How Do I Soften Birch Bark?

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Birch bark is peeled from the tree trunks.
Birch bark is peeled from the tree trunks. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Birch bark is used for a variety of purposes, from making jewelry to building canoes. Many people enjoy working with this type of wood due to its versatility, water resistance and rot resistance. However, birch bark needs softening to make working with it easier. Once the bark softens, it is more pliable -- making it ideal for weaving projects and jewelry making.

Things You'll Need

  • Birch bark sheets
  • Large pot
  • Long tongs
  • Lid
  • Cookie tray
  • Paper towels

Fill a large, deep pot halfway with regular tap water.

Place the pot of water on the stove burner.

Turn on the stove burner, and set it to high. Let the water heat up to a rolling boil.

Pick up one birch bark sheet with a pair of long tongs. Place the sheet in the boiling water. Put in as many birch bark sheets as you need.

Reduce the heat on the stove to medium. Cover the pot, and let the birch bark sheets boil for at least 20 minutes.

Lay out a cookie tray lined with paper towels. Place the cookie tray as close as possible to the stove.

Turn off the stove heat. Carefully remove the lid from the pot. Let the steam dissipate.

Pull the birch bark sheets out of the pot one at a time with the tongs. Lay the birch bark side-by-side on the cookie tray. Let the sheets cool from hot to warm before handling them.

Tips & Warnings

  • If needed, boil the sheets longer until the birch reaches the desired softness.
  • Cut the birch bark sheets while they are still warm and pliable.
  • Never handle hot birch sheets without tongs.

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