Intro: Birch Baskets and Containers
This instructable shows the birch baskets and containers I have made. I almost did an instructable just for the basket in the first picture, but I thought I could group all of these together and give a more general explanation and approach to making these.
Step 1: Materials
Birch bark (fresh is the best but it does not have to be)
Extra wood (for use as a base or lid) - optional
Staples or jute twine
Sticks for use as a handle - optional
Clear spray - optional
Drill and small drill bit
Masking tape (small amount)
A note on dry/non-fresh bark. If you happen to have birch bark that has been sitting around, it may be very stiff. I made all of these containers during one summer so I started with fresh bark and the rest sat in my garage. If the bark becomes dry and stiff, place it and let it soak in water for a while. This adds some pliability and helps to prevent cracking when wrapping it around your base.
Step 2: Find Your Bark and Make Your Base
Find your birch bark that you will use as the sides/siding for your basket or container. My neighbor had just cut down two enormous trunks and let me take as much as I wanted. I used a razor blade to cut a line down the birch logs and then peel the bark off.
When you have a large piece of bark to use for your siding, roll it into the approximate size of the container you want. After getting this approximate size, you can make a base to fit the size you just measured. Allow the two ends of the bark to overlap or join together. This is where you will staple or use string to keep the two ends together. If the bark is relatively sturdy, you may be able to trace the outline of your base.
You can either make a base out of wood or cut a piece of birch bark to use as your base.
For the long cylindrical birch container in the first picture, I cut a piece of birch bark into a circle.
For the basket with the handle in the second picture, I traced and then cut a piece of pine wood into an oval shape and coated it with about three coats of gloss spar varnish from ACE Hardware.
Step 3: Attach the Base to the Bark
Once your base is made, you are ready to attach the bark.
If your BASE IS WOOD, place the base down and wrap the bark around it. Holding the two ends of the bark tightly together, start stapling through the bark and into the wooden base. Or, staple one side of the bark down and then staple the other side where the two ends meet. This is what I did with the handle basket in the above pictures. You can also see that I added two long pieces of bark to which the handle is attached to. I also added an extra rim of birch that goes over the bark connected to the handle. Really it is up to you how you attach the bark with this method. I am just trying to give you a general layout to follow.
If your BASE IS BARK, first sew the two ends of the bark together using jute twine. Once the two sides are sewn together giving you the shape of your container, sew this onto the base. In order to sew jute twine into the bark, first mark where you want your holes to be made with a permanent marker. Then, use a very small drill bit to drill through the bark. Since jute has a lot of fibers that spread out, I taped the end of the twine to the finest point possible using masking tape. This allows an easier time when threading the jute through your drilled holes. Looking at the taller container in the pictures, you can see how I sewed the two ends of the bark as well as the base.
Step 4: Add a Handle or Lid If Necessary
Depending on the use or look of the container you want, you can add a handle or lid. You can use a stick or more birch bark for a handle. For the stick handle in the picture, I coated it with about three coats of gloss spar varnish from ACE Hardware.
For the lid, I took a piece of birch bark and cut it to give it a width of about 1.5". I then wrapped it around the container and gave a little room so that the lid would be able to slide off the container. It does not slide of too easily. Just place the bark around the container and mark where you want to cut it. Once cut, hold this bark into the shape of the container, and trace out its shape onto a piece of wood to use for the lid. I used a thin piece of wood with a thickness of about 0.25" and cut it using a jig saw. After the wood is cut, wrap the bark around it and see how it lines up. If you have to, sand any parts of the wood so that the bark sits nicely around the edges. This may be the most tricky part to figure out. For me it just took some time. When you are happy with this piece of wood, put a very small amount of gorilla glue around the edge and attach/wrap the birch bark around it. In order to keep the birch bark together, find some temporary way of keeping the ends together. Or, you can drill holes into the bark first, add glue to the edge of the wooden lid, attach the bark, and sew the two ends of bark together.
Step 5: Add a Coating of Clear Spray
This is optional depending on how you want the basket/container to look. You can spray on a coating of clear spray. This helps to keep the bark from flaking off.
Again, I made these before joining this site so there are no step-by-step pictures. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Thank you for viewing.