Once in a long while, I will encounter an interesting and usable burl on a fallen tree or branch. They say that burls result from stress usually in the form of some infestation or injury. The result is a wart of convoluted grain that can be quite unusual, beautiful, and tough.
I have encountered enough of them to know that it is a bad idea to remove one from a tree or fell a tree just to get one. Not just because of concern for the tree, but also because burls often hold disappointing surprises. There are often voids, bark inclusions, and other issues that can render it unusable for what one had in mind. But once in awhile, I’ll find one that is ready to be rescued, and I can see what it offers.
I carved the kuksa in the photo from such a piece. I usually change my tactics when it comes to burl. While the burl is still green, I carve as usual with axe, adze, knife, and gouges. I leave a lot of extra material before the drying stage, because I find that burl likes to twist and turn in unpredictable ways as it dries. After it is completely dry, I turn largely to a rasp to refine the shape. The dry burl has a hard and brittle texture that cuts well under the rasp but not under the knife.
I use card scrapers, some curved, to refine further, then finish up with fine sandpaper. That is very unusual for me, as I prefer to leave my pieces straight from the cutting edge. But for this burl, finishing with abrasives made sense. The kuksa is 5.5 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and 1.5 inches high.
Who knows how long it will be until I work with another burl. If you want to see the work of a burl virtuoso, check out the work of Norm Sartorius. You might also enjoy this video on the efforts of Norm and others to honor the work of Emil Milan.
Although the burl kuksa is already spoken for, I actually have been catching up and working on some things, some of which I hope to post for sale within a couple weeks. I’ll post some info here when I do.
One last thing: my last post focused on holding with holdfasts when working with gouges, but for many tasks I prefer hands and a knife. I use a knife at some point on everything I make.
Below, I am making a slicing cut by pulling the knife along the underside of the handle of a crab apple bowl. Great for controlled concave cuts.