A Burl and a Box

I rarely work with burl, but when a piece from a Norway maple came my way , I decided to see what I could make from it. I ended up with this cup (4 1/2″ in diameter and 2 1/4″ high). I neglected to take any process photos, but the layout is straightforward.

I hollowed with bent gouges and a hook knife, then rough shaped the outside with an axe after making a couple relief saw cuts on either side of the handle. With this burl there was no predicting the ever-changing grain direction, so careful work with a coarse rasp and spokeshave prevented blowout as I neared the final shape.

I left a fair amount of extra thickness, expecting the piece to move and twist as it dried, and it did. So after drying there was some reshaping and then paring all of the final surfaces with gouge and knife.

In steep tight hollows like this, I often use a tightly curved crooked knife from Kestrel Tool in Washington state. The double edge is convenient for quickly changing direction and with this burl, I had to switch direction constantly.

I’ve got a few of these crooked knives now and I decided to finally make a simple storage box for them to protect those edges.

I made it from a piece of pine 1 x 12 (3/4″ x 11 1/4″). Pine is easy to work, light, and it smells great every time the box is opened.

I wanted the tools to fit snugly to make the most of the space and to prevent them from rattling around. So I made the box first without dividers, then determined the divider locations and fitted them directly by putting a tool in place and marking the divider location on both end walls.

Then I carved a notch with a v-tool beside the mark and cut a quick v on each end of the divider. The dividers are only 1/8″ thick, so they can be sprung into place. Repeat the process for the next tool and so on.

Another nice thing about the pine is that it’s easy to resaw into thin boards. The box is 11 x 11 and can be made from a two-foot board.

The bottom panel and sliding lid came from these boards, with plenty of extra length for later use. I love that texture — should have kept it. The boards for the sides were resawn off-center leaving 1/2″ of thickness for the sides and 1/8″ for the dividers.

The lid slides in the grooves.

And on another note…

A cricket visited the shop this week and explored a spoon in progress. It was a reminder that fall is here and I hope he brought some luck. That spoon and some others should be ready to share before long.

This entry was posted in burl, layout, tools, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Burl and a Box

  1. Bob Easton says:

    The off center resawing is a great formula for box making, leaving pleasing proportions between the frame and the bottom / lid. I’ve used it a couple of times and been very pleased with the results. I’m sure your knives are now happier.

    Beautiful burl cup!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. William J Bowman says:

    What do you do to prevent the piece from cracking while it dries?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      In this case, William, I just loosely wrapped an old towel around it, which acts like a partial vapor barrier and slows the drying. It also keeps any breeze from blowing across the wood. I move it to a different area of the towel every day or so if I think of it. After a few days I can take the towel away. Especially in summer when the humidity stays pretty high, I find that I can leave most bowls out to dry in the shop with no wrap or any other special measures. If I’ve carved thin enough, the bowl can move without cracking. I’ve got more information on drying in this blog post: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/oh-its-drying-time-again/


  3. Scott Kinsey says:

    Wine corks are good for all sorts of stuff.. protecting sharp edges as well as keeping fish hooks out of your hide when cinching up a knot.
    The cup is magnificent as is the box. My day is made!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. philhuber11 says:

    Reminds me to try resawing by hand. Love those knives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      It may sound strange, but there’s just something I like about resawing. I’ve had that old Atkins 4 point rip saw for years — a yard sale find. There’s also something about tuning up an old saw and putting it back to work. I hope you get to give it a try soon, Phil. Enjoy.


  5. Paul Anderson says:

    Beautiful bowl… I have been tempted to try a piece of burl, yet I have been concerned I would be nicking my tools like crazy. Most folks I have heard who carve burl use the power grinders. I have not wanted to get involves with those tools. Great to see you are willing to try just about anything. Thanks again for the inspiration. I forgot to mentioned I enjoyed looking at the design features of the shape of that bowl. Good food for thought.


  6. Dave Fisher says:

    Thanks, Paul. I don’t like carving burl, especially in a hard wood like this Norway maple. I think if you had something a bit softer like maybe a birch burl or aspen or something, it would be more reasonable for hand edge tools. So, power grinders make some sense for working hard burls, but, like you, I don’t want to head down that road.


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