Some birch bark crafts

During one of our trips to my wife’s grandparents’ house, I snapped a few pics of some great birch bark crafts made by my wife’s grandfather. He is in his 70’s now, and I’m sure that when he was a boy, making crafts like these was a common way to get things you wanted. By the way, this is just a very small sampling of what can be done with this fantastic natural material. It was also often used to make boxes, containers, baskets and much more.

The best time to harvest birch bark is in the spring when the sap is flowing. It comes off easiest then. For my first project (the matchcase below), I felled a small birch that I used for projects, firewood, a felling and limbing demo etc. Some say you can remove bark from living trees and the tree will still be OK, and others say this is a big no-no.

Here are some pics of me harvesting the birch bark last spring. I tried to cut through the outer bark, but not the inner bark, and then carefully pry up the outer bark with my knife. It came off pretty easily.

6

Supposedly, birch sap starts flowing when the first mosquitoes appear, and this also seems to be the best time to harvest the bark.

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13 comments on “Some birch bark crafts

  1. Ron says:

    That’s something I will try coming spring myself. The harvesting, that is!
    I came across a couple of great pieces of craftsmenship made from birchbark, like fishingbaskets, containers, baskets and above all the gift I got fro my M.I.L; the coffee and sugarcontainer with huntingscene depicted on it.
    To me, things like these represent the essence of bushcraft to me.

    Make sure the man teaches you these skills befor he passes!
    Knowledge not shared/passed on, is lost!

    • bmatt says:

      I have to improve my Finnish language skills a bit, but I am very keen to learn what he has to teach even if my wife has to act as the interpreter. 😉

  2. That’s some fantastic work! They are all great, that hat is just incredible. Around here we’re finding the May/June time frame seems to be best for us for harvesting. Thanks for posting this, gave me some ideas for spring!

    • bmatt says:

      Yeah, when I saw that hat, I thought it was the coolest birch bark item I’d ever seen.

      Do you find that the bark comes off easily in early summer? I’ve only ever harvested in the spring.

      • I’ve not done much in the middle of summer, our ‘summer’ is late June through late August. Typically we still have frost till May 20ish, and have had frosts as early as August 25. Last time I harvest bark in any real quantity I did it in mid May and had quite a bit of success then with it peeling off in nice sheets.

        • bmatt says:

          Hehehe, I’ve come to consider “summer” to be anything above 60*F. 🙂 But seriously, our summers are pretty similar (mid-June to mid-August here), with nighttime temps sometimes dropping to 36/37*F in my experience. I’ll have to try harvesting bark every two weeks or so starting when the sap flows to determine when the best time to remove it is (well, here anyway).

  3. heikki says:

    does the man have finnish or scandinavian ancestry? those items resemble a lot of similar objects in this area.

  4. marcella perrano says:

    Can you tell me how he made the shoes? does he have a pattern that I can follow?
    His work is absolutely fab-u-las!
    thanks so much!

  5. Amy says:

    I’d like to learn how to make a birch bark cap like the photo! What are some good sources for learning birch bark crafts – videos or in person is best for me as I am a visual learner and also have to be doing it to learn it! Thanks-
    Amy in OR

    • Hi Amy. Sorry for my late reply! I’m not sure of anything specific, but I’d just search on both Google and YouTube for sources on how to make birch bark crafts. I’m still a rank amateur and haven’t done much at all myself, otherwise I’d show it here! 😉

      Thanks for the comments!

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