Introduction: Kuksa 2.0- Mini Version

About: Avid Kayaker, Canoeist, Wildcamper, SUP-er and Photographer,

Previously i've made a kuksa or wooden cup from a straight piece of beech (

Recently i was lucky enough to find a fallen birch tree whilst out canoeing, figuring that nobody would mind i whipped out my rescue saw and harvested a few of the more cup sized burls. 

Burls are growths on the sides of trees that form in reaction to damage, injury or infection. they grow into weird patterns so look amazing once polished up.

Here is how i made a more traditional kuksa from a small birch burl. I've some bigger ones but im leaving them to dry properly and till ive more time to work on them.

Due to the shape and size it ended up as a more decorative object rather than a functional cup, though it could always be used as a shot glass!

As ive tried to before, this was made using only tools i do or could easily add to my wild camping kit without too much hassle.

Tools and materials:
Birch burl
Saw- For harvesting burls (I keep a large toothed plasterboard saw in my boat for emergencies)
Small knife or chisel- For cleaning up the outside of the burl
Small saw or large knife- To remove large nobbles
Hook knife- For forming bowl
Sandpaper (P60-P180)
Drill/ Awl/ Knife- Something to make a hole
Oil and cloth- To polish
Leather and antler scraps

(I apologies for the poor pictures, i ended up using my phone)

Step 1: Burls

The very first step is to get a burl to carve. I've been looking out for some for ages and eventually found some on a fallen tree whilst out canoeing. Using a saw i cut the burls from the trunk right at their bases to get the largest possible sizes.

Seen as it was a fallen tree that was right by the path i assumed nobody would care id i cut off a couple of burls. Obviously never go cutting burls off of live trees (or traipsing through people woods) without the landowners permission.

Once you have your burls pick which one your going to use. Here i used the smallest so that the others have time to dry out properly before i use them, also i wanted something with a quick turnover (just 4 hours to get from burl to pre-boiling stage). 

Step 2: Debarking

The outside of the burls are covered in a thick bark but this is actually pretty easy to get off. I used a small carving chisel to work away at the bark and chip bits off. This was useful to get between all the little nobbles and lumps.

A chisel isn't something i'd ever take in my canoe camping kit though a small knife would serve just as well, i just didn't have one to hand.

I then used a knife and small saw to strip off some of the larger nobbles, again i wouldn't take a hacksaw but it was just quicker than the knife. 

Finally 10 mins worth of sanding with a rough grain should give you a basic shape you can start to work with. 

Step 3: Forming the Bowl

Now we move onto forming the bowl of the kuksa. This was surprisingly easy seen as the wood was very soft and came away easily due to the unusual grain as well.  

As with a few other instructables i've done we'll be using a hook knife or hook blade to carve the hole. They take a little while to get used to but can give some great results once you know what your doing.  The normal technique is to cut across the grain at first the do smoother strokes with the grain to finish. However because of the lack of uniform grain in a burl this doesn't really apply here. I ended up going every which way as the grain twisted round.

This step probably only took me a little over an hour to do, due to size and softness. I tried to get the bowl to be a fairly uniform
thickness of 5 mm or so, though the based did end up a little thicker. 

Once it was roughly the right thickness and shape i stated to scrape the knife over the bowl at about an 85° angle. This scraped away some of the rougher areas leaving it smooth-ish and ready to be sanded.

Step 4: Sanding

The all important step. The more time you put into sanding the better your result will be. Electric sanders can be useful for doing bulk work but for things like this there's no substitute for a bit of sandpaper and a few hours of rubbing.

I put about 2 hours of sanding in at this stage moving from P80 through to P150. For sanding inside the bowl i cut a strip about a thumbs width and using my thumb rubbed it round the inside. 

There's no point going to fine at this point, that'll come later.

Step 5: Boiling

Once i was happy with the P150 level of sanding i started to set up how i was going to boil my kuksa. Boiling softens the wood and draws any tannins or oils from it, allowing for a nicer finish and removing the chance of the bitter tannin tainting the drink.

Seen as it was a small piece and an already soft wood i thought it wouldn't need long. I filled a cup with boiling water from the kettle, added salt and left it to soak for about 20 mins. 

After it was removed i allowed it to dry fully, wrapped in paper towels on the window sill over the weekend.

The boiling really brought the colors out of the wood and showed some beautiful patterns. 

Step 6: More Sanding

This is the part were you'll really bring the patterns out of the wood.

After your kuksa is properly dried the outer layer will feel softer, this makes it easier to sand with very fine grits.

I started by doing another round of sanding with the P150 paper.

I then moved onto using the finer grits, P180 and P240 sanding sponges. At 240 the wood looks fantastic.

Finally a quick rub down with a cloth and your ready for oil.

Step 7: Oil

As with all wood work that your going to use for food or drink you need to choose an oil that won't taint what your eating. 
So really you want an oil that has little or no taste, the best choices are sunflower, olive, walnut or just plain old vegetable oil. 

Here i used veg oil, seen as it was what we had in. 

Pour some oil into a bowl and using a clean cloth apply a generous helping of oil all over the wood. Leave it to soak in and repeat over a few days until the oil is no longer soaking in.

Once this is done wipe of any excess oil and give it a good polish with a cloth, you're nearly done.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

If you want to keep it simple you can always skip this step, myself i always like to add a strap or loop to things like this. It just seems to finish them off.

Once securely clamped i drilled a small hole through the handle to feed the strap though. 

By rummaging around i managed to find a small strip of leather. I boiled some more water and set it soaking so that it would become more flexible. 

I turned out that the strip wasn't long enough to tie in a proper knot. I tried putting small knots in each end but it didn't look right. Finally i found a small piece of deer antler with a hole in the middle. I threaded this over the strip and retied the knots to form a loop.

Now all that's left is to christen it!