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Photo of an Australian burl

“Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree…” goes a song from my childhood. Gum is a large family of Australian trees which are locally known as “Mallee.” Burls from Mallee trees are especially beautiful and, when you find them available in the US, are expensive. Because of the expense, I was unwilling to turn Australian burls for several years after I began turning. While Australia burls are expensive, it is possible to turn them into beautiful vessels. The burl shown here is a Mallee burl that cost $35.00. What one notices immediately is the highly irregular shape. The outside of the burl is crenulated with patterns of spikey points. The perimeter of the burl is highly irregular and often indented.

Photo of an Australian burl made into a bowl

My goal in turning an Australian burl is to produce a vessel that combines the beautiful irregularity of the burl itself with a classically shaped bowl form. To do so requires that I pick a center on the flat side (tree side) of the burl, drill a quarter inch deep mortise at that center, mount the burl on the lathe, and then take a series of cuts from the perimeter to the outer edge of the bowl form. Proceeding in this way allows me to preserve the original perimeter of the burl near what will become the top side of the vessel. After shaping the bottom of the bowl and creating a foot for it, I reverse the burl on the lathe and hollow the bowl. While I still approach Australian burls with all the respect that their value commands, I find it very satisfying and rewarding to create from them vessels that I think are unique and beautiful.

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