Burrs a-bundle!

Published by Les on

It’s been a batch of weathered oak burr that’s been going through the workshop this weekend; the timber came from a local source of oak beams that had lain outside in whatever our weather could throw at it for several years, so the surfaces abounded with splits and cracks and signs of fungal and insect attack. The timber itself looks so un-promising that it would be easy to pass it off as unusable for turning, but it’s just the sort of timber that I love to work with.

When I buy the timber it is usually in 8ft lengths of 6″x6″ section, which makes them ridiculously heavy and awkward to stock, so I cut them up into blanks of a variety of convenient sizes.

Here’s a batch of three pots that will be on offer to the “Worshipful Company of Turners”, in London, who are currently buying-in stock from turners such as myself, who are members of the Register of Professional Turners.

The timber is very unpredictable to work with, so there is little point having a fixed idea of what I’m going to make before the piece is mounted on the lathe. Rather, I start roughing out a shape, but invariably have to develop it to suit the features of the grain or the effect of all those years left out in the rain and the sun.

The first one is a tall pot which had a large, dead and decayed knot exactly where I planned to secure it into my chuck, so much of the lower middle of the piece was packed with powdered brass set in epoxy resin, to strengthen the timber and to make it safe to turn.

There’s a scorched and lime waxed bead running around the pot, with a similarly made cushion mount for a cabochon of fossilised coral which has been set into it.

The next piece was planned to be very much taller than this, but the timber was much too distressed, so there was a compromise between reducing its height and retaining its features. I kept this piece quite simple.

Finally, a piece of timber that didn’t hold any particular surprises, but had some amazing grain and burr clusters in it, to say nothing of the depth of its colour. This one was given a simple bead, a cushion mount of Spannish Boxwood and a cabochon of Tiger’s Eye stone….my favourite of the three.


Sara Piper Heap · August 17, 2020 at 8:10 am

Hey – I live your work. This is me being very cheeky but if you don’t ask . . .

I’m a metalwork artist. I often make sculptures (small) in copper which are mounted on interesting bits of wood. The most interesting that I have come across (ever) have been the burr bit of the oak burr. Do you/ could you keep hold of these when you cut your pieces????

I know it’s cheeky . . .

Thanks for reading this far

Sara X

    Les · August 17, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Hello Sarah….your name is familiar, but I can’t place you. Anyway, I don’t think it’s cheeky at all….if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Give me an idea of what sort of dimensions you’re looking for. I have dozens of what we call “top slice” pieces, which have a cluster of burr in them, but not huge. I will be turning my timber stock over soon, to bring the dry stuff up to the top and fresh green stuff at the bottom. Where are you based?

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