When building a structure out of cordwood masonry it is very important to remove the bark from all of your log ends. This is called 'barking the wood'. The reasons for barking your wood are several. First, the bark prevents the wood from drying quickly. Second, insects like to live in bark. And third, the bark will eventually loosen and fall off the log, causing your walls integrity to be compromised.

The tool you use to bark your wood is called a barking spud.

I am not aware of any commercially available tools of this nature, but it is very easy to make your own barking spud. I got the idea from a book by Rob Roy, a well known cordwood builder. Rob has tried using axes, trowels, sharpened leaf springs of trucks, and cut-off shovels. He mentioned using garden hoes in passing only. And it works like a charm.

You will need a common gardening hoe, a torch, a hand sledge hammer, an anvil or heavy vice, vice grips or tongs, a grinder, safety glasses, and some nice heavy leather gloves. Please exercise caution with these dangerous tools and do not blame me if you mess yourself up.

  • Step one:
  • separate the blade of the hoe from the handle.
      The head of my hoe was simply driven into the handle and held by friction. To remove it I just smacked the blade a few times with my hammer while holding the handle.
  • Step two:
  • heat the metal.
      The metal shank is usually welded to the blade of the hoe and then bends at a 90 degree angle before being inserted into the handle. Use the vice grips or tongs to hold the head by the shank. Then heat the bend with the torch until it becomes malleable. Be careful with the torch. And be aware that the vice grips or tongs can heat up. Metal conducts heat very well.
  • Step three:
  • straighten the shank.
      Remove the flame from the metal and place the head on the anvil, vice, or some other really hard, stable surface. Now beat the hell out of the metal until the shank is straight.
  • Step four:
  • re-attach the blade to the handle.
      This is perhaps the simplest part of the process. Insert the shank back in the hole in the handle. Turn the hoe upside and bash the blade into a log. This should drive the shank deep in to the handle. Since you will mainly be pushing with this tool, you should never have a worry about the head falling out of the handle.
  • Step five:
  • sharpen the blade.
      It would be very inefficient to peel the bark off logs with a dull blade. So start up your grinder and get to work. A nice 45 degree angle should do the trick. Try to sharpen evenly for best peeling results.
  • Step six:
  • Peel some logs.
      The long handle of your spud will give you excellent leverage to sever the bond between wood and bark. With a little practice you should be able to strip off several feet of bark with one fell swoop.

    Alternative House Building by Mike McClintock

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