Burl wood has become highly in-demand recently. Nearly every woodworking professional wishes they could acquire a piece of the gold, given the massive profits from burl wood furniture, instruments, and household furniture. 

Interestingly, most people have never heard about the term before, and even those who have read about it have never seen burl wood furniture pieces in real life. They wonder what is burl wood and how much is burl wood worth.

We’ve designed this guide to help you better understand burl wood basics, where it comes from, burl wood uses, and current prices for burl lumber. 

What is Burl Wood?

A burl wood or wood burl is what happens when a tree encounters a growth or deformity due to infestation or other forms of stress.

So, it’s not a type of tree but a type of wood. Common illnesses that may result in burl formation include injury, viruses, and insects. A burl is the big, knobby-looking growth on the sides of a tree that emerges in response to the stress. 

Which Tree Species Grow Burl?

Burls can form on nearly any tree. However, it’s most common in the coast redwoods of California. Indeed, most burls on sale across the US are redwood burl woods harvested from redwood forests, especially from ancient redwoods. 

Apart from redwood trees, you may come across burls from many other tree types. For instance, walnut burls obtained from walnut trees are fairly common. Walnut burl woods are strong and very beautiful. Other common burls are;

  • Cherry burls
  • Oak (red oak)
  • Ash burls
  • Poplar burl wood
  • Maple burl wood
  • Black ash burl wood

How Do Burls Develop?

Burls originate from callus tissue. Callus tissue is formed in trees in response to stress or injury, such as a disease, disease, or pruning cut. It may also happen in response to storm damage that erodes or deposits too much soil around the tree trunk. 

In short, burls are one of the ways a tree’s growth hormones respond to compromised tree growth. Compromised tissue growth typically results from the following;

  • Unsprouted bud tissue
  • Mold infestation 
  • Insect infestation 

However, a burl is a little different from normal callus tissue growth. For instance, it almost always starts around tree trunk bases or where branches have fallen off.

Alternatively, they may start in underground tree tissue. Secondly, burl growth is unregulated, so burls grow into bizarre shapes. You’ll find them protruding from tree stems because burl cells grow faster than regular tree cells.

They also grow during all seasons and expand at their own rate. As a result, most people compare them to fast-growing non-malignant tumors. 

Unlike tumors, burls are not dangerous to the tree. It’s still wood, and cutting across it with a saw exposes valuable lumber, albeit with a different grain pattern from the rest of the tree trunk. 

How to Identify Burls

Generally, anything that looks gnarly is likely a burl. Nevertheless, the following are a few signs to look out for;

  • Swollen areas of the tree trunk
  • Irregular bark patterns 
  • Woody, crackling bark on the tree’s trunk

What are the Most Common Burl Species?

What is Burl Wood and How Much is Burl Wood Worth Image

There are many types of burls. However, three very popular burls are layered, eyed, and lace burls. 

1. The Layered burl

Layered burls almost always result from tree injuries. They are called so because the burl’s grain structure appears to follow the tree’s, or the variation is very small because the tree is only attempting to heal/restore to the original status.

Thus, the inside of layered burls is less dramatic or picturesque. Layered burls are not as valuable as the other burl types and have more mold and rot elements. 

2. Eyed burls 

Eyed burls are much more dramatic because they develop as part of the tree rather than as a result of an injury. Often, they result from compromised growth hormones.

So, the growth is natural rather than an attempt to heal. As a result, the burls have more erratic grains, resulting in more beautiful and unique patterns.

They are also generally free from mold, fungus, or bacterial infections, making them highly valuable. Larger-eyed burls are especially expensive because they are unique, easier to work with and deliver more value. 

3. Lace burl 

Lace burls are extremely rare and are considered some of the most valuable wood burls. They are “graduated” versions of burd-eye burls that feature small curls and burls in the grain, forming a lacy pattern. 

Lace burls often have a rich color and unique patterns and texture that resemble veins in the human body. 

What’s Inside a Burl?

Whatever is inside a burl is Wood. Burls are not different from the tree trunk. They contain wood, just like the trunk. The only difference is the grain pattern and perhaps wood texture. The color may also vary from the tree’s main colors. 

