A Stacked Birch Bark knife.

This commission had one very specific requirement - it needed to be Vegan friendly. Other than that I was free to take any direction I wanted to. I suggested a stacked Birch bark handle as it's something I have wanted to try for some time.

At the early planning stages I wasn't sure how I would tackle the sheath side of things, as normally I would use leather. As can be seen in the picture below, I managed it.

To summarise the specs:
 - the blade is made from 3mm O1 steel, left with the quenched surface.
 - the handle is made with brass bolsters that have a hammered finish and in between is a stack of birch bark and Laburnum.
 - the sheath is made with a wooden liner covered by hessian sacking hardened with fiberglass resin. The belt loop is made with home twisted hessian fibres and a belt hanger made from a flattened and twisted nail.

The journey of making......

I have no pictures of the blade being shaped but a glowing hot blade ready to be quenched always looks good!

Lot of Birch Bark ready to go but I didn't feel it would be enough after compressing so I added some Laburnum slices in too.

Again, another leap in construction! At this stage all of the handle materials have been stacked on the handle except the very end piece of Laburnum and brass.

I then made a clamp from a couple of pieces of wood and threaded bar which compressed the handle materials. I then put the whole stack in the oven and cooked the knife to release the tar from the birch bark which then glued the pieces together. I tightened the nuts further and heated some more.

This was the stack fresh from the oven. I was slightly nervous as to if it the tar gluing it together had worked or not.

I decided to remove the bulk of the excess bark while still clamped - this was all done with a knife slicing through the layers.

The stack held very well! I could feel how well it was holding up so I undid the bolts.

Next job was pinning the end piece of Laburnum on to add a further mechanical lock. You can see that one of the birch bark layers has started to peel away!

So an oversized hole for the brass rod to allow some wiggle room.

....then I added a couple of extra layers of bark to mean I really had to force the Laburnum down to get the pin to go through.

and then a massive jump to the handle being completely shaped!!  How gorgeous does this look?

So next I started to think about the sheath.

I decided to try an all wood sheath.

A log of Yew and some more Laburnum....

I cut the profile of the knife out in the Laburnum....

The Yew was then hollowed where the handle would sit.

It fits! (Kinda)

However, I decided that actually getting this shaped down to a nice size would have been quite difficult and time consuming - time I didn't have! I decided to take a different approach and start over with the sheath.

Some old blinds....

Cut and trimmed and superglued

and then some lovely white hessian sacking soaked in fiberglass resin and wrapped round the liner and knife...

The belt hanger showing how it started before being hit with a hammer.

and then done!

All in, an interesting journey.

I really, really like the Birch Bark look and feel. I will definitely be doing more stacked handles like this.



  1. Inspiring work!

  2. A very nice nife!
    I'm Fredrik and I'm from Sweden (home of the birchbark-handle knife) ;-)
    I usualy use woodglue between the bark-pieces.
    Be careful when using labernum (if I translate it on google I think it's what we call "gullreng" in swedish) !
    It's very poisonous.
    Sorry for my bad english!!!!!
    The thing I don't understand is what to do with a knife without carving in flesh and bones!! ! ;-)

  3. Hi Stewart, great project. Beautiful build.
    May I ask your oven time and temperature used for curing/glueing the bark handle? I am at this stage myself right now and find a wide range of different temperatures and times online. I don't feel like taking an 'experimental' risk as I have already spend lots of effort in collecting and prepping the bark... Thanks :)

  4. Hi Bas,

    Sorry - I've only just seen your comment!

    Annoyingly I can't remember. I believe it was quite a low temperature, something like 100 degrees C and about half an hour then a bit more tightening and then leave it longer.

    I would suggest try at that temp then when you take it apart do it slowly and if it peels, retighten and put it back in a bit hotter!