Cordage is extremely important in the outdoors and being able to make your own is a great bushcraft skill to possess. Here I’m going to look at sweet chestnut cordage, made from the inner bark. Spring and early summer seems to be the best time to harvest the materials for your sweet chestnut cordage. Look for a green stem about 30 – 40mm in diameter and with as few knots as possible. Cut the stem from the tree and take it to a spot where you will be able to work comfortably.
The first stage is to remove the outer bark. I use the back of a folding saw to do this. Be careful so as not to scrape away the inner bark as well.
Once you’ve scraped the outer bark away, use your knife to cut a line down the entire length of the stem.
Make yourself a small wooden wedge.
Use your wedge to gently peel away the inner bark from the wood underneath.
Now you’ve got the inner bark it’s an easy matter to separate out individual fibres and twist them together into a 2 ply cordage.
If some of this seems familiar, it’s because the process is essentially the same as for making sweet chestnut bark containers. For containers we use the bark from much thicker stems; the thicker the stem, the thicker the bark.
We teach natural cordage on many of our courses, such as the Institute for Outdoor Learning Bushcraft Certificate and our 5 Day Bushcraft Course.
You can see loads of photos from these courses on our Facebook page.