barking possibilities

At this time of year, when everything warms up, new growth is springing up everywhere and the sap is in full flow it is easy to peel bark from many trees. Bark has been used for thousands of years as a useful source of shelter (bark sheets or shingles), containers or carriers (for water or food) or to make cordage to lash, join or stitch things. On a grand scale you could even make a canoe out of it.

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In this country several species of tree bark has been frequently used – birch, willow, cherry, linden (lime) are all on this list. Their bark can be thick and supple when green. It dries rock hard.

Today I popped out the back and wandered through the bluebell infused woods and happened across a recently fallen young willow tree. Fallen trees are good because stripping bark because it damages and can even kill the tree (ever heard of ‘ring barking’?). If you only require a small piece of bark you can take a vertical section from the trunk or use a good section of side branch. But remember this is damaging so please have a conscience.

Here is a quick step-by-step as I cut edges to the bark, loosened it (this can be done by gently tapping the bark with another piece of wood) and then getting a wedged piece of wood and/or your hands under the bark to ease it off. It should come away in one strip.

The last couple of pictures show that I have lashed it to something cylinderical (it could even be placed back on the trunk/limb you took it from. This helps the long edges from curling as it dries. Another good tip is to cut, trim, chamfer, punch holes or use it when green or semi-green as it is softer, more flexible and easier to work. Often taken the very outer layer of the bark off (by scraping) can help the hole piece be less brittle when it dries.

A word of caution too. Under the bark maybe very sharp little growths – as you will see from the pictures below – they can cut fingers if you go at it too quickly!

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Careful of those sharp bits under the bark! See below.

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ouch! sharp bits….

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If you are interested in some of the things you can make from bark then take a look at these posts:

Making a bark container

Bark cordage

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