Acquiring Materials by John Lindman

I just got back from Minnesota where I got materials. I didn't need to get bark as I already have plenty of that. I got a ton of root and as much cedar as my little trailer could hold. During the process I stumbled on a few things that might help you out.

I've said this before and it is still true, if you can't get all the root you need for a canoe in about 3 hours then you don't have a good spot. I have been in spruce and tamarack swamps where I thought the root would be great. I worked my butt off but got hardly any root. The spot up in Minnesota where I have been getting root is the "mother lode" for me. It is in the state forest and from the looks of it was planted about 25 years ago - all in nice neat rows. It is marked to be logged and some roads and a decking area for loading have been cleared. No other vegetation to speak of, just spruce.

What this means is that when I am pulling on a root and come across another root it will be another spruce root. To dig and fight through roots of bushes or other trees is a drag. You may have seen pictures of guys pulling up root like they are bringing in the garden hose. That would occur with me occasionally but more often than not I would pull and get hung up with another root. Dig and pull on that and get another root. Within 15 minutes (if I am patient) I have a network of roots. Soon the whole area is exposed with root and they start to unravel. I coil them loosely and put them in a pile. In a couple of hours I have a ton of root. I did this for about 5 or 6 hours a day for 3 days. You can imagine how much root that produced.

The moral of the story - location, location, location and be patient. Get your spot, expose the network and then wrap it up.

If you live in an area where you can walk the woods for cedar you are lucky. You want a tree that is straight, with straight grain and no branches or pin knots throughout the length you need. For ribs and sheathing I recommend 5 ft. The bark shows the grain. If the bark runs straight up and down the tree, so will the grain. You should be able to see this without peeling the bark but if you pull a piece of bark you will find it peels the way the grain runs. I like the big old trees. They are usually very hollow and the wood is like string cheese - it carves with ease and splitting is a breeze.

Since I have not lived in the area of cedar, I work with the mills. The guys in Minnesota have been great but I have talked with mills in up-state NY and in Ontario and they are the same way. Walk the log piles with a can of flagging paint and mark the logs that fit your requirements. They will pull them, you inspect further and if OK have them cut to 5 ft or whatever you need. Then split them out. They dry fast and get real light for hauling. Load them up and away you go. The mills in Minnesota were charging $5 per running foot so $25 per 5ft butt cut. It is fast and efficient plus the trees are already down.

I have written about harvesting bark before. Here I would just like to stress use only good quality bark. Do not compromise. I have thought, "better some bark than no bark", but that is not the case. You will put in so much time on your canoe and if the bark is inferior you will end up with a canoe you will not be happy with. Brittle bark is the worst. If it can't pass the bend test where you bend it parallel to the eyes then forget it. If you have a tree with good bark but it has a bend in it don't take the bark as one piece. The bend will not work. Take the bark in pieces. Thickness is important but not all important. 1/8 inch is ideal. Don't go less than 3/32nds. Avoid large bumps. Make your cut where it will provide the clearest bark. For example if there is a lump but otherwise it is great then make your cut through the lump.

The point here is be picky. If it is not perfect OK but it must be straight and pass the bend test.

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