• Vasticola Burl carved from the extensively termite/ant damaged burl that follows

Power Carving Tips

Why Power Carve?

Because it's a load of fun . . . and with certain burl caps, a good deal of the work is already done for you! And let's face it, who isn't fascinated by the natural exterior of a spiked or gummy burl cap. Some of the burls available to me to purchase may have significant visible ant or termite damage. None more so than a pair of Vasticola Burl pieces I purchased not long after I began importing in 2004. Naturally, there are other options for putting more modestly ant/termite damaged burls to good use, but I'd venture to say, none quite as fun - or messy - as the creatively destructive process of power carving. Below is another example of an ant/termite damaged burl that has the qualities I look for in pieces suitable for carving - a nice shape, likely heartwood/sapwood contrast, and a beautiful natural side. Since no one purchased this piece for more than two years, I'll use it to create a more substantive tutorial.

Tools of the Trade

As shown in the slideshow at the top of the page I use an Arbortec mini setup for smaller pieces and a 4" angle grinder fitted with Arbortec Pro and Kutzall carving blades for larger burls. Naturally, there are other tools and blades available. Be sure to wear appropriate safety equipment when power carving, including a long sleeve shirt . . . unless you're keen on being pelted by little pieces of wood at high speed. And I strongly recommend you power carve outdoors if you're able. I doubt there's a dust collection system around that can handle the chips/dust.

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Hard to believe this burl did not sell as it was for years. But it gives me an opportunity to create a (hopefully) helpful tutorial, better appreciation for insect damaged burls, and ability for those lacking experience with them to look below the surface and see the inner beauty just waiting to be released and showcased . . . I rough carved this 11/16 and will add more images to the slideshow below as I work to finish it.

Slideshow Tutorial

  • There is a protective plastic cover that fits over the rotating blade. Personally, though I have carved with it, I find it can be inhibiting.

  • Partially filled sandbags are a great way to support and protect the natural side of the cap while power carving. It also allows for easy repositioning of the cap.

  • Be sure to use adequate personal protective equipment

  • Have a plan and stop frequently to reasses your plan

  • Check the thickness frequently. There's little more discouraging than creating an unintended hole.

  • Having used the Arbortec bit to do bulk maerial removal, I then shift to Kutzall shaping discs (they come in very coarse, coarse and fine) to refine the surface before sanding

  • The finished (almost) product - handrubbed with tung oil

  • Another extensively damaged burl - Red Mallee - I've had for years that I began carving 11/16/17

  • Though very deep, the damage carved away and I expect will be completely gone when I'm ready to final sand and finish.

  • The third of the damaged burls - Red Morrel - that I began carving 11/16/17

  • In some cases, I plan to carve an ogee separating sections of the carving. This takes a lot more time to get it right.

  • Finished Red Morrel Burl - a Christmas gift for my sister