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As the world is prominently capitalist, several commodities have become significantly expensive as a result of the rule of supply and demand. At the end of the day, if something is not available in abundance, such as gold, diamonds, or the latest iPhone, people who want these items are often willing to spend a small fortune to own them. In terms of supply and demand, rare and unusually beautiful wood is usually pricier than more easily available timber. Rare woods are not the only items that are relatively pricey – tree burls have quickly become some of the more valuable types of lumber available on the market. In this article, we will have a look at what exactly a tree burl is, what makes them such a rare material, and exactly how much you can expect to pay for one.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Wood Burl?
- 2 How Do You Evaluate Tree Burl Value?
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Wood Burl?
Wood burls are relatively common, but you may not realize when looking at one, that that is what it is called. What is wood burl, then? Wood burl is a malformed bark or growth that can be found on the branches, trunk, and root system of certain species of trees. The size of these growths depends on the species of the tree and the environment it grows in.
Is wood burl a different species of wood? No, a burl is not a parasitic growth, but a type of wood scar tissue. As a result, wood burls retain the name of the tree species, such as oak burl, cherry wood burl, or redwood burl.
What causes wood burl to form in the first place? Wood burl is a result of a tree undergoing stress, such as when they come under attack by insects, fungus, and/or animals, or they have been exposed to harsh, extreme conditions. The resulting stress causes a defense mechanism that results in wood burls forming.
How does the defense mechanism of the tree work? When a tree is exposed to things like floods, insect infestation, bush fires, and/or waterlogged land, it will cause little bumps to form on the exterior of the tree trunk and, in certain circumstances, on the tree’s root system. These small bumps are called tree bids, and they are there to begin growing a new tree should the original tree fall over and die.
If the main tree does not fall, these little buds will still sprout and grow into oddly shaped wood across the trunk of the tree and sometimes the root system of the tree. These are wood burls; in certain circumstances, the wood burls can even be found deep underground on the trees’ most important roots.
What Makes Wood Burl So Expensive?
A tree burl as a material is particularly strange, but when it comes down to it, wood is wood. The price of burl wood is greatly linked to the logic of supply and demand. This means that even though wood burl is just wood, it can reach high prices when sold on the market. It is therefore natural to wonder why would people want this type of wood.
The rarity of tree burls doesn’t completely explain the wood’s value, and to further understand why it is so desirable, we will need to look inside it. When you open up a tree burl, you will notice that it is significantly different from the type of wood that you may find in a standard tree when you harvest it. What is the difference, you may wonder? Tree burl has a color and grain that is unique from burl to burl.
We are in no way exaggerating when we say that, there are no two tree burls that will have even remotely similar appearances once opened up. It is as a result of this that tree burl is one of the most sought-after timber types in the world.
Much like people are happy to spend millions of dollars on custom one-off car builds, handbags, and even golf balls signed by Tiger Woods, people are happy to pay a substantial amount of money for furnishings that offer unique grain and finish to them. It is due to this that professional crafters and woodwork enthusiasts are more than happy to pay so much money to get their hands on the raw material.
On the other side of the value equation, people will also make a significant amount of money selling burls. You may wonder, just how much money? Keep in mind that the lumber industry recently reported revenue of roughly $130 billion for the year, so you can easily see why selling tree burls is particularly lucrative if you have the correct buyer.
With such high volumes of money moving through the industry, it is hardly surprising that illegal distribution and poaching of tree burls is rampant in many communities. You may think there is no harm in just chopping off some wood burl for yourself, but you would be wrong. Removing burl from a live tree can result in irreparable damage to the tree, and will cause it to begin to decay and die in certain instances.
You should only harvest burl from trees that have been cut down or trees that have been designated by the necessary authorities for burl harvesting and the felling of their resources. You will be handed a hefty fine if you are found burl harvesting on federally protected land, and in some cases, it may even result in jail time! it is therefore important that you have the necessary permission from the landowner or authorities before you begin harvesting tree burl.
How Do You Evaluate Tree Burl Value?
To calculate the value and corresponding price of wood burl, there are a few aspects you will need to take into consideration. This is regardless of whether you have acquired some tree burl to sell or you are trying to figure out whether someone is offering you a fair price on the wood burl you are hoping to buy. Remember, that you will hardly ever find good quality wood burl at a fairly cheap price, so do not get your hopes up! The following table shows the prices you would be expected to pay for a slab of burl wood depending on the specific wood species and the size of the wood:
|Common Burl Species
|Price Range (Depending on Size and Grain)
|$98.00 – $4,100.00
|$95.00 – $2,795.00
|$75.00 – $1,550.00
|$390.00 – $6,953.00
|$95.00 – $2,795.00
|$329.00 – $1,032.00
The Presence of Bark
Have you identified a piece of burl you are looking at purchasing or even harvesting? The presence of bark will impact the price, as the bark provides protection. Like any kind of wood, if there is no bark on the wood, then the wood has no protection. The lack of bark could indicate that the wood inside has rotted, and has become spongy, or may be filled with insects.
