Click on the pictures below for a closer look.
This type of figure results from the weaving together of wood fibers strengthening the areas around major limbs and branches. The term feather is used because the pattern created by this natural process resembles a feather. The slab pictured above was sawn from a California Claro walnut tree estimated to be over one hundred and thirty years old. The white strip in the upper left hand portion of the slab is a tally stick. A tally stick is used in the lumber industry as a tool for measuring the amount of board footage contained in any given piece of lumber.
The term burl describes the presence of dormant buds. Dormant buds contain all the genetic information to grow a new tree. Why they are created and remain dormant is a mystery. Some people believe they are formed due to injury or disease. One thing is for certain, the effect these dormant buds have on the appearance of the wood after it has been sawn is truly a thing of beauty. For centuries burl wood has been considered a prized possession. In this respect trees are like oysters, not every oyster produces a pearl, not every tree produces a burl. The greatest demand for burls in the wood market today is for use as veneer. These veneers adorn many of today's most expensive automobiles and are also used in production of fine custom built furniture.
The term fiddleback comes from the use of this extraordinarily unusual grain pattern in the manufacture of musical instruments, most commonly associated with the famous luthier Antonio Stradivari. Stradivari built many of his violins using this type of figure on the backs of his violins, hence the term "fiddleback." Notice the color contrast in the wood at the lower right hand portion of this sample, this is called sapwood, the darker colored wood is known as heartwood.