Carve This! The Wonders of Burl Wood and Burl Wood Pipes

Gifts Hands On

The pipe has long been a favorite companion of men (and women—no stereotyping here) worldwide, revered objects worthy of the rituals surrounding them. And though they may evoke a certain sense of intrigue, their origins need not be mysterious. Read on to discover the magic behind the beloved burl pipe.

Joyce Kilmer once mused about trees: “I think that I shall never see. A poem as lovely as a tree.” Now beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no one knows for certain everything that Kilmer ever saw during his life, so it would be risky to suggest that this statement is false. However, it is safe to say that Kilmer was not incorrect about trees being wondrous things. From root to crown, trees are nothing if not interesting, magnificent achievements of nature and, yes, pretty nice to look at.

While some might prefer to focus on the leafy canopy reaching up and waving at the sky, let us not forget the root system. Not as obvious as leaves, some might say not as desperate for attention, ahem, roots are equally important to the survival and beauty of a tree. And they even hold some secrets, unlike leaves, which basically just let everything hang out for any passerby to see. Shameless. Indeed, the root system is home to some fascinating secrets and treasures that can be used to create items both useful and charming and that can also give a maple leaf or magnolia blossom a run for its money. We give you burl wood.

What Is This Thing Called Burl?
Not to be confused with singer and screen, stage and claymation star Burl Ives, burl wood is the wood that is harvested from knob-like protrusions that grow in a deformed fashion due to some kind of stress, such as injury or a virus, suffered by a tree. Many burls grow underground, attached to the root system, sometimes as groups of bulbs. Burls can also grow from a tree trunk or branch. No matter where they are located, burls are almost always covered with bark. They can often grow to great size, even several feet, and yield a peculiar and unique wood—burl wood.

Similar to Burl Ives, burl wood is unpredictable, somewhat a mystery, full of surprises and highly prized for its beauty. Burl wood is a favorite among artists, woodworkers and furniture makers, thanks to the variety of texture and unusually patterned wood it holds, and is used to make inlays, veneers, bowls and all sorts of burl wood carvings, perhaps even Burl Ives burl wood carvings. Get the right wood carving tools and anything is possible.

Pipe Down, Smoke Up
The burl wood harvested from the white heath tree, Erica arborea, which grows in the region surrounding the Mediterranean and is known as briar, also has the potential for remarkable and beautiful grain. It is this wood that forms the basis of the Pipe Carving Kit.

The ancient craft of carving, both relaxing and gratifying, takes the mind off of the burdens of life while providing an opportunity to create, to sit and think and to perhaps whistle. The venerable tradition of pipe smoking can delight the senses and soothe the soul. Combine these two activities and it’s the perfect storm of gifts for men. Marky Mark not included.

Why-R They Briar?
Pipes are a lot like people. They come in all shapes and sizes, each has its own personality and sense of style and some exude more interesting smells than others. Pipes can be crafted from a number of other materials—clay, corncob and Meerschaum (science lesson: Meerschaum, or the mineral sepiolite, is a hydrous magnesium silicate—now you know), to name a few—but we prefer the briar burl wood pipe. Hard and heat-resistant and armed with its unique grain and finish potential, briar is a perfect pipe-making material. And according to The Wood Database—it’s real—it is not listed in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) Appendices or on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. So grab those wood carving tools and make two!

Wood-n’t It Be Nice
Old pros and wood carving novices alike know there is nothing quite like finding the right piece of wood for the right project. Or something. The pipe carving kit eliminates some of the guess work, well all of the guess work, by serving up the right piece of wood and the right wood carving tools for the right burl wood pipe project. All that’s left for them to do is sit and carve and think about how you always choose the best gifts for men.