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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Small Cherry Burls


A Small Cherry Burl
Woodturners in New England, and eastern states in general, know just how pretty Cherry burl wood is. You could confidently put me into that group of people, as I've enjoyed spinning up a number of these burls on the lathe, with large bowls being the result (uh, and a few pieces of perfectly circular firewood). I never pass up the opportunity to acquire large Cherry burls (or those of any other species for that matter). 

But many a small burl have been passed up as being, well, just too small to bother with. That's changed now, thanks to a friend (let's just call him "Bob", shall we? We all know plenty of Bobs). While I was on a visit to his woodturning shop one day, he showed me a vase-like piece he had just turned from a small Cherry burl, one that I would have ignored for its lack of stature. The piece actually was more of a small urn, for ashes. 

I've turned plenty of small vases and hollow vessels before, and even a large cremation urn, from various woods. But for some reason I can't fathom now, I hadn't been motivated to collect small Cherry burls, only the larger ones that could become bowls and such. For those purposes, I seek out burls that are already close to circular in shape, to minimize waste. Burls that are much longer than wide weren't of particular interest to me.

 But thanks to Bob and his urn, I suddenly became aware of just how nice a smaller, elongated shape could be in Cherry burl. Why I didn't see it before is a mystery to me. But I now had a reason to keep such chunks of wood when I found them.  

So here's my copy, er, interpretation, of the vase from Bob's shop. Hollowed through a hole at the top, it's 71/4 inches tall, 4 inches wide at the shoulder, and is capped with a neck piece of Plum.

That little scrap of Plum came from a tree planted and cared for by a very colorful and good-natured old timer who passed away many years ago. He had been a Navy submarine captain, had traveled the world, and had limitless stories and songs to share around late-night backyard campfires. "Woody", as he was known, loved life in its simplest forms... a day soaking up sunshine; growing blueberries; taking a dunk in the pond he dug; and- oh yes- sipping a few homebrew mint juleps. Those were the fuel that allowed him to burn up so much energy strumming his ukelele by the fire's glow, singing crazy songs and bringing us all to laughter with him. We miss Woody, his songs, and those cool nights under star-specked black skies, circled around a warm fire.

So I think it's fitting that a relic of Woody's Plum tree should rest atop this burl vessel. Woody was himself a burly kind of guy, and an elongated vessel had transported him to far corners of the world, albeit under the seas, to enrich his life.

And I'll be much more inspired by the sight of small Cherry burls from now on.


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