Oyster Veneer: Working With Laburnum Oysters

The Laburnum Oyster Box:  A story spanning Ten Years

The laburnum oyster jewellery box has been an adventure in making.  The journey began over 10 years ago when I was offered some laburnum logs.  This is a small tree growing in the UK, which yields small sections of beautiful dark wood.  The pieces I got were really just small branches, but I knew they had huge potential.  This dark rich wood has been used for hundreds of years to make some incredible furniture.  Over the years I have seen many beautiful antique Queen Ann tall boys and chest of drawers, decorated with Laburnum oysters, which inspired me to make modern pieces with it today.

Oysters, traditionally from Laburnum, Walnut, Yew or Olive provide a unique way of working with wood.  Most wood is cut along its length to produce interesting and figured planks with straight grain; Oysters are cut across the woods length producing pieces of timber which show off the circular form of the annual growth rings.  These may be cut at 90O  or 45O producing stunning patterns.


A plank of timber Cut from a log
A plank of timber cut from a log along its length


Oysters cut from a branch
Oysters cut from a branch across its length


However, like so much when working with wood, especially beautifully figured wood, cutting across the grain comes with a whole new set of problems.  When you cut a piece of wood across the grain the wood tends to split, and if cut into thin slices it will split, warp, twist and bend, and this is completely useless for working with.  The aim is to cut many thin oysters from a branch, dry and flatten them, without any splitting or warping, and then work with them in the same way as a veneer.

There is very little documented about how to cut, dry and work with oyster veneers.  When talking to colleagues there seemed to be much uncertainty about this allusive technique, with many makers having snippets of information which I put together for this challenging piece

I cut the oysters from the laburnum logs, then dried them very slowly and carefully over a number of years, to prevent them cracking, and to keep them nice and flat.


Rough Cut Oyster Veneers
Rough Cut Oyster Veneers


Each oyster needed to be relatively thin to work with, and also much smoother and flatter than when they were first cut.  However as each oyster was flattened and thinned they became more vulnerable to splitting and cracking.  Eventually each oyster was flattened and thinned from 2-3 mm to 0.8 mm, which enabled me to work with them and create the Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box


Laburnum Oysters
Laburnum Oysters


Each oyster was cut over a decade ago and then carefully dried, before I could even start to think about using it.  The oysters were cut from the branch, then clamped back together for at least 2-3 years to ensure a very slow drying process.  Some cracked and were lost, but most dried very slowly and very flat.  I checked them a couple of times each year, and even had some clamped like this for over 6 years until fully dried.  At this stage I did not know if I would be able to successfully work with them, but hoped I could.

Over 350 separate oysters were used to create this single box, a huge number would be needed for a much larger piece. Once dried, each oyster had to be individually selected for its size, shape, figure and pattern, and then flattened on both sides and thinned to approximately 0.8mm.  They were then slowly and intricately cut, shaped and fitted to their  neighbor, sometimes each oyster had to be fitted to multiple other oysters, a slow and intricate job.  This painstaking work to prepare and lay up the oysters took many weeks, but worked, and opened up the process for working on some much larger pieces.

The Laburnum Oyster Box during making
The Laburnum Oyster Box during making


It is always an exciting to work on a new, one off, individual piece.  When I started out working with oysters I did not know if it would work   Now as I move forward I will use this technique for a much larger piece, and of course I am now always on the lookout for more laburnum to make oysters with.

To find out further information about this box, please contact Edward

The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box By Edward Wild
The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box By Edward Wild


The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (side View)
The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (side View)


The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (side View 2)
The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (side View 2)


The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (Closeup)
The Laburnum Oyster Jewellery Box by Edward Wild (Closeup)




What is Bog Oak?

Bog Oak is a fascinating wood, with an incredible history.

Bog oak comes from Oak trees which have generally been buried, often in marshy conditions, river beds or peat bogs and preserved from decay for hundreds or even thousands of years by the acidic and anaerobic conditions found there.  Tannins in the oak react with dissolved iron in the water, slowly turning the wood brown and then black over millennia.


Bog Oak
A piece of Bog Oak


Following the last Ice age in the UK, parts of low-lying East Anglia formed rich dense Oak woodland.  As the climate warmed and the ice continually melted, the sea levels rose, until around 6000 to 7000 years ago when these coastal areas began to flood.  This meant the trees died and fell into the newly forming fen-land.  Through draining some of these wetlands over hundreds of years and modern agricultural practices these ancient tree trunks are re-discovered and if cut and dried by specialists, can become the the UKs darkest and most fascinating timber.  The bog oak changes its characteristics as this pre-fossilisation process occurs, not only darkening to a deep brown or black, but becoming very dense and very hard.  This can make bog oak difficult to work with, blunting tools very rapidly, however the end result is always very pleasing.