Burl Wood Uses

Burl wood is sought after by furniture makers, artists, and sculptors for its very peculiar and highly figured grain patterns. They are used for the following;

  • Furniture making: Burl wood is used to make indoor and outdoor furniture, from chairs to tables and cabinets. The furniture is tough and extremely resistant to weather elements and water. Burl wood furniture is expensive but has a huge demand in the market. 
  • Automobile interiors: Burl wood is used inside expensive cars for interior detailing as it is gorgeous, durable, and waterproof. You may also find it in private jets and yachts with luxury wood detailing. 
  • Veneers: Burl wood veneers, especially redwood burl veneers and walnut burl veneers, are fairly common in luxury homes. And they are expensive too. For instance, many stores sell grade AAA walnut burl veneers at $200+ per lot (one lot can have 7-20 square feet of burl wood). 
  • Inlays: Many woodworkers and consumers love wood inlays as they add a touch of beauty to the wood product. If you’re part of the group, burl wood inlays are some of the most exotic. 

Burl wood is also used to make vintage musical instruments such as guitars and pianos and household items such as antique bowls. It’s also an excellent choice if you’re shopping for turning wood. 

Burl Wood Pros and Cons 

Burl wood has many advantages that woodworkers like and customers value. But it also has several weaknesses.

Pros

  • Unique grain patterns: The unique grain pattern is the most attractive feature of burl wood. No two burl wood pieces are alike. So, if you’re looking for a unique antique, look for a burl wood antique.
  • Unique grain patterns: The unique grain pattern is the most attractive feature of burl wood. No two burl wood pieces are alike. So, if you’re looking for a unique antique, look for a burl wood antique.
  • It’s incredibly valuable: Making burl wood products can be very lucrative for woodworkers looking for a big payday. The same applies to homeowners seeking to elevate their social status. Burl furniture and items instantly elevate your decor. 
  • Resists splitting: Burl wood doesn’t split easily because of the unique and often curly grain pattern. This makes it an excellent choice for making furniture and items that require significant detailing.

Cons

  • Price: Burl wood is rather expensive compared to standard wood. Not everyone can comfortably afford the wood or wood products.
  • It’s hard to find: Even if you can afford burl wood or furniture, where would you find it? It’s extremely rare. Finding quality burl wood with no surface defects (mold, cracks, etc.) is very difficult. 

How to Harvest Good Burl Wood

Harvesting burls is a little more complex than harvesting normal timber. For one, you have to decide whether you want to cut down the entire tree or harvest only the burl(s).

Then, whichever the choice, you need to engage an experienced woodchopper to harvest the burl without damaging it. 

So, we recommend planning from a few weeks out. Visit relevant authorities and check conservationist sites to learn what you can and can’t do. 

Can You Remove Burls?

Yes, you can remove a burl, sometimes without cutting down the entire tree. However, it depends on several factors, especially what the local laws say and the size of the burl. 

However, assuming your local laws permit it, removing burls without cutting down the tree depends on how big or small the burl is and the location.

A small burl on one of the tree branches can easily come off without killing the tree. On the other hand, it’s impossible to remove large burls on the main stem without killing the tree. The resulting hole would be too big for the tree to recover. 

Burl wood Prices: How Much is Quality Burl Wood Worth?

Unfortunately, the burl wood market is a little chaotic. There’s no standard price for any product. So instead, it comes down to demand and supply. 

Nevertheless, the most recent data indicates that you can sell low-grade burls for $1.50/pound. Meanwhile, medium-grade burls cost around $2.5/pound, while high-grade burls typically cost $3.5 to $4.0/pound.

This means a standard burl can earn you between $25 and $200 depending on the size, species, and condition. However, the largest burls, measuring 8+ feet in diameter, can fetch $500 each.

