Beginner question about bark removal (live edge/epoxy)

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Forum topic by ironspider5972 posted 07-15-2020 01:29 AM 386 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 30 days

07-15-2020 01:29 AM

Greetings all, first post here! I’m relatively new to woodworking and I’m currently doing a project to do a small cutting board or charcuterie plate using a small walnut slab and epoxy but I have a question about the bark removal and just how much has to be removed (basically if I’ve already removed too much or haven’t removed enough!).

I was using a chisel to break off some bigger chunks of obvious bark that came off easily and then I got my hands on a 5” draw knife and it goes down the side of the slab like butter—it’s really something. The problem is that is cuts so easily that I’m worried I don’t actually understand what is bark that needs to be removed (so that the epoxy can make a good bond) and what can be left on?

As you can see from the pictures, I’m wondering if all the darker material needs to go? Or if I’ve accidentally cut away some of the darker wood that gives Walnut some of its charm? The darker wood is coming right off which makes me think it’s what I need to be removing but that draw knife is so sharp I’m not entirely sure it matters as it would just slice off anything it hits.

Thanks for the beginner tips!

7 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2519 posts in 972 days

#1 posted 07-15-2020 12:07 PM

welcome to the forum. what kind of wood do you have and what size is it ?
in my very limited opinion, Natural Edge projects should have a certain look
of “natural”. I have seen some very nice tables made out of square, machined
boards that were handcrafted to “look natural”.
so, it is all dependent on your realistic expectations of the final results.
you can remove as much material as you want (or not) with the draw knife and
come back and “finesse” the edges to look any way you want. if you don’t like
the look of the new wood that you shaved away, you can color it with a quality stain
or dye to suit your fancy. if this is your very first project, I strongly suggest you
practice on similar material before jumping onto the real thing.
more photos as you go along will help keep you on the right track.

we would much rather see posts of: “How do I do this” ~ vs ~ “How can I FIX this”


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View LittleShaver's profile


682 posts in 1429 days

#2 posted 07-15-2020 12:55 PM

Besides the bark, walnut has two layers with vastly different coloring. The outer layer of wood (sap wood) is creamy white, the inner layers (heart wood) are the distinctive brown color. The black that you are seeing is between the bark and the sap wood and is the ??? (can’t recall the term) layer, which typically dries out and releases the bark. This layer and the sap wood are not typically part of the charm of walnut.

Good advice from John Smith. It’s your project, make it so it pleases you. This type of project falls in to what I think of as an art project, the look is more important than the function.

-- Sawdust Maker

View higtron's profile


258 posts in 3487 days

#3 posted 07-15-2020 03:18 PM

Once I got the loose bark off using a beater chisel fairly dull as to not dig into the cambium layer witch is the black layer. At that point I used a flap wheel on my drill which took of most of the black layer then hand sanded the areas that I couldn’t reach

-- A friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body

View shampeon's profile


2157 posts in 2993 days

#4 posted 07-15-2020 04:57 PM

Am I correct that you’re going to fill in the live edge with epoxy, similar to a “river” table? If so you’ll want to remove the dark fibrous stuff (which is the inner bark) until you hit the lighter colored sapwood. The initial layer of bark comes off pretty easily with a drawknife, as you found. You can still use the drawknife to get to the sapwood, using the same technique: put the edge between the sapwood and the inner bark.

Anything you can’t get off with the drawknife you can use a chisel. I like using a fairly dull beater chisel, as it won’t dig in. Best of luck.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


1838 posts in 357 days

#5 posted 07-15-2020 06:30 PM

Been awhile since I used a drawknife but I think if yours is prone to hogging off too much material in a pass, you can flip the knife so the bevel is down and it will cut finer shavings. I think…...............

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: The Big Bang: Nothing - exploded into Everything. Thanks to Nothing.

View ironspider5972's profile


2 posts in 30 days

#6 posted 07-15-2020 07:30 PM

Thanks so much! I’ve gone ahead and ordered one of those nylon flap wheels for my drill and I’ll try that. I think never having used a drawknife I put too much angle on it in some spots and it cut down into the sapwood so I guess I’m going to have to “contour” it to look more natural as John Smith said.

View shampeon's profile


2157 posts in 2993 days

#7 posted 07-15-2020 08:00 PM

You may have done this already, but another tip is to use the blade of the drawknife as a pry bar. Dig the blade into the seam between the sapwood and the bark a short ways, then rock the blade, using it as a lever to pull up the bark.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

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