|Burl growth on the side of|
a tree in Norfolk County,
A "burl" also known as a "burr" (by our British buddies across the pond) is a fast-growing abnormal growth found on some trees. A rare occurrence often caused by fungal or insect attacks, burls can grow to the size of small cars, but do not impact the overall health of its host. In fact, most trees that are effected by the disease live on and often grow more burl offshoots. As each burl produces a different type of pattern, all are later harvested for the manufacture of decorative wood veneers.
|Burl cross-section exposing the|
irregular pattern sought by out
A process popularized in 18th century France, burl wood veneers were so often applied to decorative items that a new artisan craft was born with the introduction of the ébéniste. An ébéniste, was a skilled craftsman and cabinetmaker entrusted with duty of building furniture using high-end woods including ebony (for which their is derived) and burl. In the later part of the 18th century, the ébéniste was responsible for the creation of marquetry and wood inlay furniture decoration.
Today, wood veneers are used in a variety of applications including furniture, countertops, floors, and decorative items, but burl wood and burl wood veneers are still primarily used by artisans in any number of crafts. In recent time, the demand for quality burl wood has been so great, that illegal poachers have maimed protected redwood forests for their valuable burls.
|Front of a 19th century dresser drawer decorated with a burl walnut veneer.|
Image by Gretchen Sawatzki
Buffalo Architecture and History
The J. Paul Getty Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Wood Database