May/June 2006

Bark Canoe Store

15 East Sinto
Spokane, WA 99202

(509)327-7902 (office & fax)
(509)327-1850 (shop)
John Lindman

Copyright (c) 2006
All Rights Reserved


1. News -
2. Building Tips -
a. A few points on gathering bark
b. More on Miniatures by Ted Behne

News -

(Oops - this letter was written about 2 months ago but never got sent out. It's a bit staledated but I hope you will find the information helpful none the less. The next issue is forthcoming.)

Spraying Our Woods

I might be a little slow on the uptake because what is new to me may be old to you. I had no idea that contemporary forest practices include using defoliants on hardwoods.

That's right, when the loggers, at least out west here, log an area and want to replant it in softwoods they run into the problem of the birch, maple and alder immediately taking over and shading out the new trees they planted. As a result they either use a defoliant like Agent Orange - that's right, that's what one guy told me (his data might be stale dated - they may use another chemical now but just as harmful), or they might use an herbicide.

I recently took to the woods for birch saplings. I checked with our local DNR and he was the one who first tipped me to this. I later checked with other guys and that's when I heard about the spraying. "My God", I thought, "this is going into the water and everywhere."

The other day I was listening to an National Public Radio program called Native America Calling and they ran a piece about this very thing on an island in SW Alaska where the Haida People were protesting the spraying of a herbicide by a tribally owned (of all things) timber company for the very purpose I am talking about.

I have a feeling this has been going on for some time and is very wide spread. I wonder why the birch aren't making a comeback in certain areas and this is one explanation. I think it would be interesting to find out from various areas and then alert some of the environmental lobbying groups. Let me know what you think.

Building Tip - Harvesting Bark
by John Lindman

Now is the time to harvest bark in most places. I just got a report it is popping in Minnesota. Here are a few tips that might make things a bit easier.

1. Scout your area. Locate the trees that look good. Don't waste trees by testing ones that obviously don't look good. Only test good trees - no dead limbs on top indicating disease; straight; no limbs in the desired area; etc.
2. Test above the snow line. Don't test down super low where the bark is scarred from the snow. It will most likely test bad. Don't girdle unless you plan to take the bark. Get a big enough piece to do your test and that is all.
3. Get permission. If you have a good area then get a permit.
4. Things to make harvest easier -
a. If you plan to take the tree down you will need a saw or axe of course and if you plan on climbing the tree bring a ladder or tree climbers (steps that bow hunters use to climb to their tree stand) or bring materials needed to make a ladder in the bush.
b. Big sharp pointed knife.
c. Utility knife.
d. Duct tape. (Of course duct tape. Because you can use it for everything. Like when you cut yourself or when you fall out of the tree and break your leg and need to tape up a splint, or as rope by folding it in half sticky side to sticky side and using it to tie your bark rolls together)
e. A stick that is straight and the length of the bark you will be harvesting (like a piece of lath).
f. 3 ro 4 spring clamps.
g. Safety belt to hold you while removing bark.

5. Once you have your trees marked -I would either use flagging tape or stick the sample piece that I took back into the tree between the bark and the cambium (inner bark) so that it sticks out like a flag - start harvesting:
a. If you plan to take the tree down plan your fall not only as to how it will fall clear, but also where you want to make your vertical cut. For example there may be a bird or small branch so make your cut in that area.
b. Prior to cutting you need to create a "cradle" near the tree that will support the trunk off the ground to allow for the removal of the bark. (I did this one time in New Hampshire and the tree "hopped" and went right over the cradle. It was raining and I had to dig under the tree - the entire length of the bark I was removing - in order to pull it free.) c.If you plan to take pieces use your tree climbers and safety belt. If you have all your tools in a pouch or held in some other fashion you will be able to use them with ease.
d. Make your horizontal cut at the base. Then make your horizontal cut at the top. Then make your vertical cut and you come down the tree. Make it deep enought so that it doesn't hang up anywhere. When the bark is "popping" if the cut doesn't go all the way through somewhere, the rest of it can pull away from the tree fast and cause a tear. When making your horizontal cuts it's best to just girdle the tree in those places with a 3 inch or so piece. Now it won't get hung up there either.
e. a. If a crack along the grain starts to develop, use the tip of your utility knife to make a perpendicular cut just beyond the crack so that when there is stress on the crack it will only open up as far as you cut and will be stopped at that point.
b. After you have pryed the bark away from the tree a few inches, clamp your stick to the edge. This will prevent the bark from cracking or tearing during the process of removal.
c. Always roll your bark as if from the bottom (widest part) of the tree upwards. This will minimize edge curl. Press any small birds out prior to rolling.
d. Stash the bark that is harvested in the bushes so as to keep it out of the sunlight.

