making a bark container

 

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There are many ways to make bark containers. This is a cherry bark container and is fairly water-resistant due to the application of pitch-glue on the seams and a lid rimmed with a leather bung-strip.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

Cut your self a smooth, straight, unblemished bit of timber. If you can avoid knots and side shoots or branches then this would be preferred. Its circumference should be slightly larger than the container you plan to make – this is because the bark you take off will slightly overlap at the join so it loses a bit of its diameter.

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Slit the bark down its length. Cherry has a very thick inner bark and a thin outer bark.

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Strip the out bark off the inner bark. For this type of container this is cosmetically optional rather than, in woven containers, important because in that case it helps maintain a less brittle and more flexible bark for weaving.

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Sharpen and flatten into a chisel shape a small green stick to push under the bark to help remove it from the timber. This really helps get the bark off in one piece.

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Now the bark is now fully off the timber – and in one piece!

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Next take the timber and cut two ’rounds’ or slices. One is for the lid – which should be a little thicker than the one for the base. The reason for the lid being thicker is you carve a lip into it so its wedges into the top rim, whereas the base sits flush.

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Drill a hole in the lid with your knife from one side then the other.

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This can take a short thong of leather (tied in a knot at either end) as handle by passing it thourhg the hole you have made in the lid.

Now,  run your knife around the mid-point of rim of the lid and remove a layer of wood all the way round.

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Chamfer the edges. Leave to dry out. Leave the base to dry out aswell. Both will shrink a little.

Next, take the flat piece of removed bark and chamfer the edge which forms the main seam when you roll the bark back into its round shape. By skivving or chamfering the edge it helps it sit more flush as a seam and helps the base and the lid form a better seal.

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After this is done it is time to dry the bark. Choose a slightly smaller diameter branch  – possibly a section from the branch you have cut but further up where it is smaller –  and wrap the bark section around it. It should easily fit and slightly overlap.

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Because the bark will curl at its edges as it hardens and dries it is important to bind/lash the entire piece tight to the limb. You can do this by tightly wrapping some paracord or other string around the bark section multiple times before tying it off. Then leave for a few days in a dry place for it to season.

If you are stitching the piece together then making the holes in the overlapped piece of bark whilst green and soft is preferable. But in this case since I am using sap-pitch glue then there is no need.

Once dry, unbind the bark and it should naturally be rigid and overlap at the join.

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Then it is a simple case of making some pitch glue. For this one I use the resin from the cherry tree itself which was conveniently exuding from several places on the tree. Otherwise you could make some from pine resin. Instructions on how to do that are here.

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Its now a simple exercise to glue in the base and the main seam.

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After that you have a finished container!

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