That said, though, some o the most expensive burls cost north of $25,000. The following are a few burl pricing guidelines that may help;

  • Burl price per pound: The average price of burl wood per pound is $2.0.
  • Raw burl prices: Raw burl wood costs $2.0/pound and $1.8/pound for the first and second 1000-pound logs.
  • Oak burl price per pound: According to the Internation Association of Penturners (IAP), a standard oak burl costs $6.board-foot up to $15/board-foot. 
  • Walnut burl value: Walnut burls cost about $5 per pound. However, the full burl (a big one) can cost up to $3,000. 
  • Burl prices per board foot: Straight grain burls cost around $10 per board foot, curly burls cost $15/board foot, birdseye burls cost $25/board foot, and lace burls cost $35/boar-foot. 

Why Lumber Companies Love Burls

If you’re wondering why burl wood is so expensive, it has to do with the rarity of quality burls and the following natural characteristics of burl wood;

  • Incredible texture 
  • No sapwood
  • Mineral staining 
  • Intense grain patterns (especially burl with curly grains)
  • Each piece is unique

Burl Poaching and Consequences

The rising value of burl has led to illegal and unethical practices in burl trading, often resulting in premature tree death. 

To this end, authorities say that there are only three legal ways to harvest burl:

  1. You can freely harvest burls on your private properties.
  2. You’re at liberty to harvest burls from naturally fallen trees.
  3. You’re permitted to harvest burl from legally logged trees. 

Any burl harvesting activity outside the acceptable guidelines constitutes poaching and may lead to fines and jail time. 

FAQs

Can You Refinish Burl wood?

Yes, you can refinish burl wood. However, be warned that burl wood pieces are traditionally very thin, and vigorous sanding may go right through them. So, it’s best to hire a pro for the refinishing project. 

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What’s the Rarest Burl Wood?

Amboyna burl is the rarest and most expensive wood as argued by most people. However, the Cinnamomum camphor burl from Southeast Asia is pretty rare too and therefore highly prized. 

Is Burl Wood Expensive?

Unfortunately, yes. Quality burls are quite expensive. Rarely does furniture made from quality burl cost less than several thousand dollars. Vintage ones can cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

What are Tree Burls Worth?

Tree burls are worth $25 to $200, depending on the type of burl, the tree from which it is cut, the size of the burl, and the quality of the burl (minimal defects). However, the best burls can cost over $25,000. 

Where Does Burl Wood Come from? 

Burl wood generally results from a tree undergoing stress, such as from injury, viruses, or fungi. It’s the result of a tree trying to “heal” from the stressor to restore its previous healthy state. 

What are Tree Burls Used for?

Burls are used in many applications, from furniture making to cabinetry and making antiques. Many woodworkers also use them to make small-to-medium-sized veneer panels used as inlays in larger projects for visual impact. They are also used to make musical instruments such as guitars. 

Summary 

That’s all. Now you know where tree burls come from, how they develop, their common uses, and why burls are so expensive.

You also know how to harvest burls and the consequences of burl poaching. Give us a call if you need more information. 

7 thoughts on “What is Burl Wood and How Much is Burl Wood Worth?”

  1. I have a very large Burl that is the main trunk of the oak tree. It is at least three feet across and is quite solid with no damage to it and no weak spots that I can tell it is approximately two and a half to three feet high. I have not cut into it yet but am positive it is burds eye Burl from all of what I have read. There is approximately 10 feet of tree beneath the Burl that can be kept with it or not depending on what a buyer would want. I am wanting to sell it so would like to know if anyone can give me a fair market value for it. If so I will gladly provide pictures of it. I am located near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thank you

    Reply
  2. Hello,
    We have got a solid burlwood coffee table, either purchased in Canada or the US. It is about 1m in diameter and about 60cm high. Foot and top both made from burlwood, date and type of wood unknown.
    If I sent a photo, would you be able to give any information about the value, we are wanting to sell. Thank you for your time. Nici and Evan

    Reply
  3. Hi,
    The tree was quite a few large pearls on it. The tree is a fairly large and old catalpa tree. I would like to leave some pictures for you to take a look at them. I don’t know anything about pearls or the wood myself. Thank you.
    Len Vlcek
    262-949-0098

    Reply

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