How to Harvest Walnut Burls

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Walnut tree burls are dormant buds that do not grow, perhaps due to injury, disease or genetics. The dormant bud swells outward from the tree creating a misshapen bulge that is covered by bark. When the burl is harvested from the tree, the bark is peeled away to reveal the burl's contours. The walnut burl will have an eye or radiant figured grain depending on how it is cut. This wood is used for furniture veneers and other decorative items.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Chain saw
  • Wood plane
  • Locate a fallen, dead walnut tree with a burl on it. Lean on the tree trunk to ensure that it will not roll. Measure 6 inches above and below the walnut burl on the walnut tree trunk with a measuring tape, and mark these measurements.

  • Cut completely through the trunk at each measurement mark on the walnut tree with a chainsaw. Lift the walnut burl away from the tree, place it on the ground and turn it so that you can see the trunk portion behind the walnut burl.

  • Ensure that the burl and trunk will not roll. Then carefully trim away the log behind the burl with the chainsaw if the tree trunk section you cut out is too heavy to carry. Check periodically that you are not cutting into the back side of the burl and wasting valuable wood.

  • Hand peel the bark from the wood. Remove stubborn bits of walnut tree bark with a wood plane, taking care not to cut into the burl.

  • Cut a thin slice from the top of the burl with the chainsaw, and examine the wood to determine what the figure will be when the burl is sliced horizontally. Cut a thin slice from the side of the burl, and examine the wood to determine the wood figure when the burl is sliced vertically. It is possible to get an eye figure or a radiant figure from a walnut burl depending how you cut it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cutting a burl out of a live walnut tree can kill the tree.

References

  • Photo Credit Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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