We thought we would make some more willow cordage, it’s that time of year again when the sap is up and the bark is easy to peel, so it’s the best time to make it for the little projects we will be doing over the winter months.
First thing to do is cut some willow poles, it’s best to get them as straight and smooth as possible, lots of knots and branches cause a lot of hassle when taking of the bark.
At this time of year it easy to peel the bark, cut a line down the pole with the tip of your knife, then using your thumbs, peel the bark from the poles
or you can bend the bark backwards and pull it down the pole, either works well..
once peeled, score a line across the middle of the bark with the tip of your knife, don’t cut too deeply or you will cut all the inner fibers you are trying to remove, it’s a score not a cut!
You can simply bend the bark till it cracks and peel it that way but it’s not as easy and the outer bark doesn’t peel as easily this way. Simply use your hands and bend the bark backwards as you strip the inner fibers, try to work around any knots and make sure you don’t end up with any outer bark on your fibers as this will make the end result brittle and difficult to twist.
Once peeled you will end up with a pile of inner fibers, but if you simply dry them now, when twisted into cordage they can become brittle, but if the task you’re undertaking doesn’t need a lot of strength from the cordage then you can simply use it now.
better quality cordage can be made from boiling the fibers in a lye solution, put the ashes in soft water and add the bark, don’t make the solution too strong or it will destroy your fibers, so will boiling it for too long, adapt the strength and time to the amount of fibers you are preparing.
you will notice that the fibers soon start to turn a red colour, once that happens you are nearly done
take them out and dry them. Once dry you can split them up into finer fibers and then moisten them to make your cordage the same way you would with any natural fiber.
Here you can see the difference between the prepped fibers and the unprepped stripped fibers, willow bark makes a very decent quality cord and preparing it like this is certainly quicker than retting lime bark!