I'm trying to make rope from tree bark, but I couldn't succeed. Sometimes the cordage is too stiff, sometimes it is too fragile. I tried from a lot of trees available near me. I tried first with 2 very elastic trees that can be bent to make a bow:

  • Cornus sanguinea¹
  • Walnut

Then I tried with these:

  • Willow
  • Beech
  • Ash
  • Cherry
  • Poplar

Either my technique was wrong, or a different tree is needed. I tried with fresh bark collected and I tried with bark that I soaked in water for 8 hours. I don't understand something: If I succeed in making something strong that resembles a rock, how do I prevent it from rotting or from drying and crumbling like spaghetti?

¹ This doesn't seem to have an English name, because it is native to Eastern Europe (where I'm from) and Asia. It's something like blood dogwood, but it grows as a tree not a bush.

  • Green ash bark works for a while, until it dries out. Were your samples fresh or seasoned?
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 16:59
  • What does fresh or seasoned. I tried in spring Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 18:38
  • 1
    @BogdanFloareș fresh = recently taken from a tree that is either still standing or has only just been cut down. Seasoned means left out to weather and dry.
    – bob1
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 18:46
  • 1
    Thanks @bob1. As an indication I trimmed an ash tree early last summer, and whittled some thin branches into crude toy weapons for my daughter and her friends. I used long strips of bark to tie on sword crossguards and spear heads. They were secure at first but after a few weeks the bark was brittle and they fell apart
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 18:55
  • But I think there are proper ways to use bark fibres (not whole bark). Maybe I'll get the chance to look later
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


Ropes can be made from bark, but bark can't simply be used as rope.

Several woods are good, but willow species are widespread so is a popular choice. The fact that it grows many thin, straight stems quickly is probably good too as apparently thin stems are a good source (further reading on traditional species and methods from North America).

This article goes into detail on making cordage from willow bark, but the key steps include:

  • removal of the "weak useless" outer layer
  • boiling in a mixture of wood ash and water (i.e. an alkaline mix)
  • splitting from thick straps to thin strands (it's not clear to me whether the thick pieces could be used for some tasks)
  • making the actual cord, which really needs its own description. At this step, new fibres can be fed in so that the result is longer than the pieces you started with.

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