Bark stripping tool

With the bushcraft show looming in the next few months the Woodland Ways team are upping the collective effort to harvest process and use a range of woodland barks to turn them into a variety of crafts and useful items for our display.

Learning to first recognise and then harvest each of the many types of bark is an exciting process and demands that you learn when, where and how to collect these various materials each with very unique properties. The taking of bark will of course kill the tree you remove it from so an awareness of sustainable harvesting is crucial if you want to secure resources over future years.

One of the barks we rely heavily on for many of our bushcraft needs throughout the season at Woodland Ways is Lime (Tilia species). And for the next month or so we will be carefully selecting and removing young straight poles of Lime both for its bark and also its wood to process into fire boards.

lime photo

Mature Lime tree just coming into leaf.

Whether you are removing bark for crafting woven containers (Danny recently ran a membership weekend doing just this where participants got to grips with crafting a bark knife sheath) or for processing into cordage you will find it greatly helpful if you can remove it in even strips.

This is not only true of Lime bark but also Willow, Western Red Cedar, Sweet Chestnut and Elm. If you have taken down a reasonably straight branch-free pole it is possible to simply score with your knife even width strips the entire length of the pole cutting through to the wood beneath. These bark strips will (if processed in spring to early summer) simply peel away from the log and can be coiled and dried, stored long term until they are needed.

Other crafts may dictate that you remove the bark in one complete wide sheet without scoring through to the sap wood beneath. A good example here is Elm bark which if removed in many strips leaving scores on the sap wood could potentially ruin some very nice bow staves waiting beneath!

elm bark

Elm bark removed in one sheet for quiver making and also to protect bow staves beneath.

Recently by processing LOTS of lime bark I came up with a small very easy to make tool that will ensure perfectly even width strips when removing bark from small diameter logs. These strips are particularly well suited to weaving as they’re completely uniform. In effect it is based on a woodworking scribe tool, which is used to mark lines on wood parallel to the edge.


bark stripper

Simple but effective gauge for keeping bark strips uniform width.

Very simply as can be seen in the photo a small length of branch is cut half away down roughly half its length to form a small platform when viewed side on. Through the thin section of the branch a screw or nail is driven to act as a cutting edge on the bark.
In use it is first necessary to remove an initial strip of bark before using this bark stripper. Place the still round portion of the tool against the now visible sap wood and butt the platform right up against the edge of the bark which will be raised up compared to the sap wood. By careful adjustment of the screw/ nail you can then move the tool up and down the entire edge of the piece of bark you are working and the screw tip will score a line into the next piece of bark to be removed.

This may sound complex but believe me it could not be simpler! The following diagram should clarify the process.


strip cutter re sized

Diagram showing detail of strip cutter.

Depending on how many repeated scorings you do you can either just mark where you wish to cut into the bark strip for removal with another cutting tool or keep going until the screw tip itself cuts through to the sap wood. The screw as used in this example clogged with little bits of bark and occasionally needed clearing to carry on cutting effectively.

Personally I tend to remove strips about an inch wide for both cordage production and bark weaving projects and so the tool seen here measures around an inch from platform to screw tip. You could of course make these distances whatever you need to achieve wider or narrower strips. The next challenge is creating a primitive version with either a flint or bone cutting tip!

I hope this is useful to anyone who enjoys playing with bark and do share your experiences good or bad with trying this out, we would love to hear from you on our Facebook group.

Adam Logan.

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