If the Burl Is Layered
If the piece of burl you are looking at looks layered, this shows that the burl has formed in reaction to the tree being damaged in some way or another. This type of burl wood usually still has its bark attached and is normally quite random in terms of size and shape. This is a great indicator of a higher value. These are usually relatively thick in comparison to another wood burl. The exposed sapwood is protected by the extremely tight grain.
If the Burl Is Eyed
Of course, this does not mean that the wood burl is covered in tiny pairs of eyes but instead refers to a circular form that is much like a swirl that goes all the way to the center. You can spot these types of burls easily and they are of particularly high-value thanks to the desirability of this swirling pattern. This form of tree burl normally grows in a dome shape, and once they are cut open, you will be able to view the “eye” in the center of the wood grain. This pattern is stunning if you are hoping to turn the burl into bedside tables or coffee tables.
The Size of the Burl
The tree burl value is impacted by the size of the burl for many reasons. The bigger the wood burl, the more you can get out of it when portioning the wood. If you are dealing with a particularly large piece of burl wood, you could have burl buyers interested in using it to fashion whole dining room tables or entire countertops out of them. This means that if you are the buyer, you should be able to request that the boards be cut to your exact requirements, which is quite rare when dealing with burls.
The Species of the Burl
Wood is nothing more than that, just wood! However, it is important to note that certain wood species are more valuable than others as a result of what can be created from them as well as their scarcity. While wood burl is valuable as a material, it is normally priced in accordance to the wood species it has been harvested from, or at the very least, the species it is derived from, which has a great impact on its price.
For example, the value of walnut burl differs significantly from redwood burl. This is due to walnut wood being one of the most expensive wood types available on the market, reflecting its rarity and exclusivity. As a result, walnut burl will be even pricier than standard walnut wood. Redwood burl is quite expensive, but it is nowhere near as costly as a walnut burl!
Sadly, no woodworking or crafting project can be done with wet wood. This is why wood that is wet, or wood that has been recently pressure-treated, is sold for significantly less. This is the same for wood burl too, as you would have to allow sufficient time after purchasing the wood to allow it to dry out completely before you could do anything with it.
It does not matter which wood species you are working with; the grain plays an important role in determining how much the wood will cost. Depending on the aesthetic appeal and the application of the grain, it could be less valuable or more valuable depending on what the intended use of the wood is.
In terms of wood burls, the more unique and intricate the wood grain is, the more it is worth. Eye burls contain a pattern that appears to be swirling, that looks very much like an eye in the center, it will be worth significantly more than the more common “layered burl”.
How should one go about selling wood burl? There are several options when it comes to selling burls, but the route you go normally depends on the market you are catering to. So, if you are selling wood to woodturners, you usually will sell it by species and per pound, as they tend to want to do the sizing, cutting, and turning themselves, which is understandable.
If you are someone who typically sells wood to crafters, you would usually portion your wood into slabs and price it by the details of the wood grain and by species. This ensures that the inventory and categorization of your items are a lot easier when advertising them online. Certain slabs such as redwood burl and oak burl can be quite large, so consider this in terms of pricing and storage.
If you are someone who harvests wood burls, in all likelihood, you will determine your burl wood prices by considering the following aspects: the size, weight, and species you have. When you are harvesting your burl, you should harvest and bisect the burl to ensure that it is manageable to transport. Try not to cut your burl pieces up too much, however, as this will result in a significant price decrease due to it limiting what the customer can fashion with these wood boards.
It does not matter what you intend to do with your wood burl, you should make peace with the fact that you will have to pay going market rates, though some sellers are willing to negotiate on the price. You may even be fortunate enough, when working with a private seller, simply to be able to swop the burl for wood you already have on hand. We do recommend that you check social media, the local message boards, and local listings before you proceed to a major supplier.
Now that you have a good understanding of what burl wood is, what characteristics and factors impact burl wood prices, and have a good idea of roughly how much a slab of burl wood should cost, you are ready to begin and put your new-found knowledge to the test. Most importantly, your burl wood must be always ethically sourced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Can I Find Burl Buyers?
If you are trying to sell some wood burl, there are loads of people not only in the United States but also throughout the world who would be interested in buying it. You do not only have to sell your wood burl privately to individuals, as many lumber suppliers will be more than happy to purchase wood burl from private individuals.
Can You Find Tree Burl for Sale Online?
Can you purchase tree burl for sale online? Yes! There are hundreds of websites and woodworking forums that cater to private sellers looking to buy, sell, and even swap their tree burl. You should consult your local listings for people who are potentially selling tree burls or are looking to trade tree burls within your local community.
Can You Find Tree Burl Inside a Tree Trunk?
Can one find a tree burl inside a tree trunk? While a lot of tree burl protrudes on the exterior of a tree trunk, most of the great-looking grained wood is usually on the inside. Sometimes, you may even be lucky enough to locate a wood burl inside the tree’s trunk or within the tree root system. It all depends on where the tree experienced damage.