De-barking Logs

Pros discuss ways to get the bark off logs without removing wood. June 22, 2005

I was wondering, how do you remove the bark from a slab to leave the look of the live edge? Does anyone have any ideas?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
I would suggest using a drawknife.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Hydraulic water de-barking is sometimes used.

From contributor M:
Cut the tree down in the springtime and mill it in the springtime, and the bark will just peel off.

From contributor A:
Timber that is felled and sawed in the winter stands a better chance of keeping its bark. In the spring time it will come off.

From contributor J:
I’ve used a pressure washer. This was a lot easier than a drawknife, and it left everything looking good. Make sure you use test pieces first. Some pressure washers will rip apart the sapwood.

From contributor S:
To contributor J: Sounds like an interesting experience. Were you de-barking the entire log? I have some kiln-dried 8/4" white ash boards with the bark still on. I want to remove the bark and leave the contour of the live edge - but I don't want to soak my nice dry boards! Does anyone have any other suggestions? How about using a portable power planer?

From contributor J:
To contributor S: For edgework, I'd use the drawknife. You might experiment with a heat gun or other products used to remove wallpaper like moistened cloths to wet the bark only. When I used a pressure washer I was de-barking some eastern red cedar slabs and posts. They were not yet dry. The bark just pealed off in long ribbons. Also, I was only letting them air dry. I was not worried about shrinkage.

What mechanism is at play in binding the bark to the sapwood? Is it a chemical bond from the sap acting like a glue, or is it a mechanical bond? If it is chemical, then some sort of solvent or lubricant (other than water) may be the answer.

From contributor S:
To contributor J: Looks like the drawknife might be the way to go. My understanding is that the tenacity of the bark has to do with the time of year that the tree was cut. Does that indicate that it does have something to do with moisture content? If it was cut in the springtime, the bark peels off much more easily. Unfortunately for me, the bark on my ash logs does not come off easily.