Picture of Harvesting Spruce Root
Spruce root is a fantastic lashing material. Spruce has a good strength to weight ratio, and is quite pliable when wet. When harvested mindfully, spruce root is a nifty sustainable fiber.

Week in the Woods ( is a week long camp held in old growth forest on state land outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The majority of the photos in this Instructable are from Week in the Woods and were taken by Alex Kamerling. A few photos are from second growth forest in Fairbanks and were taken by Jesse Hensel and John Manthei.
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Step 1: Location and Tools

Picture of Location and Tools
This project does not require any tools. However, it may be useful to have a knife, a key, a bucket of cool water, and/or a pot of boiling water.

All spruce trees have workable roots. However in many places the roots are too tangled to be easily harvested. Ideal harvesting locations are eroding river banks and mixed old growth forest.

Look for an area that has both birch and spruce trees, an open canopy, and a natural unkept understory. Look for long straight lines of moss across the forest floor. Peel back a little moss and ideally you will find the rotting bark of a long dead tree.

Step 2: Digging

Picture of Digging
Tear, peel or cut back the bark and start sifting through the severely rotten wood/soil/dirt. The rotten log forms a rich pipeline for roots to travel along. Attempt to remove the soil and free the roots. As more soil is removed, the roots may be gently lifted and excavation can continue. The roots will break if they are pulled too hard.

Step 3: Trimming

Picture of Trimming
Eventually the roots will end, break, or need to be cut. Usable roots are smaller in diameter than your thumb. When no more root can be excavated the end can be broken or cut. The longer, straighter and more consistent the diameter of the root the nicer it will be to work with (tiny roots are particularly useful).

Step 4: Coiling

Picture of Coiling
A long root (or a group of roots) can be coiled into a bundle. Bundles are easy to carry. Additionally, a small bundle can be soaked in a bucket.
This is wonderful! Great photography, too. I am part Tlingit, but living down south, so I've never quite had the time to learn these things from my aunts. I'm really glad to see this knowledge getting passed on.
Boreal House (author)  SelkeyMoonbeam2 years ago
Thank you very much, I am glad that you enjoyed it.