Eastern red cedar -- actually a juniper (Juniperus virginiana) -- is prized for naturally decay-resistant, aromatic wood used to line chests, closets and saunas, and for making long-lasting fence posts and outdoor furniture. The outer layer of the tree is loose bark over a thickened skin. The living layer just beneath contains a sugary sap that nourishes the tree. The pros on Woodweb say it is best to cut trees when the sap is "running" in early spring, then immediately remove the bark layer before the sap dries under the bark.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Tree cutting equipment
- Debarking spud, butter knife or rounded blade
- Sharp pocket knife or utility knife
- Wooden or plastic blade
Cut down the tree from which you intend to remove the bark. Remove all unnecessary limbs and cut it to the desired length.
Slide a debarking spud, butter knife or other round-tipped, thin blade under the outer bark layer at the cut end of the felled tree, and work it around to loosen the "skin". Work round the entire perimeter, loosening and prying up the bark to the depth of the blade, but without removing it at this point.
Use a sharp knife to make three or four shallow longitudinal cuts a few inches long through the loosened outer bark layer around the end of the tree to separate the bark into sections for ease of peeling.
Work your fingers under one loosened bark section at the end until you are able to grip it firmly, then pull upward slowly, using the blunt knife to periodically loosen any sticking areas. The bark should peel away in long strips, leaving the underlying wood smooth and unblemished. If the strip breaks, simply repeat the process from that point to continue debarking.
Continue peeling strips, one at a time until you remove all the bark from the trunk. Use a blunt wooden or plastic blade to pry up stubborn bark in areas around limbs or irregularities to avoid marring the wood.
Tips and warnings
- For furniture or craft projects, using dull wooden blades or rounded plastic tools to remove bark results in a smoother finish. Metal blades have a tendency to gouge and mar the surface. A wooden paint stirrer makes a good tool, as does a plastic or wooden spatula.
- When felling trees, use all recommended safety gear and follow correct procedures for the equipment you are using. Never operate a chainsaw unless you know what you are doing and are wearing safety goggles, ear protection, helmet, gloves and steel-toed boots. When using a hand saw, wear goggles, helmet and steel -toed boots. In either case, be aware of and follow, all proper procedures for safely cutting trees.
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