First steps in Birchbark

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John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
21,745
1,200
62
Pembrokeshire
Well - it ain't no canoe!
Having been given some nice Finnish birchbark by Redkite (thanks Stewart!) I started playing....
My first Birchbark basket.
It ain't as easy as it looks - what with splitting out and cracking of the bark - but despite some issues I got a reasonably functional item out of my first try - 6.5" x 5" birchbark and natural cordage
PA180001.JPG PA180005.JPG
I plan some more trys tomorrow, building on my experience! :)
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,284
1,383
McBride, BC
That finished up very well. What's the source of the cordage fiber?
I can imagine dozens of such baskets for winter storage of foraged materials.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
387
202
Ceredigion
Well - it ain't no canoe!
Having been given some nice Finnish birchbark by Redkite (thanks Stewart!) I started playing....
My first Birchbark basket.
It ain't as easy as it looks - what with splitting out and cracking of the bark - but despite some issues I got a reasonably functional item out of my first try - 6.5" x 5" birchbark and natural cordage
View attachment 55713 View attachment 55714
I plan some more trys tomorrow, building on my experience! :)
Nice looking!
Normally you soak the birch bark to make it more pliable (it will still have a tendency to split) and you thin it out a bit by removing the outermost layers. That way you don't get all the dry white fluff.
 
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John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
21,745
1,200
62
Pembrokeshire
Well - I have had another play....
I still had a few issues with splits happening but - and I am not knocking the gift or making excuses - as the bark is far from fresh, has multiple woodworm holes and lots of lenicles and pre existing splits - I do not think the results are too bad.
I tried out the soaking trick - it made the bark curl an awful lot - and I found that premarking the folds and aplying dry heat worked best for me.
The cordage on the two new baskets is Lime bast - freshly prepared from bast that I had in hand - and splits were repaired/controlled with pine resin, beeswax and charcoal glue that I had in stock.
PA190001.JPG PA190002.JPG PA190003.JPG
I have waxed the baskets with a home made beeswax/teak oil polish to bring up the colour.
I still have some bark left but as I am happy enough with the baskets I will try something else (pot? knife sheath?) when I get some more playtime :)
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,284
1,383
McBride, BC
This is honest paleo at its best. Economical cord stitching, too.
I can imagine them heaping full of foraged foodstuffs.

I know you work with birch bark that is far more difficult than what we have here =
Betula papyrifera which dominates north eastern north america.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
387
202
Ceredigion
Well - I have had another play....
I still had a few issues with splits happening but - and I am not knocking the gift or making excuses - as the bark is far from fresh, has multiple woodworm holes and lots of lenicles and pre existing splits - I do not think the results are too bad.
I tried out the soaking trick - it made the bark curl an awful lot - and I found that premarking the folds and aplying dry heat worked best for me.
The cordage on the two new baskets is Lime bast - freshly prepared from bast that I had in hand - and splits were repaired/controlled with pine resin, beeswax and charcoal glue that I had in stock.
View attachment 55716 View attachment 55717 View attachment 55718
I have waxed the baskets with a home made beeswax/teak oil polish to bring up the colour.
I still have some bark left but as I am happy enough with the baskets I will try something else (pot? knife sheath?) when I get some more playtime :)
Weaving is great for using up long and narrow offcuts. Adjust the size to what you have available.

You could also try making a small wrap around box. Gluing a few pieces together and shaping into an oval tube, with bevelled discs of wood for lid and base. The birch bark is closed with one/several arrowhead tabs into slits, if that makes sense.
I've only done one small snuffbox in the wrap technique, so don't remember in very well. Also being 11 at the time, it was quite some time ago! (Obviously I didn't use it for snuff...)
 
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John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
21,745
1,200
62
Pembrokeshire
A woven sheath is an idea I will look at - as is a folded and sewn pot ... then I will see what I have left in the way of bark.
I am fully committed to work and chores for the next couple of weeks (and the weekend will be spent camping) so no playtime for a while!
 

CLEM

Native
Jul 10, 2004
1,944
68
50
Stourbridge
Well - it ain't no canoe!
Having been given some nice Finnish birchbark by Redkite (thanks Stewart!) I started playing....
My first Birchbark basket.
It ain't as easy as it looks - what with splitting out and cracking of the bark - but despite some issues I got a reasonably functional item out of my first try - 6.5" x 5" birchbark and natural cordage
View attachment 55713 View attachment 55714
I plan some more trys tomorrow, building on my experience! :)
Well played Mr Fenna, very nice indeed mate