Redwood Burl's Gorgeous Figure

By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 02/05/2013 2:37PM


Redwood trees are prevalent in California and parts of Oregon, where the majestically tall trees thrive. However, not as prevalent is the redwood burl. Also known as vavona burl, redwood burl yields an especially dramatic and varied collection of figures. click image to zoomRedwood BurlFAMILY NAMES
Shorea species, Parashorea species and Pentacme species Sequoia sempervirens of the Family Taxodiaceae.

Vavona burl, vavona burr, redwood burl, redwood, coast redwood, sequoia, California redwood

The average height for this very tall species is 200 to 350 feet. Average weight is 26 pounds per cubic foot with a specific gravity of 0.42.

Kiln drying is recommended and should be done with care to avoid problems such as collapse.
Experts recommend slow drying to begin because of the tree’s high moisture content.
The wood works well with hand and machine tools. Takes nails and screw joints well.
The wood glues well, but alkaline adhesives may cause staining.

Typical uses for redwood burl include inlay and marquetry because the wood is usually small dimensionally, so it is a good fit for specialty items like jewelry boxes or turned designs.

Redwood burl yields many figures from a simple curl similar to curly maple, to a bee’s wing and a cat’s paw, and a blister.

The glossary description for burl from the U.S.D.A. Forest Product Laboratory’s Wood Handbook, is a “hard, woody outgrowth on a tree, more or less rounded in form, usually resulting from the entwined growth of a cluster of adventitious buds.”

A burl is a growth above the ground, usually found near the base of the tree, although some burls are found way up a tree. Most people believe burls are caused by contact, when someone or something hits a tree, and are a consequence of damage. The burls can have bark inclusions, little holes or pinholes, or a cat’s paw figure, which looks like a cat made footprints across the grain. Redwood burl can also have a peck, like bird pecks you find in maple.

More Than Just Burl
Redwood burl is typically from old growth redwood stumps left behind because the loggers cutting the trees in the late 1800s and early 1900s wanted the fine-grained, straight wood found higher up the tree, and not the curly material in the stump.

The guitar makers love the reclaimed old growth material for its extremely tight and straight grain and the wood is often used for surfboards.

The redwood trees were named for their spongy red bark, according to author Hugh Johnson, Encyclopedia of Trees. Typical uses for the lumber, especially in the United States, include: exterior cladding, shingles, exterior joinery, wooden pipes and interior joinery, and other interior finish. The wood is sometimes rotary cut into veneer. Material with an interesting figure may be used for furniture and paneling.


About the Author

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser

Jo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.

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