So Kirk at Exotic Hardwoods over in Staffordshire often points me at interesting bits of wood to turn, and last time I was over to see him he gave me a Briar burr. This is a horrible looking lump of root, dug out of the ground and covered in mud - like a fossilised elephant poo according to my children! It has been sitting under the lathe for months now, waiting for the moment when I felt brave enough to try and mount the awkwardly shaped lump on the machine. Well, the moment came last week, and after a few issues (stones embedded in cracks in the burr chipped the cutting edges of my tools!) I finally found out what Kirk was on about.
It seems to me the nearest comparison I can draw is that the burr was like a truffle - an amazing thing that initially looks grim. At first sight a scruffy, muddy lump that has been dug out of the ground, but after a bit of work the true beauty of the wood beneath was revealed. The before and after photos are below. I think the elephant poo fossil turned out quite well in the end!