Sunday, 14 September 2014

Bark Sheaths

Most of my carving tools are kept in a roll, but I like to give them a sheath in order to protect the blade better and prevent them from cutting through the canvas roll. The sheaths are all made from birch bark. It is a technique I first learned from Del Stubb's website Pinewood Forge. The next time I saw this kind of sheath was on Jarrod Stonedahl's blog. He showed some old ones with a slightly different style.

I was also lucky to be able to do a course on making them with Jarrod at the first Spoonfest in 2012. They are very straight forward to make and effective too. Birch bark is the most common material, but other materials can also be used. The first ones I made were with cardboard from a cereal box. Today I decided to have a go using Willow bark as it is easier to get hold of in the right thickness here in the UK.

You don't need much in the way of equipment. Just a sharp knife, a pair of scissors and a ruler.

Cut a strip of bark that is a little wider than the blade of the knife it will fit and four times as long. Fold the strip in half and then fold each end in to meet the middle. I've never had to do it with Birch bark, but i found it necessary to soak the Willow bark first.

When you flatten the strip back out it should now be in four roughly equal sections.

Make a cut lengthways along the middle of the two centre sections. This will be the outside of the sheath. Don't cut the end sections as these will be on the inside of the sheath.

You now need a thin strip of bark about twice the length of the original strip. this will be used to wrap around the sheath. Begin by tucking it in-between the outside and the inside of one side of the sheath.

You then proceed to wrap it around the sheath, weaving in and out of the cut portion. At this point I realised that it is quite difficult to describe this process in words, so I decided to do a short video of this stage.

So there you have it. hopefully that all makes sense. The Willow bark worked well and I'm sure there are other alternatives too. There are lots of variations you can try as well. I'm now going to experiment with using food dyes to colour the different strips.


  1. Now this is great! A few days ago I managed to make my first bark sheath also with the help of Del Stubb's website. I used wild cherry bark.
    Your video really is of great help understanding how to weave the thin strip. Only the beginning is a bit unclear. If I saw correctly you started to weave at the side where the knife is inserted later?
    Thanks for posting

    1. You're right, the beginning is a bit unclear, I apologise. It's pretty straight forward though really. You begin by folding the end in-between one of the folded ends. The thin strip never goes on the inside where the knife will go (hope that is clear).

    2. Thanks Julian, all clear now :-)

  2. Great article and video. Prather inspired and nice to know willow works as there's not much birch down here in cornwall. Have you used any other barks too? Also love the music in the video, who's that... Bestest

    1. Thanks. I've only used birch and Willow, but I'm sure there must be others. Thin strips of Ash or spruce root can be used for the weaving. The music is by Robin Pecknold.