Black Ash Burl
- Exhibition grade
- Stabilized by K&G
- 1 1/2" x 1 3/4" x 4 3/4"
This piece is cut to show the high contrast rays on the broad side and the birds eyes on the top side. Using this on a full tang will give you high contrast marble like patterns. It is a flawless piece with no visible checks or inclusions. This will make a stunning handle.
Black Ash is a slow growing tree of northern swampy woodlands. Its range of growth is from New England and adjacent Southern Canada westward through the Great Lakes region to Eastern Minnesota.
It is fairly rare as it is difficult to locate and harvest. It is one of the more expensive burl woods due to demand and supply.
Black Ash burl wood tends to have strong, high contrast birds eyes, fiddleback or sunray grain patterns. Commonly one side of a cut will have strong birds eyes and the adjacent side will have sunray patterns. Each perspective is handsome but most knife makers prefer the birds eye side. When you look at a piece of Black Ash Burl in a picture and see a strong sun ray pattern, expect the adjacent 90 degree side to have highly defined birds eyes and vice versa. Fiddleback or curly pattern Black Ash Burl tends to have light to dark contrast swirls throughout the piece. The darker the wood, which is closer to the heart wood, the more chatoyant the piece will be when finished with tung oil or boiled linseed oil. A chatoyant piece is defined here as being able to see into the wood for the appearance of depth or three dimensional quality. It is a highly desirable look. You can often see this on high quality fiddleback (curly) maple. Light contrast fiddleback Black Ash burl can be enhanced with a maple or mahogany type finish stain. An oil finish will also enhance the grain giving it more contrast and beauty. Keep in mind that even lower contrast Black Ash burl is much higher in contrast and visual appeal than many other types of wood.
Black Ash burl wood tends to have bark inclusions. We see this as a positive and adds character to the wood piece. Some makers do not want inclusions. We try to mention any we can see in the descriptions but Im sure we will miss some.
You will see residue crystals and some stains on the outside of pieces from this process. You may also see what looks like plastic that has been melted to the wood. Again, this is just residue of the stabilization process and is removed naturally during the handle or scale fitting. Stabilization is the process where wood is soaked under vacuum and then pressure in a chemical that is hardened by catalyzing under heat. The wood is completely impregnated with the polymer solution. The stabilizing chemical is basically the hardened solution inside of many of the wood cells. Think of a sponge that has been used for painting and dried out without being cleaned and you have a good comparison to stabilized wood. The sponge is much harder than it was to begin with but it can still move a little.
It is important to know that stabilizing does not stop wood from moving entirely. It minimizes movement, but you should expect even stabilized wood to move. This is why we do not sell cut scales of stabilized wood. It will eventually move if not used within a few months and then you will be unhappy with us even though we told you about it. Do not cut or trim stabilized wood until you are ready to use it!
Can you use this stuff for scales? Absolutely. When you glue it to your knife handle using a good epoxy or other adhesive, the movement is basically completely arrested. Non stabilized burl wood may (often?) curl and pop off a full tang handle. If you have ever seen some old knives with wooden scales, youve probably seen at least a few where the wood has curled away from the handle. Stabilized wood is, well, more stabile than non-treated wood.
This wood may have checks (small cracks) that are visible or not. This is the nature of this type of wood and some checking should be expected. If the wood is heavily checked, we will try to mention that. We will not intentionally sell wood that has checks so large or numerous that it threatens the strength of the piece. It is my opinion most checks are easily worked around and add to the character of the wood. Some makers do not feel that way and want a completely check free piece of wood. You should expect to pay a premium for check free piece of Black Ash Burl, especially in larger pieces. Burls hold a lot of water when they are on the tree and after they are harvested, they tend to check quickly. Getting a large piece that is check free is very rare.
If you buy a piece of wood from us and you arent satisfied with it when you get it, well take it back and refund you or swap you for a different piece.
Some tips for working with stabilized wood:
When you are working with a piece that has large checks or voids, fill the check with gel type Cyanoacrylate (super glue type glue commonly called CA) and then sand the piece before it cures. You can also push dust into the crack along with the gel CA. When it cures, it blends very nicely with the wood. I will often take a scrap piece of the same wood and grind a small pile of dust to mix in the cracks with CA.
When working with burl that has hairline checks, use the thinnest CA you have and squirt it into the crack so the hygroscopic wicking action takes it along the entire crack. You may have to do this more than once. Its OK to squirt it with a CA accelerator to speed the cure along. This may be the absolute best conditions to use CA in. The bond will be several times stronger than the wood its self. I routinely use thin CA on hairline cracks to strengthen pieces. Id recommend you do the same.
Always leave it oversized so you can grind or cut away any warps or curving.
Consider cutting your piece to leave in any bark inclusions. They really add to the unique look of burl wood. Keep in mind bark inclusions have almost no strength so they should be small and not be located where you need strength like around pins.
Dont cut it into scales until you are ready to use it. Ideally, you would cut the scales a couple weeks from use. If you cut burl wood and let it sit for a year, expect the scales to be badly warped just like any other burl cut into thin strips.
Stabilized wood is hygroscopic. It will take up water like a sponge and leak it out like a sponge.
You can and should apply finish to stabilized wood to help seal it. I prefer Danish Oil which is mostly tung oil. Adding an oil finish like tung oil will give the wood depth and luster. Polyurethane, linseed oil or other finishes also work. Go with your preference. I also apply a furniture wax with a light buffing after the oil finish has cured.
When pinning, make the pin holes slightly loose. Stabilized wood cracks when pinned too tightly. It wont crack right away. It will crack in a year or two after it moves with humidity changes.