, even though if it was cut down, there’s NO value to the little bit of wood in it. (translated, I couldn’t get a decent project out of it if I wanted to)

6-7 years later though? I don’t get this, there’s something fishy for sure, otherwise I’d think you could contact the woman directly and tell her whatever you wish. You had a deal with the guy you got the burl from, your deal was made and it’s over with.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4212 days

#13 posted 03-04-2009 09:35 PM

Ric is thinking like me…. there is something fishy here. Too bad Paul Harvey is no longer around to give us the rest of the story.

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

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3868 days

#14 posted 03-04-2009 09:42 PM

I think you are in the driver’s seat on this Bob. I’m assuming that you would be willing to sell this bowl for the right price?? It sounds to me like someone is offering to buy the bowl, and their sentimentality shouldn’t really be part of the equation. He does say “with your permission” and “pay the value of the turning”. I have to say, it is an odd way to ask to buy something.

Here’s how I’m thinking about it … let’s say I buy some lumber (buying is basically the same as trading, you exchange one thing of value for another thing of value) and I build a table with the lumber, and the next time my salesman stops by my shop, he says, “Wow, that’s a beautiful table! It’s hard to believe that wood was once on our floor as rough lumber. I’d like to buy that from you.” I’d say, “Sure, it’s $xxx.” The fact that the lumber came from him wouldn’t really play into the pricing.

Maybe your friend(?), being a lousy communicator, failed to convey to you that the woman wanted to commission you to turn her burl, and maybe he assumed the bowls you gave him were a “thank you” for hooking you up with some business.

So I think I’d tell the guy, “Look, that was never the arrangement, but if someone were to bring me a burl like this to turn for them, I would charge $xxx, and I would be willing to sell it back for that.” Or, “Look, that was never the arrangement. I paid for the burl with a couple of finished bowls. I will sell this bowl to you or anyone else for $xxx.”

Or, if you are not willing to let it go, “Look, that was never the arrangement. I paid for the burl with a couple of finished bowls. I’m sorry if you promised it back to the lady, but you never conveyed that to me, and I wouldn’t have accepted the burl if I knew you had made that agreement. I’m giving this to my favorite neice for her birthday.”

-- -- --

View BroDave's profile


107 posts in 3808 days

#15 posted 03-04-2009 09:49 PM

I see it from a different perspective, as in, this has all the ear-marks of a BS scam.
I would tell the acquatintance that if the grieving widow wants the bowl then she should contact you directly and you will be happy to give her the non negotiable price, assuming you want to part with it, and that the acquatintance is now out of the picture. If you don’t want to sell/part with the piece, tell them to have a coke and a smile.

Personally, I wouldn’t give them the air in a bottle

-- .

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