How to make a birch bangle

My favorite tree is the white birch. The bark is striking and its properties are multidimensional. For example, you can use a piece to make a fire or a basket. Today I’ll explain how to make a bangle (a bracelet that slips over your hand) out of birch bark.

In the Adirondacks, you’ll see a lot of yellow and paper/white birch trees. They’re a deciduous hardwood, belong to the genus Betula, and are found in the Northern Hemisphere in temperate and boreal climates.

How to make a birch bangle
  1. Find a piece of properly harvested birch bark that is about 1’x1′.
  2. Test the piece for flexibility. You should be able to bend it in a circle without cracking it. Harness your inner Goldilocks—not too thick or too thin, but just right.
  3. Soak the birch for 2-3 hours, then dry it with a towel and lightly brush off any dirt.
  4. With a pair of scissors, cut the bark to a desired width. It’s important that you cut with the natural bend of the bark. Go with the grain.
  5. Wrap it around your wrist to measure for the final cut. The bangle should be loose enough to slip over your hand, and tight enough that it doesn’t fall off.
  6. Cut for length.
  7. If you want to decorate your bracelet, this is the perfect time. Pick your medium: acrylic paint, colored pencils, markers, crayons, pens or charcoal. Be creative!
  8. Line up the ends of the bark and overlap them by 1 inch.
  9. With a needle and sinew, make two or three X stitches where the bark overlaps.
  10. Enjoy your bracelet! And remember, it’s made of nature and might break. When it does, you can use it to make a fire. If you’re in a survival situation, it might save your life. Remember, your bracelet contains the power of fire!
Tips for finding a good piece of birch bark

Properly harvested bark is not peeled from a living tree or removed from public state land inside the park.

  • Check the ground around a grove of birch trees after a good wind or rain storm.
  • If you know someone who cuts wood, or if you discover a detached birch limb, peel the tree. Take a knife or hatchet and cut against the grain. Carefully peel the bark off. Sometimes it will catch and rip in areas where there might be a knot in the wood. This bark will work the best because it’s fresh and flexible.
  • If all else fails, you can buy sheets of birch at rustic furniture shows.