Burl Veneer: What Is Burl Wood?

Many woodworkers love using burl wood and burl veneer for their pieces because of its stunning and unique appearance. Because of its exquisite look, burl wood is often used for automobile dashboards, sounding boards of guitars and even watches. But what exactly is burl wood and where is it grown? Well, the truth is that it’s not grown, and in fact, it’s not even a type of tree.

What’s a Burl?

Many of us see finished products made from burl wood and burl veneer and would immediately say that it is indeed a beauty. However, burls don’t actually start off that way. In fact, a burl (also called burr) is an ugly, unusual, extraneous growth on a tree. They’re much like a wart that grows on trees. They usually star out small but overtime these ‘warts’ can grow up to several feet in diameter.

As mentioned earlier, burls are not tree species, but they can grow on most types of trees. Hence you have cherry burl wood, ash burl wood, maple burl wood, and others. However, experts agree that some types of tree species are more prone to forming burls than others.

How do burls form?

Despite the fact that burls have existed for as long as trees have, scientist still are not sure what causes these burls to form. They do have some theories though. For one, they think that burls form as a result of some sort of trauma to the tree. This trauma disrupts the tree’s growth hormones which consequently produces those beautiful patterns on the burl wood and burl veneer. Some traumas referred to by scientists include insect infestation or an attack by a particular fungus.

Scientists also believe that certain environmental factors like the presence of certain minerals in the soil can cause burl formation. In addition, they observed that certain trees may have a genetic predisposition to forming burls.

What Makes Burl Wood Beautiful?

So what makes burl wood and burl veneer beautiful? Normally, the grain on wood runs in one direction. However, in burl wood the grain runs in chaotic patterns and the grain twists and spirals in unpredictable ways. This creates a complex knot of grain that is uniquely and absolutely gorgeous. This results in a beautiful, unique wood grain full of colors, swirls, and interesting patterns.

In addition, burl wood is relatively rare, and it cannot be grown or manufactured like fire rated board or gypsum. The swirls, twirls, and eyes dancing in the bark all create a unique, highly figured wood grain that cannot be artificially duplicated. All in all, the beauty, uniqueness and rarity of burl wood makes it a highly valued piece worth every dollar.

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