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How to cut and process a fresh burl for handle blocks

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Burl Source, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. Burl Source

    Burl Source

    Dec 7, 2008
    This is a step by step guide on how to cut up a fresh burl for knife handle blocks.

    The burl I am using is a Western Big Leaf Maple burl.
    This burl was growing on the side of a maple trunk.
    The burl cap was cut using a chain saw cutting parallel to the trunk to slice the burl cap off the tree.
    This affects the tree much like trimming off a branch. The tree continues to live.


    1st thing I do is place the burl on the bandsaw table and position it so I can make a straight cut along one side of the burl.



    This cut gives me a straight edge that I will use against the fence for future cuts.
    It also gives me a glimpse of what I am going to find inside the burl.


    Here I have cut the burl into 4 slices. One of them I cut wider, right at the crown of the burl.


    I laid the slices flat and marked a straight line along the edges.


    Next I trimmed the edges straight.

  2. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket Moderator

    Apr 15, 2010
    I have a feeling this is gonna be cool as a polar bear's backside. Thanks for sharing, Mark! :thumbup:
  3. Burl Source

    Burl Source

    Dec 7, 2008
    This straight edge goes against the fence so I can cut the slices into strips.


    This was the thick (2&1/2") slice, so I cut narrower (1&3/8") strips to make the wood against the fence the faces of the blocks.


    Turned to lay flat to show the surface that will be the faces of the blocks.


    Now I am cutting the 3 narrower (1&3/8") strips. The area against the table will be the faces of these blocks so I am cutting wider (2&1/2") strips.


    These are the strips cut from the narrower slices.



    Last step is to trim the strips into blocks.


    Everything has been cut slightly oversized to allow for what I will have to trim away to true up these blocks after they are finished drying.
    To air dry these they should be put on a shelf out of direct sunlight. If you stand them on edge air can flow around the blocks for more even drying. Flip them over every several days. Normal rule of thumb for air drying is about 1 year for each inch of thickness.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2011
  4. Horsewright

    Horsewright KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 4, 2011
    Thanks Mark very cool. That is great info. Your saw an old meat saw? My dad had one similar.
  5. omniviking


    Feb 9, 2008
    Thanks for the lesson
  6. Burl Source

    Burl Source

    Dec 7, 2008
    You are correct. Good tough old bandsaw.
    We have a few of them here that we use for the rough, utility type cutting.
  7. Battle Creek Knives

    Battle Creek Knives

    Feb 23, 2010
    Sweet Mark, seems like there's a lot of hype about burl lately :D

    Wished we had better trees around here.. I'd go hunting every day..:)

    do you have to let it dry or can it go straight to the stabilizer??
  8. woodwrkr221


    Jan 28, 2011
    What type of blade do you use? It looks to me like a steel blade would dull quickly cutting burls straight from the woods.
  9. Burl Source

    Burl Source

    Dec 7, 2008
    The wood needs to be dry before being stabilized.

    On the meat cutter bandsaws we just use the cheap generic blades.
    Green wood cuts a lot easier than dry wood. The problem comes when we cut a rock.
    The underground burls will often have dirt pockets with rocks so it is only a matter of time before you hit one and ruin the blade.
    That is why we use the cheap $15 blades instead of a $50 bi-metal.

    I have another bandsaw that I use with clean dry wood when I need precision cuts.
    On that one I use the better bi-metal blades.
  10. kc custom

    kc custom KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 20, 2005
    Good info Mark, I'm sure I would have got a lot more out of the ones I cut knowing this
    instead of "By guess and By Golly"
  11. R.Rock

    R.Rock Fulltime KnifeMaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 24, 2010
    Thanks for sharing, a peek inside your world!
  12. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    Very cool tutorial, thank you, I'm goin' out with the chainsaw now to see what I can find, have a lot of black walnut to cut up. :)

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