How To Find Pearls In Burls
For faster drying, trim and size the burls
To speed up drying, cut the burls that you plan to use in the near term into rounds and blocks for turning or boards and veneers for other woodworking purposes. If you're not in a hurry to use the burls, leave them whole for storage. Allowing them to dry slowly can produce spalting and color change that adds additional character, as you can see right.
When cutting burls into boards, cut the boards 25 percent thicker than you'll need to allow for distortion during drying. Also, be aware that your cutting direction can make a difference in the figure's appearance, depending on the burl's grain pattern. Burls typically have either an eye figure or random, swirling grain. If you're cutting a burl with eye figure, the board will exhibit either eyes or radiant lines depending on the way you slice it, as shown on the drawing below.
How can you tell if the burl has eye figure? You can't be sure without taking a thin slice off the burl's top. But, you generally can expect to find eye figure in maple, cherry, ash, and walnut burls. If a burl has swirling grain (typical in mulberry, gum, and birch), you needn't be concerned about the cutting direction. Just cut it to get the best yield.
In order to slow the release of moisture, seal the exposed end-grain surfaces on your cut pieces. (It's not necessary to seal any oversize sections or rounds that you plan to turn wet within 8 to 10 weeks.) Use a sealer, such as End Grain Wood Sealer, available from Packard Woodworks Inc. (call 800/683-8876, or go to www.packardwoodworks.com).
Now, store oversize sections outside, off the ground, and sheltered from direct sun and rain. Keep the cut pieces inside. How long will it take the cut pieces to dry? This varies with temperature and humidity conditions. As a general guide, Bruce has found that small rounds and blocks less than 11/2 thick or boards less than 3/4" thick dry in about 12 weeks in warm air. Thicker pieces can take up to 6 months.
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