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Burl - but not Ives
If you're old enough to appreciate the attempt at word play that is represented in the title of this thread then you, like me, probably sport a few gray hairs on your noggin. 

When I first discovered the growths on the trunk of my majestic American Elm, I didn't know what they were. A year later the 50 foot tall massive old elm was clearly suffering and the following year it had expired.  We cut the tree about 12 feet up from the ground to keep the dead branches from crushing the adjacent shed. 


I also trimmed one of the bumps off the trunk with my chain saw and took note of the strange grain at the saw line. That's when someone more familiar with wood than me told me that "that's burl". 

That's when I decided to turn the trimmed piece into a serving platter.


And here is a closer look at the grain:


Pleased with the results, I lopped off several more growths of various size and shape and produced various bowls and serving pieces from them.  This was all three years ago. The event that prompted this post occurred when I inspected my old burl trunk this year. I discovered that the old trunk has gone back into burl production again  and some of the new growths are quite massive:


Anyhow, seems like this stuff would make some pretty nice tool and knife handles as well.
Burl Ives eh?  Wow.  You really dug one up there Mr. Mike.  My noggin is grey enough but I must say those memory synapses have not been accessed since childhood.  Amazing what sticks in there.  Apparently Burl made an impression.

There used to be tons of elm trees in Michigan but when I was young Dutch Elm Disease (DED) killed most of them.  I remember it happening.  The tree canopy was destroyed in many neighborhoods, leaving streets empty and barren of shade.  Though I was young I remember seeing many dead trees.  Really sad.  I Googled it, and American elm was one species devastated.  It killed something like 77 million trees worldwide 1970.  Due to it's stately nature and open canopy it was a favorite street tree in Michigan and it's loss changed the gestalt of many neighborhoods.

Imagine this minus the trees.        That's what happened.

"DED (Dutch Elm Disease) is caused by a fungus called Ophiostoma ulmi (formerly Ceratocystis ulmi) that was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1930s. The American elm, Ulmus americana, is extremely susceptible and the disease has killed hundreds of thousands of elms across the U.S.... The disease is still a threat today, but fortunately, several resistant American elm and hybrid elm selections are available or being developed."

Interestingly, DED does not kill the roots, and many elms not physically dug up for removal still survive decades later.  Roots sprout suckers which die, but the roots continue.   Gotta hand it to the elms for that survival mechanism.  Hopefully that will work for the elm, and someday it can return to it's original glory.  

Apparently your "stump" Mr. Mike is still alive and producing beautiful burl wood.  How cool is that.  Gotta hand it to the elm trees.
Really very nice serving platter, Mike!
Equivalent of burl in UK English is bur or burr. Wink


That's an outstanding piece of work, Mike!

I can't think of a more popular natural material for knife handles. I must have about 40 blocks, and I can get at least two handles out of a block.

Almost all burl is dyed as it's being "stabilized" with cyanoacrylate type resin. Often times it's double dyed or even triple dyed. All light colored burl takes dye beautifully, and comes out rock hard, so it's very difficult to know what kind of wood you're working with.

When you buy a block of burl there will usually be some sort of indication as to what type of wood it is, but if I've taken a slice of it off, chances are that information would be removed.

I was at a Bark River hammer-in many years ago. They had a ton of every sort of burl you could imagine. I picked up a nice piece and asked Mike what it was. I've been calling any unidentified burl "Milton" since then. After all, it very rarely matters if it's been dyed.
Thank you very much Jan and Mark. That bit of woodworking was done with a drill press, a Forstner bit  and various sanding mechanisms. All I applied, once finished, was olive oil. I'm pleased that none of the pieces I have made have ever cracked and it's been a few years now. "Knock on wood" is appropriate here now I suppose.

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