Birch bark is a unique, pliable material you can use to construct and embellish a variety of crafts and decorative items. The most commonly used birch bark is taken from the Betual papyrifera, or paper birch, tree found throughout North America. Once used predominantly to create small replicas of canoes sold at fishing camps and tourists sites, today birch bark is used in everything from ceiling coverings to table lamps.
Harvesting Birch Bark
Birch bark is removed from logs after harvesting, which usually starts in mid-May. Removing bark from a birch tree will kill the tree, so whenever possible look for trees that have fallen, been removed from a location or cut for firewood. In addition to the paper birch tree, bark is commonly harvested from the Betula occidentalis tree, known as the riverbank birch. The bark of this tree has a distinctive bronze color and peels off easily in sheets. Willows, the Salix species of bark trees, features a sweet-smelling bark you can easily remove in strips.
Birch Bark Crafts
Before making crafts with birch bark, soak it in warm water or steam it to increase the pliability of the sheets and make it easier to cut and fold. Birch bark may be used to cover large pieces such as rustic furniture, canoes, storage boxes and wastebaskets. If you want to craft decorative items from birch bark, consider creating a basket, pencil holder, picture or mirror frame, wreath, place mat, lampshade or light switch panel cover. To make circular birch containers for holding plants, sew bark pieces together using a strong material such as rawhide or cordage. Attach bark to surfaces using wood glue or headed brads (small wire nails, often with an asymmetrical head).
Wall and Ceiling Coverings
For a dramatic rustic effect, cover walls or ceilings with birch bark sheets. Used in place of wallpaper, bark sheets add texture to a room's surfaces and bring the look of the outdoors inside. When putting birch bark on a wall or ceiling, attach the bark to plywood first, then secure the plywood to the surface you're decorating.
Other Types Bark For Crafts
For smaller, more intricate crafts such as bird houses, large coniferous trees offer ample amounts of bark that can be cut into different sizes and shapes. The cedar bark of the Thuja plicata tree has long, supple strands ideal from weaving baskets or making rope. Because the bark contains a waxy substance, it can be easily waterproofed.