I'm up at the cottage and I wanted to make myself a traditional bow saw. I got this green piece of poplar and I need to debark it before I rip it. It's about 4-5 inches in diameter if that matters.

The Log!

What tools can I use to remove the bark? It is not peeling by hand and my pocket knife would be tedious.

  • Forgive me. I am using mobile as I don't have internet here – Matt Aug 4 '15 at 15:32
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    You don't need to debark a log before you saw it ;-) But FWIW when I debark smaller pieces I'd use a small knife usually, in a sort of whittling manner. It is a bit slow and tedious but it gets the job done. – Graphus Aug 4 '15 at 16:02
  • If it's tulip poplar, save the inner bark - it makes great fire starting material when processed and fluffed up. – grfrazee Aug 4 '15 at 16:10
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    Also, I'd try splitting the log before ripping it. Splitting will take a significantly smaller fraction of the time ripping will, and from what I remember, poplar splits fairly evenly. – grfrazee Aug 4 '15 at 18:51
  • Poplar peels best in the spring. Green poplar in the spring takes almost no work, This time of year a little more work, but not too bad. Recently dead or winter wood the most work. – bowlturner Aug 4 '15 at 21:21

A draw knife is one traditional tool used to remove bark. draw knife at wiki

If you have a folding pocket knife, you might be able to hack it into a mini-draw-knife- wedge the tip into a small stick, use tape or twine to close up the split, then use the body of the knife as one handle, and the stick as the other.

  • YES. I knew I brought my draw knife for a good reason. I just didn’t know if that was bad for it – Matt Aug 4 '15 at 15:46
  • If you have a magnet handy, I'd probably run it over the wood just to be sure there's no embedded nails, barbed wire, or steel buck shot in it. Oh and if the wood's green, be sure to clean, oil, and wipe off your draw knife. – TX Turner Aug 4 '15 at 15:50
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    The pocket knife converted into a rudimentary drawknife is a great idea. Just a word of caution for anyone who wants to try this: from experience using wrapped two-part handles for some carving, the binding has to be wound very tightly to grip the blade firmly enough for it to be safe to use. – Graphus Aug 4 '15 at 16:10
  • @Graphus- agreed. Though the good thing is that if the tape / twine lets go, the knife just usually flips open, away from you (assuming you're using it like a typical draw knife.) I've done this a few times over the years, it's so much easier to pull than to push. – TX Turner Aug 4 '15 at 16:17

As @TXTurner suggests, a drawknife is great for bark removal. The dirt, grit, and grime in the bark will dull the blade faster, so it might be a good idea to have a drawknife dedicated for the task.

National Trails Training Partnership also suggests the following tools:

Bark/Peeling Spud
enter image description here
(source: TraditionalWoodworker.com)

(Carpenter) Adze
enter image description here
(source: Lee Valley)

I also suggest using a hatchet or small axe for bark removal. I've done this plenty of times with good results. Using a broad axe or a side axe will help speed things up since they're made for this sort of thing. Side axes only have a bevel on one side thus they are much less likely (or entirely unlikely, if properly sharpened) to bounce off the log and into your leg.

Broad Axe
enter image description here
(source: Gransfors Bruk)

Side Axe
enter image description here
(source: AntiqueTools.co.uk)

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