Burl Bowls

Natures Mistake, Transformed

Mother Nature has some tricks up her sleeve when it comes to fully utilizing every single life form in the woodland.


Burls form on certain types of trees in response to an invasion by a fungus or bacteria.

Sometimes triggered by some kind of damage or insect infestation, it's similar to the formation of a pearl in an oyster.

The wood of the tree tries to close off the infection and grows around it.

In a similar analogy, the pearl (or burl bowl) can only be revealed by killing the organism that hosts it.

This leads to incredible whorled and convoluted growth in a small area.

Spalting can also occur, increasing the already fantastic beauty of the grain.

As the fungus or bacteria travels around in the burled area, small lines of decay will form, and in some cases a reaction of blue staining delineates and dyes the area.

Poplar Canker Burl

Some of these interesting formations occur on quite large trees, so the tree lives with this issue for quite a while before succumbing to it.

I like to think of it as the tree being the artisan, and we just have to release its creation into burl bowls or other treenware.

Using a lathe to form the bowl shape must be done carefully so as not to damage any of the possibly punky or rotten portions. As each layer is removed, inspect it carefully to see where to take the excavation next. It’s like carving, where you have to take off everything that isn’t the form you want.

Burl bowls can be incredibly beautiful used as a fruit bowl or simply as decoration, or in a mixed collection displayed with vintage baskets.

Burl bowl and vintage baskets display well together

Depending on the type of wood, and the ultimate use, a thin coating of oil will give it the final touch, making it glow.  Use cooking oil if the item will be used for food.

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