Friday, September 26, 2014

More than just a birch bark tube

The quiver should have a very slight taper from the opening
to the base.
The main project that I'm working on at the moment is a reproduction Beothuk birch bark quiver.  Conceptually, its a simple tube container, but it should also be tough and functional.  It's for a museum display so it needs to be made from the appropriate materials and match the few references that we have for Beothuk quivers.  I'll go into more detail in future posts, but here is a first look at the main body of the quiver.  I've cut it more-or-less to length, although there will be pieces added to each end, so I may need to trim it again to match the size that I'm going for.  I haven't sewn the main seem up the side yet, but I've cut the outside edge of the birch bark to a scalloped or "pinked" edge.  This is a design element common to Beothuk birch bark vessels that have survived in museum collections.  This edge may be purely ornamental, but I suspect it also helps in preventing tears in forming and spreading from the edge, the same as pinked edges work on fabric.

I used a plastic map tube as a form to wrap the birch bark around.  You can see it peeking out under the clothes pins.  You can also see the zig-zag edge running down the length of the tube.  These seem will be sewn together with spruce roots.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. How hard was it to work with the bark? Any special prep (soaking?) to make it workable?

  2. The bark is not too hard to work with. Its a little like working with a big unwound cardboard tube. The body of the bark is very tough, but there is a tendency for it to split inside those little white dashes in the bark. The split will stop at the edges of the dash, but it doesn't take much extra tension for it to carry into the orange part of the bark and then it can cause problems.

    There's no need to soak bark, but heating it makes it soft and pliable. A sheet of birch bark warmed to the point where its almost to hot to handle is soft and flexible as leather. If its small enough, you can heat it in your oven. Fire if you are outside is helpful. I use a heat gun in my workshop.

  3. Hi Tim,
    It's great to see others interested in the native culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. It saddens me to know how little was preserved of them. The reconstructions look good. If only we could see what they had in those times. I've been always curious of the wood they used for their bows. Mountain ash just doesn't seem like a good bow wood. I wish they could find howleys bow fragments for testing. Also did they shave saplings or split pine for arrow shafts?


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