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Thread: Correct birch bark for fire starter?

  1. #31
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    Probably european immigrants, they often settled in big groups in whole districts.
    Must have been common knowledge all across into Siberia.
    Does not seem to have come across Beringia with the First Nations.
    So I'll guess fire starter but not sap & syrup. I've had birch wine. Serious skull cramps.

    The bark, ripped into very thin strips, is superior fire starter, even when wet.
    I'd wait and try for the much thicker and waxy true mature bark.
    Spend some time separating the layers. Tedious to say the least. Doesn't matter how you store it.
    The sweet sap makes the wood rot very quickly in the forest but absolutely nobody eats the bark.
    We can find "tubes" of bark with the wood gone = fire starter.

  2. #32

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    I also have not had much luck lighting birch bark from a ferro rod. Once it is going mind it is a great fire lighter. I used to get mine to light by covering it in thistle down. Had a lovely big jar of it, went back to get some more the next year and the whole area had been cleared. Now use a bit of jute string to catch the spark and get the bark started.

  3. #33
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    I used a wooden mallet to separate the bark, carry it in a resealable and air tight plastic container.
    It was a 'second option' to if I could not collect the very thin, flaky birch bark, like if in rain.

    Birch wood burns well even if harvested from a living tree. Fantastic when dry.

    Tree sap syrup: I believe it was the First Nations that did concentrate the Maple syrup, correct?

    But now we are off on a tangent again...... We are expert, us on the other side of the Atlantic!

  4. #34
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    If I'm really careful on a log, I can make shallow knife cuts to get the birch bark peeling in useful thin layers.
    Doesn't matter what I do, I can't see spark-lighting as any thing convenient.

    Google "Birch Bark Biting" as an art form. That's a better use by far. But oh boy, is it expensive!

    For the entire eastern 1/2 of North America, it is fair to call the First Nations peoples as the "birch-building" culture.
    Maple sap has a higher sugar content, recognized since the species was named Acer saccharum.

  5. #35
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    Interesting art form!
    Can never be practiced in UK.
    NHS dentistry not good enough!

  6. #36
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    Not with the UK Silver Birch, that's for certain. The needed bark quality is rare, even in Canada.
    One Prince George BC native artist, Angelique Leclerque, travels more than a thousand miles east for birch bark.
    The finished sheets are not much thicker than your average sheet of paper.
    I've got a Dragonfly and a Butterfly of hers.

  7. #37
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    I've never got UK silver birch to catch a spark, however fine I've shaved it, even if it's bone dry. It's been okay as the secondary once something else caught. Next time I'll have a go at literally grinding it into dust as per advice further up the thread.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamPan View Post
    I've never got UK silver birch to catch a spark, however fine I've shaved it, even if it's bone dry. It's been okay as the secondary once something else caught. Next time I'll have a go at literally grinding it into dust as per advice further up the thread.

    Can I ask what you are using o make the sparks? Ferro rod or traditional flint and steel?

  9. #39
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    I must be a dab hand with my ferro rod then, silver birch bark is all I need to start a fire! Infact, as a little personal challenge, I now refuse to take a lighter with me, and all I have incase of an emergency situation is some stormproof matches. I do sometimes make some Fatwood curls and mix them in with the bark in my tinderbox for during the winter, but they tend to kick in once the bark catches a spark, and help generate a nice hot flame to build upon, when twigs and small branches can be damp.

    I still insist that Silver Birch Bark, whether taken from a living tree or dead branch, is the perfect tinder. There's a big Silver Birch in Stanley Park in Blackpool, which is where most of mine comes from, it is covered in the little wispy bits of the very outer layers of the bark, all they need is rubbing between palms, and I'm good to go.

    I also remove some birch bark from kiln dried birch logs we buy for the firepit in the garden and save that for 'Long Fires', the bark on those is about 5mm thick, I have no ideas where they come from, but it must be bladdy cold!

    Edit to add; I did find that practice does indeed make perfect with the ferro rod, I struggled for a while when I first used it. Not producing sparks, but being accurate with where I place them.
    Last edited by juliojordio1983; 15-07-2017 at 11:54.

  10. #40
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    Thank you I thought I was the only one who managed it. Those tiny wee fine wispy bits of bark, made up into a nest do take a spark from a ferro rod.
    The sheets of almost crisp and shiny stuff the OP showed though; those are more difficult. Well, I find them more difficult. I usually crumple some up and then use more as a wrap around to blow to flame.

