You can utilize tree species often overlooked by commercial logging companies, including basswood, black birch, white birch, poplar, elm, and butternut. These species are ideal for some types of carving, framing, making instruments, fabricating walking sticks, and making decorations. For income, these products may be marketed to crafters, or selling products through craft fairs. Harvest the desired species based on a forest management plan. Example: Framing watercolor pictures with halved birch limbs. Cooking wood represents true interaction with your forest. You can select favorable species, then cut and splitting the wood to produce a useful size and shape to accommodate cooking and grilling. Wood smoke enhances meat and fish flavors, imparting a rustic scent to the food. You can also place the wood into incense holders and steamers. If you are trying to make a market, consider packaging and selling directly to grill owners (include directions and recipes), selling to restaurants, selling to herbalists and spas, or creating unique gift packs. To keep your forest healthy, use species thinned for woodlot management. You will avoid problems if the wood is very dry (less than 10 percent moisture), clean, and pest-free.
Begin by assessing your forest for hardwoods with knots, burls, or unusual shapes. If you have a good inventory of these, also consider collecting logs with decorative bark, such as white birch and American beech. Common uses include wall and hearth decorations, coasters, furnishings, bases for carvings, frames, bird feeders, and other rustic-looking uses. Any of these uses could comprise a part-time business as well. You will get more out of a sustainable, well-managed forest, so use only species and trees removed as part of a long-term management plan. Keep and eye out for insect pests and splinters.
Obtaining the right kinds of materials from forests for weaving and dyeing will take some research, but plenty of information is available. Some forest owners will be inclined to experiment with various plant uses. Usually, these materials are used to create natural products for decoration, coloring textiles, and weaving baskets or small-scale crafts. It may be possible to establish yourself as a source weaving and dyeing materials for local crafters and spinners. As with other forest projects, make sure you harvest small portions of vigorous populations, replant, or create a cultivated area. Among the problems to overcome are long-term storage, timing of harvest, and drying of the materials. Older home craft books explain traditional methods of using forest products.
The NY forest is full of potentially “weavable” materials, such as willow, grapevine, and fibrous plant stems. You should begin by exploring your forest, noting and flagging trees, vines, and plants that have the properties of good weaving material.
Willow is an excellent kind of tree for weaving with its long, flexible branches. A lot of willow used in the Unted States for basket making is imported. The color and texture depends on the kind of willow. Purpleosier willow (Salix purpurea), American willow (Salix americana), and crack willow (Salix fragilis) are some of the top species. Look for these or plant them in wet, sunny openings, on creek banks, or in damp hedgerows.
White oak can be split into long strips (“splints”) for a durable, long lasting weaving medium. The trees shoud be small (4 – 6″ diameter) and free of knots. Trees that are damaged are usually unsuitable. Virginia Tech has information about oakwood weaving at Oakwood Baskets.
Ash is used for baskets and other woven products. The logs are cut into straight, unblemished sections, about 5 – 7 feet long. After de-barking, the log is pounded with the backside of an axe or sledge to loosen the woody fibers. Strips are peeled and processed from the log.
Many forest plants can be used to make natural dyes. Elderberries produce a dark purple, or green dye, depending on harvest time. The inner bark of red and white oaks produces reddish brown dyes. Walnut husks can produce a brown or golden-brown dye. Young ferns in the “fiddle head’ stage are said to be a potent green dye. Experiments can abound for you!
Content for this page was written or compiled by CCE of Schuyler County.
Senior Resource Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Regional Director for the CCE Master Forest Owner volunteer program, Forest Manager for Cornell’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest
Last updated July 26, 2019