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Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 07, 2019 06:55PM

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!
After reading the article on Birch Bark Handles in the latest issue of RodMaker, I am very intrigued with the concept and would like to give one a go myself. The problem is that I do not know what to look for and where to obtain quality birch bark suitable for a rod handle. Have any of you fabricated such a handle and/or can suggest a supplier?
My calculations suggest a 12in X 24in sheet with an average thickness of .100in would afford enough for a rear and fore grip with very few extras to pick through and would consider making a split rear grip if needed to have better pieces from which to choose. Researching the internet has only revealed a few suppliers and, again, I am uncertain if their material is suitable for a rod handle. Any insight into fabrication techniques in general or suppliers in particular will be graciously accepted and appreciated.

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Phil Erickson (---.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net)
Date: January 07, 2019 07:30PM

Mark, the biggest challenge you face is sourcing quality bark! Lots of bark available, but most of it too thin for good appearance in a grip, the thicker the better. All Birch bark needs to be cleaned before gluing up. This entails removing loose surface layers that will cause delamination after gluing, as the bark is made up of many thin layers unlike cork. I like to start with bark 1/8" thick.

My source has been the Bark Canoe Store in Spokane Washington. www.barkcanoe.com

I have found that my Birch bark grips are better for fly rod applications if I core them for 20mm foam cores. This makes them as light as cork grips. Without this process the grips tend to be on the heavy side. As the bark is extremely fragile, I glue up about 1 1/2" of bark and the bore it with 3/4" Forstner bit to accommodate the core. I then glue up the grip pieces on a foam core, being sure to use clamp pressure to tightly seat the pieces together.

As for shaping, sandpaper is best. Lathe tools have a tendency to tear the bark.

The best finish I have found for the bark is Tru-Oil.

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Billy Vivona (---.nycmny.fios.verizon.net)
Date: January 07, 2019 09:06PM

SUpport the sponsors here!! Custom Fly grips has birch. TEH thicker birch is easier to work with, but looks like crap compared to the thinner stuff. THere are a bunch of NERBs doing birch bark work that will blow your mind, we'll have several rods built with it at our booth at the ICRBE next month

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 07, 2019 09:17PM

Phil,
Thank you for taking the time to reply with fabrication tips in general and utilizing a form core/arbor in particular to save weight and a even a supplier as well. I sincerely appreciate your efforts to assist as you often do! The vintage FG Conolons I use have a fairly big butt at .625in so I might not have to employ the foam arbors to save weight. In fact, a little extra weight at the butt may assist balancing these FG blanks which are inherently on the heavy side although I am typically more concerned with building as light as possible.
The Bark Canoe Store is one of the few I found through my research so it is comforting to learn you approve of their quality and applicability for rod handles. Without contacting them, it appears I might have to purchase a 24in X 24in sheet which is twice as much as anticipated/required but beggars can’t be choosers. With your recommendation, at least I am confident of receiving the proper material.
None the less, I hope others will chime in with their insight and recommendations as well.

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 07, 2019 09:29PM

Billy,
Thank you for your time and input as well. I always prefer to support businesses that support this site and will contact CFG as well. I wish I could attend the Expo but doubt I will be able to.

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Phil Erickson (---.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 12:49PM

I totally disagree with Billy on the subject of how the thickness of the bark looks! To use the term he uses is far off base!

Remember Billy, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder!"

I prefer thicker he prefers thinner, to each his own! Neither is CRAP !!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 08, 2019 01:37PM

Well, one thing that everyone appears to agree upon is Birchwood Casey’s Tru Oil for the finish. I would normally opt for the natural appearance an oiled finish on wood but wonder about its durability outdoors and being constantly handled with grubby hands along with have to recoat periodically. If the handle is on my personal rod there is no problem, but I cannot rely upon a customer to keep up on the maintenance. Is there any reason PG would not work? PG is so thin it soaks deeply into wood and would probably take 3-4 coats retaining a natural oiled look before starting to look like a clearcoat. I have used it a number of smaller wood projects since I started building rods and am impressed with the results.

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Billy Vivona (---.nycmny.fios.verizon.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 01:37PM

HAving wasted money on the thicker rings and the time to glue them up production style - the end product made it a total waste of time and money. Especially if you're goign to make 1 grip, get teh thinner bark. SOme guys collected it from down trees in the forest ths grip is made by MArk Berry with birch he collected, if youuse thick birch it's going to look like trash compared to what this looks like, regardless of what anyone else's eyes say
[www.facebook.com]

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Phil Erickson (---.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 01:52PM

Billy, do you have eye sight issues? The grip you mention is clearly a mixture of thick and thin bark rings!

Just put up on the photo site is a Birch Bark grip I built using primarily thick rings.

Perhaps we need to define thick, I believe it is 1/8" any thing much less I think of as thin.

The thicker bark comes from very cold climates, namely Alaska and Siberia.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/2019 02:11PM by Phil Erickson.

