Friday, November 6, 2009

Birchbark Trail Kettle Making Demonstration

Remember the birch log this little gnome liked to climb?

I was amazed to see that while the wood was very soft and rotten, the birchbark was not the least bit decayed. That explains why the American Indians used birchbark to make containers and canoes. Birchbark is not only resistant to decay, but it is waterproof. I peeled some of the bark off the rotten log and brought it home. Do not peel bark off a living tree; the tree will die.

I soaked the bark for a while to make it more pliable. But even after soaking, this old birchbark was brittle.


I trimmed a good piece of bark with scissors.


I scored the bark with a nut pick, using a straight edge.


Then I folded all the score marks, pulling the corners out.


I poked holes in the corners with a pin.


I stuck a bit of toothpick into the holes to hold the container together. This doesn't look very neat for a container of this scale, but American Indians held their birchbark containers together using either a splinter of wood or sewing. A large container made like this could be constructed by a hunter in a few minutes, and used to cook soup, as long as the flames of the fire didn't flicker above the level of the soup. My container has a tiny knot hole in it, so it leaks!


I learned how to make a birchbark trail kettle from C. Keith Wilbur, M.D.'s book Indian Handcrafts.

If you would like to learn how to make a model of a birch bark container that you can use to hold liquids, scroll down to the next posting.

15 comments:

Appleshoe said...

These is so lovely. I will be making some for our nature table. Thank you for posting this.

Hip Mountain Mama said...

Fabulous! I am amazed with all your amazing creations!!

Earth Mama said...

My husband was recently teaching a group of young people at our homeschooling resource center about Native American culture. They did storytelling, harvested and processed acorns to make acorn griddle cakes, and played some native american games. This is a great activity!

farmama said...

Beth you are amazing! You are so creative! I was reading in my natural dye book tonight and discovered that birch bark makes a really pretty pink dye and you don't have to use a mordant to get the color to set.
I will show my boys this post in the morning.....they always love visiting here!
love, sara

Ravenhill said...

Wonderful idea!! Thank you so much for sharing and for explaining how to do it so well. I will have to show this post to my son. We are in the midst of reading a great adventure book where a young boy runs away to live in the mountains for many months surviving on what he finds there so this project is so fitting with it.
~Emily xox

Earth Mama said...

I love this! Thank you for sharing!

5orangepotatoes said...

Wonderful and so beautiful! If I find some birch bark on the ground, I'll try one of these for sure.

lisa

suzanne said...

Hello Beth

I have been lost in knitting lately and promised myself a morning of blog reading. I have missed popping by but I am sure you know that this time of year can be quite busy for us crafters. Beth you astound me with your constant ideas of making things. I think I need to send my dear boy over to your house for a day fun...

I hope you are well Beth and that you are getting the Christmas orders flowing in..

Happy weekend to you Beth

Warm regards
Suzanne

Linda said...

Such a lovely post Beth, my son would love this, you are very creative :)

Happy weekend :)

Warmly

Linda

sarah in the woods said...

So wonderful. And I love the gnome hat!

Grace said...

How fun. This would be so cool to do.

onegoldensun said...

Excellent! I would love to try this. Many thanks, I love your tutorials!

Angela said...

I found your post from The Magic Onions' Friday Nature Table. What a great project! I have no idea where any birch trees are near us, but if I find any, I would love to try out this project.

Oh, and your little one's mushroom gnome cap is ADORABLE - did you make it?

gardenmama said...

Beautiful! We collect birch bark on fallen trees throughout the summer and use it as our paper source for starting our wood stove during the winter. I love the ideas that you share Beth, there is so much beauty in this process!

Tammie Lee said...

this is wonderful to see. I just bought a cord of birch for winter. I have been looking at the bark you are planting idea in me. i feel sad for the loose bits I have already burned.