View Full Version : Stuck with Birch Bark
I have a birch branch, but being a newcomer to the whole [interesting] subject of bushcraft, Im unsure how to proceed. The branch is about two feet in length and three fingers thick with a crook in the middle, idealy suited for carving a spoon. I would like to produce a matchbox initially from the bark, before I start carving the spoon, however the bark [brown from a mature silver birch] shows no stages of decomposure and is very secure around the bark. How do I seperate the bark from the wood? Do I just cut into the wood, then very carefully carve the wood from the bark or is there another [easier] method?
Ive read that the wood from this tree normally decomposes faster than the bark, which is obviously very hardy.
This, by the way is an excellent site. [as is the one I fund it through, Britishblades.com]
P.S. [The branch had been twisted and pulled off, Im aware of the conservationist issue involved]
Whnerver i have had to take the bark off i usually first take all the (don't know the proper term) side shoots and the slit the bark from top to bottom and then carefully peel the off, if the bark is not to dry you can sometimes just lift the wood while holding onto the bark and it will detach relatively easily.
On living trees the bark was harvested by cutting a sheet on the tree and then batoning to seperate the fibers before removal. Your branch may have dried out making this difficult.
It sound like you have got your hands full there! Bark is best removed from the spring to the end of the summer as this is the time that the sap is rising and it forms a microscopic layer between the bark and the vessels of the tree. You can think of bark at that time of year as 'floating' between the two.
When the sap starts to drop within in tree ( from late summer, through to the time the leaves actually full off) this microscopic layer basically dries out which in due course allows the bark to shrink tightly onto the tree, hence the nightmare in trying to remove it. This is also the same effect a fallen branch or log has as it is also drying out.
You could try soaking your piece of wood in a bucket or stream as this will rehydrate the log and will make peeling easier!
You are right in thinking that Birch rots quickly, this is due to Birch having a very high moisture content and it isn't one of our hardest hardwoods. The way to get around this ( and this methodis used extensively in our woodland crafts) is to remove a strip of bark the whole lenght of the tree when its felled as this allows the moisture to escape, this is known as blazing.
Remember bark is water proof.