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  11. #41
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    I use the larger thicker pieces as a base, which I sit the thinner ripped up nest onto, and strike into that. Once alight, its nice and easy to lift the whole thing up and place it into the wood you've got prepped and ready to light. I find this easier than trying to lean into the wood I've prepped and arranged (usually an upside down fire) and trying to strike there. I find it much easier to be accurate with where I shower the sparks this way, as I can sit down and place it between my feet.

    Hugh; Its only really worth attempting to scrape the bark if you have a nice thick piece of bark. I imagine it would be very difficult to scrape a pile of dust from the bark you pictured.

  12. #42

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    In the Ardennes most birchbark is quite hard and needs processing as follows:


    In Sweden I just scraped with my hand over a paper birch and had a big handful in no time, the bark in the video was not processed in any way:


    I used to fail when my fire steel-technique wasn't on point, note how the blade in both video's stays in the same place, helps a lot in aiming the sparks.

    Love how birchbark reacts when lit
    Last edited by Ruud; 15-07-2017 at 15:15.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stew View Post
    Can I ask what you are using o make the sparks? Ferro rod or traditional flint and steel?
    Ferro rod.
    I always need some fluff to get it started.

    I've tried a few times with the finest shavings of silverbirch bark I can make, and the amount of sparks I've made was probably enough to weld with.
    Actually I did get sparks to take on the thinnest edge of silverbirch wood (not bark) shavings a couple of times, but there still wasn't enough light substance to keep it rolling without fluff.
    I've tried it with slightly damp off a fallen log and dried bark at home for a week.

    Next time I'm out I'll take some photos of the type I've tried so all you who can light from it can see if it's what you're using.

  14. #44
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    This thread really clearly shows that 'birch bark' is not just all one quality, one size, one type.
    So far we have the stuff the OP showed, the thin crispy shiny sheets, there's the thicker stuff that cracks as the tree ages and the fine white curly wisps that go with it, there's the even almost leathery inner bark of the North Americas and there's the oil ? terpenes? rich stuff of Scandinavia too. There are the bark tubes of our woodlands where the inner timber has rotted out of the fallen tree (and there is useable bark from that at times..) and there are trees here that grow in colder places where the bark is excellent for leather like spacers on knife and axe handles. Then there are the 'ornamental bark' type birches which regularly shed, like Chinese albosinensis ones. The dwarf ones of the windswept isles and the stunted ones that are trying to take over the moors and bogs (they just pull straight out, and one ends up piled high with them like a mobile haystack ploutering through the bog clearing them out)
    And, that's all before we start on the fungi…from piptoporus betulina to fomes fomentaria and the classic chagga
    Tar, pitch, and oil too.

    Useful trees even if they are damned weeds Sorry, "pioneer species".
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  15. #45
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    There are approx 2 dozen distinctly different species of Betula native to Canada.
    Several species are certainly multipurpose. To the point of making a cup from a quickly folded piece.
    Ch 13 in Wildwood Wisdom (Ellsworth Jaeger) is simply titled 'Barkcraft.'

    Suberin is the most common component of the waxes which give mature birch bark its pliable, leathery texture.
    It's a polyaromatic with hundreds of carbon atoms. A very short oil would sweat in hot weather, of course they don't.

    I think that the primary fire value is to be able to get a fire going in wet weather.
    Soak some for 6 weeks. Shake it off and put a match to it.
    The better option here for tinder are the little dead conifer twigs right near the main tree trunk.

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamPan View Post
    Ferro rod.
    I always need some fluff to get it started.

    I've tried a few times with the finest shavings of silverbirch bark I can make, and the amount of sparks I've made was probably enough to weld with.
    Actually I did get sparks to take on the thinnest edge of silverbirch wood (not bark) shavings a couple of times, but there still wasn't enough light substance to keep it rolling without fluff.
    I've tried it with slightly damp off a fallen log and dried bark at home for a week.

    Next time I'm out I'll take some photos of the type I've tried so all you who can light from it can see if it's what you're using.
    Ok.

    Well not to show off but I've just walked out to the garage, grabbed a piece of birch bark that was there and filmed this. That was the first try, no editing or hiding failed attempts. I know the flame didn't stay long after but I had only made a few curls for the principal of it.



    Is that how you're trying to do it as well?

  17. #47
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    Neatly done

    M
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  18. #48
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    Thanks. A shredding technique that I would have never, ever have thought of.

  19. #49
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    Nicely done.

    I've only chopped everything up finely as opposed to scraping it which didn't occur to me, which I'll try next time I'm in the forest. I'll then report back with results.

  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamPan View Post
    Nicely done.

    I've only chopped everything up finely as opposed to scraping it which didn't occur to me, which I'll try next time I'm in the forest. I'll then report back with results.
    aaah, cool. That makes sense then. Scrape it into thin curls - cutting isn't making it fine enough. The bark is made up of many many thin layers. Almost like tissue. You need to separate those layers.