This is not a complete lesson on how to harvest bark. That has been covered earlier in previous newsletters. You can view them here. You can view Ted's work here.

These are just a few tips on points that might make the process easier. Good luck and happy hunting.

Building Tip - More on Miniatures by Ted Behne
Unrolling and Raising the Bark - Part Two

Setting the Sheerline This article continues the assembly process by setting the sheerline of the canoe. The sheerline is the height of the gunwale above the baseline of a canoe. It is lowest at the center of the canoe and gradually rises toward the ends, sometimes rising sharply between the end thwarts and the stems. Properly setting the sheerline is one of the most important steps in the assembly process because it determines not only the final look of the canoe, but also its structural integrity. The sheerline is formed by the inwales and outwales, with the bark locked in place between them by both hardwood pegs and spruce-root lashings.

Assembly constitutes about 50 percent of the work in making a canoe, so at this point you are about half way home. Previous articles outlined other basic steps. These include: Selecting a canoe to model; making a quarter-scale "blueprint"; constructing a reusable building platform; making a gunwale frame; making and installing thwarts; making ribs; splitting cedar; splitting spruce roots for lashings; making sheathing to line the interior of the hull; and unrolling and raising the bark. To review previous articles, go to Then select "Tips," then "Building Miniature Canoes."

Carefully remove the gunwale frame from the bark enclosure. Insert the two halves of the plywood building frame into the rough canoe shape, being careful to center each half and not to disturb the position of the bark.

Next, attach sheering posts under each thwart of the inwale frame. Sheering posts determine the amount of gunwale rise from the canoe center to each end. Sheering posts can be held in place by tying them onto each thwart with twine inserted through a hole drilled into each dowel. The same effect can by achieved by running a small screw through one of the lashing holes at the ends of each thwart and into a pre-drilled hole in the top of each sheering post below. Check the blueprint for the size, number and placement of lashing holes in each thwart. Each sheering post will need to be reduced in height by the thickness of the building frame, i.e., 1/8" if the building frame is made of 1/8" plywood.

Reposition the inwale frame, with sheering posts attached, inside the bark enclosure, being careful to center the frame both widthwise and lengthwise. Cover the inwale frame with plywood planks to support the brick weights and to protect the inwale frame while the sheerline is being set.

Trim the excess height of the bark, using scissors or a razor knife, to an inch above the gunwale frame between the end thwarts, but not beyond the end thwarts.

Next, add the outwales to form the inwale/bark/outwale sandwich the constitutes the gunwales of the canoe. Center the outwales on the centerline of the center thwart and line them up at the same height as the inwale. Clamp them in place at regular intervals with clothespins.

Beginning at the center of the canoe and working outward toward each end pull the gores upward to form a smooth surface, with no bulges or gaps in the hull. Where the gores overlap, one side will be vertical and the other angled. With a pencil, transfer the vertical line of each gore onto the angled side and then carefully trim away the excess angled side so that both sides join in a vertical seam. These seams will later be sealed with spruce gum to waterproof them.

With all the sheering posts in place, replace the plywood support sections and then replace the weights to hold the now-sheered inwale frame in its permanent position. The inwale frame is now held at the proper height to begin pegging and lashing.

In the next newsletter, we will lock the inwales, bark and outwales together with hardwood pegs and begin lashing together the entire gunwale assembly with split spruce roots.

If you have questions about any of the above, just send an email to

You can view Ted's work here.

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