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Wooden ceiling lamps: characteristics and advantages
Scandinavian style lamps
Burl and suvel: the "different" wood

Burl and suvel: the "different" wood

    Apart from the "usual" material that is taken from a healthy tree trunk, a few types of differently-textured wood exist. Such wood is taken from peculiar outgrowths on a tree trunk. One such type of wood is burl, and the other is called suvel in Russian. They differ in texture, hardness and the way they grow.

    Both these types of wood are fairly rare, exquisitely textured, extremely durable and hard to carve, especially compared to the softer types of wood. Let's have a look at their properties.


    Burl is a type of tree outgrowth that forms around dormant buds. Burl usually looks like a globular or a tear-shaped outgrowth on tree trunk or a branch. Such outgrowths can be created with mechanical damage or after the tree has a fungus or a virus. Some botanists also hypothesise that burl formation is a genetic trait.

    The size of burl can range from a couple inches to eight meters in diameter. Burl grows to that size on coast redwoods. Instead of the normal concentric rings usually seen on a cross-section, a piece of burl shows lots of smaller circles, so-called peacock eyes. This distinctive pattern is created by ingrown fibers of dozens of dormant buds.

    Apart from the obvious beauty of the pattern and the amazing durability of burl, rarity is what makes burl an exquisite material. It only forms on one tree out of three thousand. The texture is so random that even two halves of a piece of burl will not look the same.


    Suvel is another type of tree outgrowth. It's also created after damage or sickness. It can grow as large as a burl. Its main difference from burl is the way it's formed: instead of the dormant buds, it's the fibers of the tree itself that start to twist, bend and grow into each other.

    Suvel is not outstanding as burl. Its natural pattern is not as expressive, and it is less durable. In spite of this, suvel still is harder and more distinctive than wood. It's also more common than burl and can even be grown on a tree artificially.

Using suvel and burl

    A piece of wood defines the basics of what the item will be, with its shape, size, proportions and texture.

    Burl and suvel items used to be decorated with carvings. The modern way to decorate them is just to polish and lacqueur, striving to highlight the natural beauty of the pattern. The modern consensus is, carving doesn't make much sense since the textures of burl and suvel themselves look more intricate and beautiful than any man-made carving.

    Artisans have always appreciated these types of wood for their amazing beauty and durability. Burl and suvel have been known as great kitchenware materials since at least the 18th century.

The technology

    After taking the burl, carvers usually cut the bark off of it using chisels. Then the outgrowth is boiled in brine for two to five hours, depending on its size. Before starting the work on the piece of burl, it's important to imagine the item three-dimensionally to get the best texture. It's often the hardest part of the creative process.

    Both burl and suvel are too hard to be carved with a plane. Carving with a chisel is too time-consuming and carries a risk of spoiling the item altogether. The solution is usually a woodworking lathe, which is normally used to carve a small bowl or a vase.

    The carved item is sanded and polished to highlight the natural pattern. Any small cracks are filled with putty. Sometimes the item is toned additionally with natural coloring. This is followed by rubbing the item with oil to add some gloss.

    This is the way we create the various items that we offer at our web store. Visit our website and pick a durable and unique hand-made item made of an inimitable natural material!

Wooden ceiling lamps: characteristics and advantages
Scandinavian style lamps
Burl and suvel: the "different" wood

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