What are uses for red spruce (picea rubens) by humans in wilderness settings (e.g. in primitive technologies, bushcraft, wilderness survival, low-tech rural livelihoods, frontier homesteading)? While this could fall under other StackExchange categories (e.g. DIY, chemistry), I'm interested in uses that obviously apply to The Great Outdoors. Some examples I'm aware of:

  • Thread and rope: "Native Americans in North America use the thin, pliable roots of some species for weaving baskets and for sewing together pieces of birch bark for canoes." via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce#Other_uses
  • Pitch: useful for sealing/waterproofing surfaces like buckets, barrels, and boats. via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce#Other_uses
  • Spruce gum: a natural chewing gum; doesn't seem particularly useful but used to be used!
  • Medicinal tea: young needles nearer to the tip of the branch can be boiled for 3 hours then cooled and served as a vitamin C supplement healing scurvy.

Are there other uses of red spruce in this context? Have they been used for wilderness construction, either of shelters or palisades? In modern times this wood is used for construction of objects not exposed to weather: crates, instruments, interior construction.

  • 1
    Why red spruce in particular? Differences between different species are subtle. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 23:21
  • @SherwoodBotsford I specify just as it's what I run into a lot in a forest I steward. Good to know though that the properties of other spruce spp are often applicable to red spruce.
    – cr0
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 2:27

1 Answer 1


A mix of spruce resin, lard, and wood ashes was used by both voyageurs and natives for caulking the seams of birch bark canoes.

Spruce logs have smaller branches than pine, and so are easier to make into even surfaces for making cabins. But give the amount of work to move logs, generally you used what was handy.

It's harder to split than cedar, but you can split roofing shakes out of spruce.

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