Thursday, 13 August 2015

Willow bark cordage

Arguably nettle cordage is the quickest and easiest natural cordage to produce in the wild (as far as I know) with the bark cordage needing some lengthy and varied preparations. I've made Lime bast cordage before and indeed have a large plastic box full of it slowly turning the water stagnant.

I knew the rudimentary process but decided to refer to this tutorial on Jons' bushcraft website to fill in the little groups and do a comparison at different stages.

The lengths I got weren't overly thick and had a few branches but were usable. As I was at home I decided to use a sharp Stanley knife blade to harvest it


I propped each length up on another length and proceded to make a firm score along it's length, whilst keeping myself out of it's way-Think twice, cut once. Some pieces peeled of in sizable pieces...


...But some I elected to take off in strips because I either had a bit of an issue starting it off, or there was a prominent branch in the way. 

I found the best way to navigate around were the branches had been was to cut  a small diamond shape around it. Interestingly the blade I used was 'stained' after doing the bark work.


A shallow score across the 'woody' part of the bark was used to start the process of separating it from the usable inner bark. Some bits didn't peel cleanly so I had to carefully shave the bits off to clean it up.

So in short time I had several naked lengths of wood and several good bark strips.

I had to process all the bark shortly before going on holiday so I weighed it down in a bucket of water to keep it from drying out, and I also stashed a couple of possible spoon blanks too. 

The peeled bark needs 'cooked' in an ash and water mixture and this is one specific bit that I used the Jon's bushcraft tutorial for as I wasn't sure and elected for 30 minutes, although there is a wide difference in timings out there. 

The resulting wet bark had darkened (as it should) but wasn't nearly as dark as that in the tutorial and dried to a lighter colour. It also curled up somewhat and needed moistening to make it pliant again.

When cut into strips it has a look of a piece of hot smoked meat about with a lighter insaide but again, this correlated with the tutorial.

And a quick play with it and it appears to be a useful and strong cordage and it's something that's been on the old outdoorsy bucket list for a while so I'm happy to tick it off. I prefer the feel of lime cordage if I'm honest but that does involve a rather smelly finish. As mentioned at the start I have some ready to process...Oh the joy!

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