Here are a number of pieces made from ancient bog oak.  The specialty box.  The Bog Oak Cufflink box

A board of Ancient Bog Oak
A board of Ancient Bog Oak

What is a Burr?

For a furniture designer/maker like myself a burr (or burl in American) is one of the most prized parts of a tree, it often will have a swirling intricate highly figured grain, which can be difficult to work with, but looks incredible, with every burr been individual and unique; but what actually is it, where is it from on a tree?

A burr is a growth on a tree which has formed in an irregular manner, often found on the trunk, or even the roots.  It might be a single growth on a tree trunk, or multiple profuse growths covering much of the tree.  The Growth is often formed from swirling grain and small knots and buds which have formed into a growth over many decades.

The swirling pattern of Chestnut Burr
The swirling pattern of Chestnut Burr

The growth itself is often a reaction to stress, such as injury from damage, insect attack or bacterial, viral or fungal infection.  The tree responds to the stress by growing around it to protect the tree, creating a highly figured rare form of wood which can become very large.  Because of their rarity, burrs are often very expensive and will be used in furniture in both a solid and veneer form.

Many species of tree globally will produce burrs, including some of my favorites such as  Oak, Ash, Elm, Beech,  Maple, Alder Chestnut, and Walnut.  Here are some examples of pieces made from two of my favorite burrs,  Walnut Burr and Chestnut Burr.

A Burr on a tree trunk
A burr on a tree by Edward Wild

Derwent House: Home of British Craft and Makers in Witney Oxfordshire

I am delighted to be exhibiting a number of pieces  as part of Table Manners:  A buying Exhibition of Tables Celebrating British Design and Making


This October Derwent House will host ‘Table Manners’, a buying exhibition of all manner of tables – dining, console, desk, coffee and lamp – ranging from the classical to the contemporary, the functional and the quirky.⁣

I will be showing the Burr Elm Hall Table and Burr Walnut Side Table as part of this exciting exhibition.

7 October 2021 to 31 March 2022

The Hall Table in Burr Elm by Edward Wild
The Hall Table in Burr Elm by Edward Wild

I am currently showing The Textured Oak Side Table at the Devon Guild Of Craftsmen as part of the Room settings Exhibition.

The Textured Oak Side Table shows off a highly textured top which has been worked by hand to create a unique finish, which is dramatic to look at and tactile to the touch.  The Oak has been fumed to intensify the rich colour of this beautiful Devon Oak.

The Room Settings Exhibition: 2 October – 27 November 2021

The concept for this exhibition is to showcase the work of the Guilds furniture makers, but give them a chance to try out new ideas, whilst exhibiting their work alongside the work of other makers including wall hung textiles, prints and interior accessories to create a series of room settings.
The show includes work by Peter Lanyon, Matthew McCann, Jo Lilley, Miranda Salmon, Jenny Wilkinson, Edward Wild, Ambrose Vevers, Guy Martin, Rodney Lomas, Christian O’Reilly, Colleen Pope, Fabrizia Bazzo. With accessories by guild Maker Members

The Devon Guild is open Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 5 pm


Textured Table top By Edward Wild
The textured side table by Edward Wild
The Textured Side Table by Edward Wild
The Textured Side Table by Edward Wild

Excited To Be A Part Of Handmade Oxford Online 2021

I am excited to be a part of Handmade Oxford virtual craft fair from the 15th -19th September 2021.


I am delighted to be participating in this event, including a live talk about my work as part of Handmade Oxford at 12.00 midday on Saturday 18th September talking about some of my new work.


I will also have a number of special new pieces available during the show including the unique Black and White Ebony Sunburst Jewellery Box


The Sunburst Jewel By Edward Wild
The Black and White Ebony sunburst Jewellery Box by Edward Wild

Good Afternoons. A stimulating series of talks and QA sessions with artists and craftspeople from North Devon

I am delighted to be taking part in the Good Afternoons talks at the Burton Art gallery in Bideford over the summer 2021.


24 July – Edward Wild: furniture designer and maker
Edward will take a look at the long history and craft of cabinetmaking and discuss how that influences his own work. He’ll talk in detail about how he sets about choosing wood and the making of a number of his own pieces. Edward has been making English furniture from his workshop in Devon since 2011

Click here for further information

Handmade Oxford 2021 Online

This year Handmade Oxford will be an online event and I am delighted to be taking part.  There will be lots of new and exciting pieces available.

Handmade Oxford  15th – 19th September 2021


The Desk By Edward Wild
Chestnut and Maple Desk by Edward Wild

The Makers Series Podcast

I am delighted to be part of the third podcast in the Makers Series.

The makers series is a curated collection of Northern Devon’s artisan makers, movers and shapers.

It aims to promote their incredible skills whilst demystifying rural, creative self-employment

Maker Series Edward Wild



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