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Red Bay burl Story


If you collect rare woods and/or burls this piece of Red Bay is about as rare as it gets. Here’s the story about how I came across this burl not once but twice. Back around 1996 my shop was in Jacksonville, Florida. Early Piety,  owner of Specialty Tree Service in Jacksonville, was goofing off hunting for Indian arrowheads on land adjacent to the St. Johns River north of the city. In the midst of his search, he stumbled onto the largest Red Bay burl that he had ever seen. It was my lucky day. He called me on his cell phone and gave me directions on how to get to where he was located. I dropped everything, grabbed my chain saw and met him at the site. An hour later, we had loaded a 200 pound burl into the back of my van.


Burls can be tricky to deal with. You have to figure out how to dimension the raw material in order to utilize it in the best way possible. That is not always so easy. Burls tend to wrap themselves around a tree and that makes the process of cutting them into workable slabs challenging. They often have deep set bark inclusions, or they will rise to a tantalizing volume only to fall off rapidly downhill or into a cavity. Sometimes they have voids and rot area that was not anticipated. Worse, many burls fall far short of the expectations that arise when they are acquired in both figure and color. I have spent over $1,500 for one burl only to conclude later on that my money had not been well spent.


Generally, I want to cut burls so that the largest chunk becomes a homerun piece. That is only possible if the burl has the correct shape. This Red Bay did. But before I did anything rash, I studied this raw burl for at least 3 days. I drew squares, rectangles and circles with a giant compass on the raw material. I wanted to cut it up in my head first because once you

commence with a chain saw or band saw there is no turning back.

Story Continues ...

Sculpture and Wood Turning by Richard Carner