Enjoy all your local news and sports for less than 6¢ per day.

Subscribe Now

Woodworker Dan Burdett sees beauty and art inside trees he lovingly shapes

Dan Burdett with one of his non-traditional tables adorned with a poured epoxy logo for Camp Blue Haven, with which he has strong ties. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Dan Burdett might have been born a homebuilder in a homebuilding family, but over the years, he has honed his craftsman skills to a finer edge, carving out a niche as an artisan woodworker.

His projects are wide ranging, bouncing from massive dining room tables to intricately detailed pocket knives. 

Burdett handcrafted the custom sycamore benches at the newly opened Belóved Gallery, 206 Avenue H in Marble Falls. Makers Market, 513 Main St. in Marble Falls, features his swirling epoxy charcuterie boards. He builds tables of all sizes as well as fireplace mantles. 

Any custom woodwork Burdett or his customers can dream up, he can create. 

The work seems deceptively simple, but behind it are decades of experience, dozens of power tools, an 11,000-square-foot workshop, and a deep knowledge of his chosen medium: trees.

“When you’re sawing a log, you’re opening a book that nobody else has seen,” he said. “That’s what makes it interesting for me.”

As a youngster, Burdett worked alongside his dad, Buck, who had him mixing concrete before sunrise. 

“Mom made sure we made it to school, but Dad made sure we did something before school,” he laughed.

He grew up on family land east of Marble Falls along Mormon Mill Road, which he recalls being nothing more than an old goat trail at the time. He has spent the entirety of his 51 years living on that land, save for four years at Abilene Christian University, where he met wife Jennifer. All 12 of his pre-college school years were spent in the Marble Falls district. 

He followed in his father’s footsteps as part of Burdett Hill Country Homes, which has been building houses in Marble Falls for three generations. 

While his early life focused on his family’s construction empire, in 2010, he set his sights on finer work when a friend suggested they get their own sawmill. Burdett had come into some land around Brownwood that had massive mesquite trees, and his imagination spun into high gear as they sawed open the iconic hardwoods.

He quickly upgraded his sawmill and explored and experimented with the trees growing across Central Texas. His skills expanded further when he began building custom cabins and furniture for Camp Blue Haven, a Christian youth camp in New Mexico with which he has been working since 1998. 

Burdett’s progression into fine woodworking wasn’t a eureka moment or a leap of faith; it was a natural path. A lifelong fascination with lumber, dedication to detail, and genuine curiosity have driven his woodworking skills across a blurry borderline of craftsmanship into artistry.

The flowing and unpredictable beauty of the grain that runs through hardwoods is what inspires much of Burdett’s work. Each tree has a unique pattern that reveals all of the possible paths he can take to a finished piece.

Sycamore sits high on his list of most interesting woods. After that are walnut, mesquite, pecan, red and white oaks, and cherry. He has over a dozen types of trees represented in his collection of usable lumber, but you’re not going to find pine among them.

“If I lived in a pine forest, I wouldn’t have a sawmill, because that’s not interesting,” Burdett joked. “I’m into interesting wood.”

Years of woodworking have taught him the virtues of the right materials. Pine might be good for framing houses, but it’s got a boring grain and is plain white all the way through. Southern mesquite is better for tables than northern mesquite, which will crack as it dries. 

These lessons are important to learn because it can take years to turn a tree into a table. The process of properly drying wood until it’s ready to work can take as long as earning a bachelor’s degree.

“You’ve got to be thinking down the road,” Burdett said.

An assortment of functional creations from woodworker Dan Burdett, who has been building homes in Marble Falls for decades. Pizza cutters, wine stoppers, pie servers, and even duck calls are among his handcrafted wares. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Making a table from scratch goes something like this. Find a sturdy hardwood, cut it down, and let it dry in your yard for six months to a year, depending on its size. Mill it into boards 2-4 inches thick and store them laying flat and exposed to full air circulation in a cool, dry place. Leave them there for one year for every inch of thickness. 

Once the clock has ticked down on wood prep, the table making can begin.

“We’ve made our mistakes along the way,” Burdett said. “We’ve put wood together too fast, and, you know, it’ll try to walk away. It really does warp out of its mind if you don’t dry it enough.”

A kiln can speed up the process, but even better is the huge collection of seasoned hardwoods he has in storage that are slowly creeping closer to their prime.

Once the wood is ready, it doesn’t just take a lot of time to turn timber into tables, it takes tools. 

“I started like everybody else, with a portable Craftsman table saw, and just kinda kept getting bigger ones,” Burdett said.

From that table saw and a lot of elbow grease, he has graduated to an arsenal of equipment, machinery, and vehicles to facilitate the work. His 11,000-square-foot workshop, on the verge of becoming a full-on factory, sits on the very spot he shot his first deer when he was 7 years old. Massive routers, 800-pound anvils, an army of lathes, and dozens of saws round out his woodworking armory. 

The largest sawmill made by TimberKing, America’s oldest manufacturer of one-man sawmills, sits just a stone’s throw from the workshop. Custom-made trailers and unnamable jigs and rigs cover the property. It is a craftsman’s paradise.

The massive dining room tables and hefty mantles he creates are showstopping, but his smaller pieces are just as impressive. His pocket knives are too small and intricate for major machine work and require 25 hours to complete. He experiments with epoxies and turns everyday items like ice cream scoops, pizza cutters, and wine stoppers into art. 

Burdett’s house is filled with handmade furniture and evidence of a deep connection with his raw materials. He pointed out a small gray spot on his dining room table, the remains of a bullet revealed after hours of sanding. He left it there, a reminder of the walnut tree that came all the way from Searcy, Arkansas, to grace his home.

“Building is a great career, but on its own, it doesn’t give me the artistic license to create something,” Burdett said. “When you go from a standing tree in a field to a final product like a table, that’s just really cool.”