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 08, 2019 03:34PM

Phil & Billy,
Calm down or Tom will intervene and slap your typing hands. Both examples are beautiful and make me anxious to fabricate one on my own. Mark Berry’s might be too involved for me on the first attempt. Phil’s simpler offering, being less wazoo, is more my style anyway and probably better for my first attempt although I am plain out of bison horns at the moment.
From their websites, the thickness of birch bark from Custom Fly Grips and Bark Canoe are fairly similar. CFG states 8 - 12 rings per inch (0.083 - .125) while BC states 1/16 - 1/8in (.062 - .125). The sheets vary in thickness and probably vary within each sheet as well so I am not overly concerned with thickness. If anything, BC’s might be a tic thinner but I doubt anyone would be able to notice a .020in difference in the final product. It is a natural material and part of its charm is being thick and thin, dark and light, wavy and flat.
I would still like to hear comments on using PG for the finish (after all the dust has cleared).

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Tom Kirkman (Moderator)
Date: January 08, 2019 03:41PM

PermaGloss will make a fine finish for birch bark. It not darken the bark, however, and many like the slightly deeper tone the bark takes on with the Tru-Oil.

..........

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Billy Vivona (---.nycmny.fios.verizon.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 03:53PM

The grips you posted are normal thickjness - I can't find the pics of the grips I made with the thick rings, I found someone else that did. THEre've been a bunch of grips made with the thick stuff that looks like this.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/2019 08:28PM by Billy Vivona.

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Ron Weber (---.tc.ph.cox.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 05:07PM

This is as combination of both semi thick and thin. [www.facebook.com]

Ron Weber

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Tom Kirkman (Moderator)
Date: January 08, 2019 06:13PM

It would seem to be a personal thing as to which is more attractive. I prefer the thinner stuff - more work but the appearance suits me personally.

...............

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 08, 2019 06:41PM

Billy,
Thank you for the new photo of a thick slice birch bark handle. At the risk of offending the fabricating artist, I would prefer thinner rings also. The rings in this handle may be as much as .250in. I believe you and Phil, and me for that matter, are actually on the same page regarding thickness but without a precise measurement of what exactly constitutes thick or thin, no one can accurately know to what the other is referring.
Billy & Phil,
Hopefully the dust has settled enough to afford me with your opinions of Tru Oil durability and the suitability of PG as well for these type handles.
Tom,
Thanks for your insight. You made a very good point concerning PG will not darken the color and will keep that in mind after sanding to shape. I have experienced the same with PG and believe it may be the only finish which does not affect the color of the underlying wood, well, at least less than anything else.
Thick or thin is most definitely a personal thing. Ultimately, there is no too thick or too thin. Personally, I think .125in and under will afford me with the effect for which I am looking. I will be most pleased if I receive sheets that vary in thickness to retain a more natural, random appearance. Otherwise, I would simply purchase veneer and make my life simpler (possibly for the first time). But what fun would that be?
Ron,
Thank you for your input as well.
Phil,
Where in the H did you get bison horn anyway? That must be the ultimate butt cap out there.

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Phil Erickson (---.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 07:15PM

First the Tru-Oil question. Tru-Oil is a gun stock finish, guns are almost exclusively used outdoors and many in very poor weather conditions, ie. rain, snow, sleet, etc. it holds up under all these conditions. A couple of coats on the bark will darken the bark as seen in my recently posted grip. However it does not discolor the bark like a varnish will.

It is not Bison, it is Water Buffalo, I source it from knifemaking.com

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Blabaum (199.241.225.---)
Date: January 08, 2019 09:01PM

I know a lot of people that use Tru-Oil and have good luck with it, I have had issues with Tru-Oil and quit using it. I would use 5-6 coats let it sit for 3-4 days and try to hold it in my hand as I would drill or ream the piece, the Tru-Oil would come off in my hand. I have been using water based poly, I know it's not an outdoor finish, but using the rods and taking them off the boat at the end of the day and cleaning them up occasionally never had an issue with a finish failure. Also the finish doesn't discolor as Phil has said, you can see by this photo that the birch bark isn't darker nor is it discolored. [www.rodbuilding.org]

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Paul Luechtefeld (---.mobile.att.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 09:35PM

Mark

I have never used tru oil on a rod but when I refinish gun stocks I always let it dry for 2 or 3 days between coats.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/2019 09:36PM by Paul Luechtefeld.

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Ron Weber (---.tc.ph.cox.net)
Date: January 08, 2019 10:16PM

The finish I use on mine is Spar Urethane, same as I use on all my reel seat inserts for longevity and durability.

Ron Weber

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Re: Birch Bark Handles
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: January 08, 2019 11:07PM

I am amazed, grateful and humbled to those who have shared photos of such works of birch bark handle art. While impressive and absolutely beautiful, I feel a need to constrain myself to a simpler stacked ring affair for my first venture into the Birch Bark Handle Twilight Zone. It is admittedly doubtful I will ever attempt to produce such astoundingly gorgeous handles, as my conservative side dictates a more simple, subtlety intricate approach. Please don’t get me wrong, I seriously hold your efforts, ability and art in high esteem.

Mark Talmo
FISHING IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE BUT RATHER A DEEPER IMMERSION INTO IT!!!

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