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Gerhard Gerber

Harvesting burl

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There are some huge burls on our Mulberry tree that I want to harvest, any tips on how to go about it and dry them out etc?

I have a piece if Peppertree burl and I've found a sealant that might work to stabilize it, the burl is too small to be of much use so it will be a test piece. 

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I’m interested as well, as I have seen a couple burls on my property while mushroom foraging. 

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Just cut it off the tree and then cut it into blocks and seal them, do it all the same day, I harvest regular logs and big branches and if you wait too long it can start checking and splitting depending on the wood. 

Lots of burls are empty on the inside or they could be full of beetle dung and resin, not too big a deal in my limited experience, but its pretty gross.

Im sure you have acacia around you, if they get mistletoe growing on them it makes a kind of burl and theyre pretty common.

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The Peppertree burl was, and I suspect the Mulberry burl will be wet (for the lack of a better word)

I was actually wondering how to dry them out without cracking.

The Peppertree burl I left in water for a while, had a funny effect on what I suspect was resin leaching out of the wood.

13 hours ago, steven smith said:

Im sure you have acacia around you, if they get mistletoe growing on them it makes a kind of burl and theyre pretty common.

Know exactly what you mean, but not that common where I'm at. I've held a few dry ones that people collected, and they're not very large at all.....

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Just cut them off and if you have a band saw cut to size or just a bit oversize for knife handle blocks.  I  usually orient the best looking areas so that the eyes are on the sides of the handle block.  You cannot do that to all of the burl, but I try to get the densest and nicest pieces cut this way.  Seal with a wax emulsion available from Woodcraft Supply and let dry stacked with separation for airflow in a cool shaded place with no breezes for at least 1 year per inch of thickness.  This is for average woods like maple, however some woods like Madrone or Oak can have high levels of stress in them and will twist and split badly in drying even when coated.  These woods I have found respond well to being boiled as soon as being cut up.  About 1 hour per inch of thickness.  This releaves the stresses and they seem to dry a bit faster afterwards.  I have dried Red Mulberry with minimal splitting checking so yours may dry well.

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Can the burl be stabilized right after harvesting?  Or should it be allowed to cure for a while first?

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Alex Middleton,  The burl needs to be completely dry before stabilizing.   A piece can be dried in the microwave oven carefully if one's in a big hurry, but this is not practical for many pieces.   Look up microwave drying of wood in wood turning sites for info.

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Thanks @Martin Brandt.  I typically use a toaster oven to finish drying my wood out before stabilizing, but it's usually somewhat seasoned before I start.  I guess the question I should have asked was;  Does fresh cut burl typically react well to rapid drying for stabilizing, or should it be allowed to naturally season first?  I'll search around some and see what I can come up with.  Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction. 

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Last thing yesterday afternoon I took to the Mulberry with a saw, unfortunately termites had gotten in there before me.

The tree is covered in burls, but the ring all round the tree where I harvested seems like a reaction to what the termites removed.....

Anyway, the tree is already a bit unsteady now, one of the two pieces I got might be worth the effort.

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Some feedback....

I submerged the burl in a sanding sealer and put it under vacuum several times.

While working down the wood there was still some voids, but it was (is) very pretty......

When it was close to final shape and I'd done the drilling for the tang and pin, I submerged it in acetone because I had another idea....

What surprised me was the amount of that sanding sealer that came out, what disgusted me was the fact the piece of wood was no longer straight :(

Since it's Winter the polyester resin I use to make micarta takes longer to set, even more so when I add tint. Blocked the tang and pin holes as best I could and put it under vacuum submerged in the tinted resin for a while, then into a ziplock bag and inbetween my quench plates.

It might just have worked, cleaned up nicely and no voids......seems strong. 

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This seems to have worked better than I hoped.....will post some pics soon!

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Shop incident with a happy'ish ending.....

I was busy with the last bit of polishing when........it grabbed the knife and slammed it burl-first into the cement floor :angry:

Handle is still right and tight, small deflection of the wood on the right angle at the rear, so I'be had to round that a bit.....maybe a good idea anyway.

I feel confident the future owner can drop the knife without it breaking......a relief.

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