Archive for the 'Plant Materials' Category

Nov 10 2007

Digging Spruce Roots

Published by under Plant Materials

Digging roots for the rim and for sewing up the basket is quite easy. I prefer spruce roots, but you can use pretty much any. Use a digging stick and a trench in the ground where you believe there are roots to be found. A way of identifying such a place is a dense stand of spruces, with few other species in it. If there is a thin layer of moss on the ground as well, it’s often the ideal place for collecting roots.


When you have found appropriate roots, start following the root in both directions. Chances are it will go underneath other roots, so first free it as far as you feel useful in either direction, then rip it off in one side and start taking it out from underneath the other roots. You’ll probably discover a bunch of other useful roots in the process, so one starting point can be the base of a whole day of harvesting.


Here is a coil of roots, useful for static binding tasks. Basket rims will not be in much motion, so it is excellent for that task. You can easily scrape off the bark with a sharp piece of bone (like a bone knife) and they can be split in 2 in the common way for wood as shown in my article on primitive ways. Dry the roots at any stage of the process and reconstitute them in water over night before use.


5 responses so far

Nov 06 2007

Sewing Birch Bark

Published by under Plant Materials

If you have access to high quality birch bark, sewing provides a useful alternative to weaving. Woven baskets are more flexible and sturdy, but they are practically impossible to make waterproof. They also takes a lot more time to make.

First, cut and clean the bark. Cleaning is done by removing the loose pieces on the exterior. I usually turn the exterior in, but both is good. You can either cut the corners or fold them, the first method isn’t waterproof, while the last one can be if done carefully. When folding, always do it over a fire. Heat will make it go pliable in an instant. It can be heated any number of times, but don’t hold it over the fire for very long. The bark on the photo has been crudely pegged, due to lack of time to construct proper clamps. The other photo displays a small eating bowl only kept together by simple pegs.


Digging and preparing roots will be covered in a seperate post. Use the roots well soaked and pliable.

For the sewing you need a bone or antler awl, the roots and a preferably some clamps. Clamp it together and start sewing. There are several types of sewing, depending on if you are sewing along or across the grain. Here I’m only demonstrating how to sew along the grain or overhandstitching as I believe it’s commonly called. If you are just making a quicky basket, a kettle or some other consumption utility, just stitch on one split root on either side with long stitches. This is safe, since the bark will not so readily split from the holes when they are far apart. On sides where you are stitching through only one single piece of bark, stitch on sidepanels, with grain running in the opposite direction of the one of the main basket wall. This is of the stiching of a kettle and the kettle in use.


A related stitch is the layered one. This one is stronger due to covering the rim entirely and having lots of connection points at different grain runs of the bark. I stitched this one with three alternate depths, but you can use any number. Here you are: A new basket, with a quite fancy rim.


8 responses so far

Oct 23 2007

Beaver Galore

Published by under Plant Materials

Just had to use that headline. hehe

Now being extinct over much of Europe, the beaver is one of the most useful creatures there is. Not only does it create wetlands and enrich the lakes, it provides a lot of easy resources for the primitive. Photo: Lodge in the distance.


Despite some recent overhunting and poaching of the beaver by some local shit-kids, the area’s beaver population is still very high. The density is almost abnormally high for the region. Photo: A lodge in the distance, viewed from the lavvo (tipi).


Birch will rot very easily with the bark on, the beaver barks it and uses it for huts and dams. It will then preserve fairly well, as long as it doesn’t lie directly on soil. Seasoned or fresh, you can find both lying around, in a remarkably range of sizes and shapes. Ironically, I used a beaver stick for the new handle on my moose axe, but the beaver’s sticks provided such an easy source of materials and firewood that I almost never chopped a single piece. Photo: And what is this digging stick made from? From a beaver stick. No construction work and an excellent tool.


In fact, it provides so much firewood that you could pile up a huge amount outside an earthlodge for the winter and would never have to chop a single piece. That would not be very nice towards the beaver though, as it would most likely impact the beaver’s chances of survival. Photo: Firewood.


In addition, the beaver provides a potentially large amount of fat, good meat, some high quality fur and beaver teeth for precision carving. It’s fairly easy to hunt at some times of the year and trapping them is said to be very, very easy indeed.

If there is one animal that will make the primitive’s life easier, it is the beaver.

6 responses so far

Sep 09 2007

Collecting Nettle Fibres

Published by under Plant Materials

My last description of the process wasn’t so good, so I’m trying again. This time I have better photos (better, not great) to accompany it. The article covers the process up to storing the fibres before using them for thread. There are essential steps after this that I have already covered. I may however do a re-run on it with new and better photos.

Cut the nettle stalks with something sharp. A quartzite blade works nicely.


Strip off the leaves with by pinching on the base of the stalk and pull towards the other end.


Pound the stalk gently, particulary at the joints to flatten it.


Stick your thumb in a crack and wedge it up the entire stalk. Flatten it afterwards.


Crack the opened stalk on the inside at one point.


Pull in each direction to get the bark off the woody core.


The fibres (really bark sheets) should then be dried for infinite storage. I’ll describe further processes in another post. Photo: Whole nettles to the left and the fresh bark sheets on the right.


6 responses so far

Aug 26 2007

Fish Trap

Published by under Plant Materials

I’ve finally finished my fishing trap. This is the style Patrick McGlinchey uses and Jon have also made one of them. This trap is all willow and was quite frankly a pain to make. The willow bark works fairly well as a binding, but it takes time processing as much as you need. Compared to wickerwork it also seems to slip easier.

The result is fairly pretty and I look forward to testing it, but the next time I will make a trap in the same way as the burden basket a little while ago. This method simply takes way too much time to be worthwhile.

4 responses so far

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