Saturday, 26 May 2007

Aspen Bark Container Part 1

This type of container is to me the quickest way to make high quality containers there is. It has the limitation that it is to a great deal only usable in spring and summer. After the bark has been folded you have a ready made container. To make it more durable and useful however, it is an advantage to dry it before you do the final steps. Otherwise you will experience curling and shrinking of the bark, making the construction loose and without a great fit.

First choose a section of Aspen (or specie with bark of similar structure) which is fairly straight and knot free. Score around the tree in the top of the piece you want, and do the same in the bottom. Then score diagonal line connecting the other two. Make sure you score all the way into the wood. You will kill the tree anyway, so there is no reason to be careful.

I use my flat moose antler wedge to pry loose the bark.

Determine the middle of the sheet by using a folded line. I have no picture of the process, only the curled sheet.

Score a shape across the sheet, resembeling the cross-section of a convex lense. I did this on free hand this time, but to get a more regular and beautiful shape you could make a simple birch bark pattern.

Fold it over and pull it over a log stump, bind around and leave it to dry. This is to prevent it from curling inwards. Not very easily achieved primitively, so I am currently testing another method, which I have never seen demonstrated anywhere. If it works out well, it will be presented in a book.

Heat Treating Rocks

Norway is full of rocks, but very few of them have any particular value in knapping. Flint is only occationally found on the southern coast in small pebbles and rhylite in one location in the west. Quartzite is too hard, quartz breaks a little irregularly and lots of others are more or less useful.

I had heard that quartz responds to heat treating, so I decided to test high grade quartz, quartzite and something that resembles metabasalt. The flakes, no more than an inch thick, were buried a few centimetres below the surface. A small fire was made on top and maintained for between 1 and 2 hours.

I then brushed the coals aside and let the ground cool for a little while. My immediate reaction when digging up the flakes were that the pieces of quartz seemed more shiny and glossy. There was no visible difference on the quartzite and metabasalt.

When testing the pieces I found that the quartz knapped much easier. The flakes travelled easier and didn't step in the regular fashion. It also felt sharper. On the quartzite, which supposedly doesn't respond to heat treating I found a small positive change, although it may be just my bias. The metabasalt just became more brittle and crumbled under any flaking.

I didn't expect any change during such a short time of exposure to such relatively small temperatures. As the results were quite pleasing, I'm not sure much more would be recommended with the quartz, since it may become too brittle, but it may be worth experimenting with higher temperatures and/or longer time in the ground with quartzite.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Beaver Tooth Bracelet

I've made a bracelet for my oldest daughter, Alva. She doesn't want to wear bracelets yet, so I'm thinking of making a longer string and turning it into a necklace instead. It is made from broken beaver teeth and willow bark.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Sewn Birch Bark Box

Birch bark is extremely versatile and resilient. Consequently it can be used for making a lot of different things. You need bark of a certain quality to make this type of box.

Take a long piece of bark and roll it up double. Sew it up with some type of cordage. For such high strain, static applications, split spruce root is ideal.

I had limited amounts of spruce root available this time, so for the rest I used strips of willow bark. The bottom of the box and the top of the lid is doubled with bark in two different directions for added strenght. Stitching across the grain is always important to do when using birch bark. Otherwise the bark will most likely split.

That's the basics of it all, an excellent box for storing all sorts of small items. There are many tips and tricks regarding fitting and similar that doesn't fit in here. A more in depth tutorial will be in the upcoming book(s).

Sunday, 6 May 2007


I have a ton of projects going on now. Among them a fish trap, which will hopefully be finished by the end of this week. But I'm also working on a construction site these days. There is some slack during the day, while waiting for supplies and stuff. That is an excellent opportunity to knap a little. The two to the left have been made at work last week. The two right ones are made from some kind of English flint. The left one from Knife River flint, most graciously given me by Eskimoboy on paleoplanet.