Dollar Value of a Walnut Burl

Walnut burls are extremely rare, but that does not mean they're worth money: the proof is in the sawing.October 26, 2011

Someone contacted me today about buying a 36" diameter walnut burl. I havenít seen it yet but was wondering what a fair price would be to offer if the burl looks good. Also what characteristics should I look for in the burl?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
I would recommend offering nothing until you can see the inside of the burl. I have seen many a burl that was nothing more than a few inches thick due to rot. Make sure as well it is a true burl, and not just an old overgrown limb stub or butt curl. Provided it is solid and as nice as hoped for, I would think it worth $5 a pound anyway. I sell wet burled maple for $3.50 a pound and people seem to buy it up. Just an opinion, I have never seen a true walnut burl so I do not know the market, and I am in Oregon with a potentially different market than yours.

From contributor E:
Walnut burls are very rare. Tread cautiously.

From contributor U:
Some burl markets like spiked edge eye grain in maple seem to have somewhat similar prices from supplier to supplier, but walnut burl is very rare. I have cut tens of thousands of pounds of burls in the past five or so and never a walnut. I only know of two trees that have nice ones on them, one about 3' in diameter, the other about 4' and neither property owner wants me knocking on their door again!

Rare woods can make for rare sales, so even if it's really nice, I would try to get it as cheap as possible, the seller probably does not know anybody else that will buy it, and will not take the time to market it.

I also depends on the grain patterns. If it's eye patterned it's valuable, but if itís just swirling grain, it's not nearly as valuable. Look at Bolke Veneer company on Woodplanet - they are always advertising walnut burl.

From the original questioner:
I looked at the burl today. It must weigh about 200lbs and is about 36 inches diameter by about 40 tall. It was cut about five years ago and then put in a barn for a few years. I could not tell if it is a true burl or not. I made an offer and he said that he would let me know in a few weeks. I donít want to risk too much money because without cutting into it I canít really tell how good it is.

From contributor U:
If it sat in a barn for five years it's very likely it has bugs in it. Powder post is possible, but I'm sure there's a high possibility something is chewing away at it. Check and see if there is sawdust built up under the bark. If you do not mind me asking, what was your offer?

From the original questioner:
It definitely has bug holes. I noticed several small holes but donít know how bad they have infested it. I was hoping only a little on the surface. I offered a reasonable amount but probably on the low side but given the age and possible bug holes along with several deep cavities in the burl itself I donít want to have a lot of money at risk but at same time walnut burls donít show up every day.

From contributor B:
I had some local black walnut setting for two years, in that time a bunch of mean little ants invaded the sap wood but left the heartwood alone. You may find some centipedes as well. But really, once you kiln dry it to kill said bugs you may have a small piece of gold.

From contributor U:
Please post some pictures if you can. Because you have not posted a visual to run off of, all there is to go off of is what you have written, and now that you have mentioned that it has bugs and that it will require kiln drying to eliminate them, I would try to get it for free even if you are equipped with a kiln to kill them. I spray seven on the surface of my burls to make a barrier for the bugs, but that is all sprays will do. Since there are bugs within, kiln drying is your only option, or the wood will just get worse.

Aged walnut can be very nice, I have salvaged walnut logs that have been rotting in the woods for five-eight plus years that exhibit very dark grains once sawn and buyers will pay a premium, but these grains come out when exposed to the elements. In your situation, it's been slowly drying in a barn so the wood is not acquiring an aged look, it's just staying moist enough to attract bugs.

In professional logging and sawmilling companies it's not a good idea to let logs sit for more than 3-4 months after felling but they can last up to six months without any degrade, some species up to a year, but you better wax the ends. Storing any logs indoors is just a bad idea.

If this burl shows some spiky natural edging with eye figure, I would still be willing to pay a couple hundred bucks for it, but if it's swirling grain it's only going to be worth your while if it's free. Remember that your overhead begins with its transportation and handling. The seller must realize that storing it was a bad idea and is a major negative factor against the value.