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Making a Birch Bark Container
A simple but practical design

It is preferable to use bark stripped from fresh logs for these kinds of crafts; the bark is much more durable and flexible. I personally harvest my bark in the summer months from naturally fallen trees or timber left by forestry operations. You may need to inspect several logs before finding suitable bark as the quality does vary. Many trees produce bark that is just too thin. The bark I am using in this article is about 1mm thick; which is good enough.

Just out of interest, it is a myth that stripping the outer bark from a living Birch tree will kill it. As long as the inner bark is not damaged the tree will continue to live. The Birch will actually re-grow its outer bark over the course of a few years. Although stripping bark in this way is possible and commonly practiced in more Northern countries; it would most certainly be viewed as vandalism here in the UK.


Cut a long strip of bark ensuring the width is even along the length. Have it long enough so that when rolled up it will be double thickness. This will give extra strength to your container and the bark will also be less likely to split when sewing the container together.
Remove any loose material from the outside of the bark. Pulling your thumb across the surface usually flakes off loose material neatly.


Roll the bark up. I have chosen to have the outside of the bark on the inside of the container. You can see that I have rolled it up far enough to have the bark double thickness... Roll it tightly so there are no gaps between the two layers of bark.


Hold the bark firmly in place. Using an Awl (you could use a sharp nail) make a couple of holes either side of the seam at the top. You can then insert a couple of thin wooden pegs to hold the bark temporarily together. The pegs also help to keep the holes open.


Continue to make a series of holes down the front of the container.


If the top and bottom of the container are not level then you can trim them now.


Time to sew the container up...

I am using Lime bark fibres but you could use any type of thin cordage material; Spruce roots, Willow bark etc.

If the end of the binding material is pointed and not frayed then you may not need a needle to do all the stitching. This is often the case when using Spruce roots


Thread the binding material through the first two holes as shown...


Sew down the container. I used a cross stitch but it's up to you what stitching method you use... as long as it holds together tightly.

The holes that you made close up again quickly so you may need to re-open them with the Awl.


I use a home made sewing needle to sew the middle holes. If you are making a tall thin container it will be hard to stitch the middle holes. You could use a curved needle to reach down the container in that situation. Or it is possible to sew the whole container up loosely and then tighten it up from the bottom; just like loosely threading new shoe laces onto a shoe and then systematically pulling on the lace at different points to tighten it up from the bottom upwards, I have used this technique to stitch a tall thin bark arrow quiver.


End up with both ends on the inside and then tie it off.


  Cut two disks from seasoned wood. (If the wood is fresh then it will shrink)

I cut the wood slightly thicker for the piece that will become the lid.


Draw around the container onto the wood and carve them to size until they fit snugly. For the lid I taper the inner edge slightly for an easier fit.


Tap the base into place, it should be a tight fit so that it holds well.


Here is one way you can secure the base some more... Using the Awl make a few holes around the sides of the base.


tap thorns into the holes like nails; Hawthorns or Blackthorns are a good choice.


Trim thorns flush with surface.


Make a hole in the lid.


Make a small piece of cordage or cut a strip of leather for the pull loop.


Push the cordage through the hole and insert a small wooden peg.


Bang the peg in so that it permanently secures the cordage in place. (Be careful not to hammer the peg so much that it splits the wood.)


Trim it off flush.

Another way to secure the loop could be to tie the cord into a knot underneath and on top.


The assembled pots...