top of page

Hickory Bark Sheath

I recently received a shipment of Mora 106's from Morakniv for my students to use in classes I teach. The opportunity afforded me the ability to test out hickory inner bark as a sheath material. I have made birch bark sheaths and I love them, but paper birch (betula papyrifera) is not a common species in my area. Hickory bark seems like the next best option. What I've learned in this process of testing will hopefully be helpful to other sheath-less carvers.

I can't remember what type of hickory I'm using because I harvested it a few years ago when I went through my hickory bark harvesting phase. Since I don't have pictures of that process, I'm just going to start with my readers already having acquired hickory bark from either their own hickory tree or purchasing it.


The hickory bark I used was about 7/8 in. wide when dry. After I soaked it, it was at least 1 in. wide. I think I'm being conservative with this estimate. Do not give into the desire to trim the width while it's in this soft state. 7/8 in. is a decent width for a Mora. If you are sheathing a different knife feel free to change the width. Just keep this expansion in mind while you're configuring your sheath dimensions.

After you have soaked the bark in water for at least 15 minutes, it should be pliable enough to cut into lengths. I found for a Mora 106, 13 1/2 inches the perfect amount needed to make a sheath.

Fold the bark in half, and then fold each half in on itself. Test it with a knife just to make sure you've got everything correct. Then, put it under a jar, or hold it with a clip of some kind until it dries out enough to hold it's shape a little. Hickory bark has a tendency to curl in on itself. To counteract that, I let my piece sit under a jar that contains my linseed oil over night. Then I let it dry over the dehumidifier fan. It stayed nice and flat...pretty snazzy...!

It's important that this component of the sheath is very dry because of the amount of shrinkage involved in using hickory bark. If you wrap a piece of spruce root around the hickory and it's not dry, the roots will become loose.


Next, you need to go to your friendly, neighborhood spruce tree and ask it nicely if you can have some roots. Then thank it for being so generous and understanding. Watch out for poison ivy. It's lurking.

On thing I noticed as I dug into the garden for spruce roots was white fuzz I was uncovering as I dug through the soil. I also ran into quite a few mushrooms. The picture below is a mushroom making it's way to the surface.

Seeing this reminded me of what Suzanne Simard (a professor of forest ecology in British Columbia) found in her research of trees. She found that trees actively share resources through a symbiotic relationship with fungi. This is called the mycorrhizal network. These fungi transfer nitrogen and phosphorus to trees and trees provide carbon to the fungi. Trees can use this network to send resources to smaller trees, or trees that are in more shaded areas. They also share resources outside of their species. Her research specifically showed a sharing or resources between birch and fir trees.

She also concluded that older trees (Mother trees or Hub trees) have larger networks and the ability to subsidize smaller trees and foster growth. This ability, in turn, creates a quicker re-growth if there is ecological damage in a forest ecosystem.