  21. #51
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    Good vid. Those very thin flakes, those are the ones you pick. No need then for any scraping.

  22. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janne View Post
    Good vid. Those very thin flakes, those are the ones you pick. No need then for any scraping.
    Agreed Janne. God job there though Stew

  23. #53
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    I can't make a ferrod fire without birchbark. An easy habit to learn in sweden...
    I try to avoid silver birch, or as it's called here, warty birch. The warts kind of get in the way but it also messes up the struckture of the bark so it's hard to peel in layers with a knife as shown in previous video. It turns more in to dust.
    Betula pubecens is the best (common name glas birch, because it's essential to the pub, haha.) It has much better layers. When i take bark i only take the pieces that is allready falling off a mature white tree, or something simular from a dead tree. The stuff that easily peels in to layers.
    I don't take from living trees, mostly beacause it leaves scars and encurage people that don't know how to bark a birch taking to much.
    Just peeling of the outer layers of a living tree is fine, even if you peel all the way around( birchbark fibers goes horosontial unlike many other trees). If you go all the way in to the cadium area/slippery inside were the growth of the tree ocurs you must leave at least 30% of the circumference. That leaves enough to keep it healty. If you go all the way around it will die a slow death.
    Side note: choping of the bark from a living birch tree vertically was the common way to make tool handels in scandinavia. The overgrown bark and tree fibers is much stronger then normal. And if you make the cut in the same shape as tool handle you want, say, a s-shaped axe handel, you only need to wait 15 years and presto!
    Instant axe handle.
    Sorry for bad english

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    Last edited by Kotteman; 16-07-2017 at 09:36.

  24. #54
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    Going back to the first post and tree.
    By the look of the leaves I find it to be something else then silverbirch. They have such a sharp point.


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  25. #55
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    What are the 'warts' on your silver birches ? ours are smooth until they get to a good age and then the bark crack/splits vertically to create fissures.

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  26. #56
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    Have you tried igniting it with a lighter to see how easily it burns?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotteman View Post
    Going back to the first post and tree.
    By the look of the leaves I find it to be something else then silverbirch. They have such a sharp point.
    As it's an ornamental tree it may well be red birch but I too have my doubts it's actually a birch species at all due to the difficulties of it catching light.

  27. #57
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    Glas Björk (Sv) = Downy Birch (Eng) = Betula Pubescens (Lat)
    Silver Björk (Sv) = Silver Birch or Warty Birch (Eng) = Betula Pendula (Lat)

    When it has a lot of warts on the bark you can suspect is a Masur tree. Or am I wrong, Kotteman?


    Surely you can harvest the thin fluffy bark from both?
    Last edited by Janne; 16-07-2017 at 12:15.

  28. #58
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    Yes you can have the thin fluffy bark from both, but it's harder from silver/warty birch. When they have the proper girth with proper white bark full of oil the first 1.5 -2. m is full of the black dots or as it's in many cases in southern sweden, they have a thick crust bark.
    When it's only black dots smaller pieces can be taken. Wich is probaly why i prefer downy birch. It's easy to stack up a big supply.

    The warts refered to in the name is the ones on young branches and stem, wich later develops in to the black dots.
    As you say, the amount of black dots can indicate if it's masur, but its hard to say without cutting down the tree.




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  29. #59
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    Well done!

  30. #60

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    If you are using a ferro rod you can get away with most types of wood as a starter and not just burch bark. Although it does catch a spark its not always the easiest to ignite and you tend to need a reasonable amount of it. The easiest way to use a ferro rod is if you find dead standing branches or small trees that are not in full contact with the ground and have the bark intact. Cut it to length about 30cm. If its thick quarter it and then make a feather stick. If its thin say less than about an inch diameter then dont bother quartering it just start making a feather stick and go all the way down to the heartwood to make sure you get the good dry stuff. If you are not sure how dry it is there, dry your lips on your shirt and then press the wood against then you will feel if its cold or damp. When feather sticking ride the corners with the knife to.get nice easy curls and try to make it as fine as possible. Place ferro rod inside the curls slightly side on to them. The hard Swedish light my fire style rods are better for this method, if you take the striker place it about 1cm from the tip place your left thumb on the metal part of scraper and push into the scraper and rod and with your right hand twist the scraper to flick the sparks from the bottom into the curls. Keep doing this a few times and it should go. It may take a wee bit of practice but I have been doing it this way for years and its my primary way of starting fires even in the bothies. This doesn't work with soft fire steels tho they need to be pulled the length like.normal and I dont find they work as well.

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