A customer in California recently commissioned the most complex cutting board I’ve ever attempted. He said, “I know there’s a cutting board you’ve been wanting to attempt, but haven’t done it yet. Well… I want you to make that board for me.”  Turns out, he was right. There’s a cutting board I’ve been thinking about for years, now, but haven’t made it because of the level of effort required.  It will take about 20-30 separate glue-ups and probably around a month to complete.

As we talked through the project, I got to know the customer pretty well. It just so happens that he’s a wood turner, and has made some incredible bowls out of very exotic woods. He described some of the wood he’s collected over the years, and I was blown away (nerdy, I know).

Well, to make a long story short, he’s paying for most of this commission with some chunks of cocobolo burl. For those who aren’t woodworkers, a burl is a tumor-like growth that protrudes off the side of a tree trunk. It’s one of my favorite woodworking metaphors: every so often (1 in 100 trees?) some huge stress hits the tree (injury, virus, even a wasp sting) and the tree reacts by growing this big round goober around it.  The wood from a burl is generally considered to be some of the most beautiful stuff out there. So, out of suffering comes beauty.

For whatever reason, cocobolo trees don’t grow burls very often. Since cocobolo is a somewhat rare wood to begin with, this makes cocobolo burl crazy-rare. And I now have my grubby hands on some of it.

What will it become? I don’t know yet. Pens, for sure. Maybe some knife handles. Maybe a small bowl or two. That’s half the fun, planning the Making. It doesn’t look like much yet, in its rough form. But trust me, this stuff is gonna be gorgeous!

Twenty pounds of cocobolo burl

Twenty pounds of cocobolo burl

Oh and one final thing… My wife wanted me to state for the record that I don’t generally work for wood. She prefers to be able to feed our kids, and reminded me that greenbacks are the wampum of this age.





Leave a comment