On a tree, a burl is like scar tissue. It’s the coarse, unsightly, gnarled-up scab that forms after a branch is ripped off or the bark has been damaged. (After last winter’s ice storm in central and eastern Canada, many trees will be marred by burls.) To most carpenters, they are basically waste – their dense, warped grain is too difficult to cut.
Don and Jesse Stinson, father-and-son woodworkers from Tamworth, Ont., turn them into art. The process is painstaking. After collecting the knotty growths from loggers, saw mills and farmers, the Stinsons age the lumber for up to two years under a pile of wet and composted shavings (the prolonged dampness helps bring out the natural colours of the cedar, birch, oak or whatever wood they’re using).
Then, with chainsaws, knives, hammers and hand-grinders, they slowly, carefully carve the burl into covet-worthy bowls (notable collectors include Carrie Underwood, William Shatner and Steven Spielberg). The sizes range from six inches to over six feet, so the vessels are used as anything from candy dishes to lobby sculptures.
Stinson burl bowls $60 to $8,000. Through stinsonstudios.ca.