Bark as sheet and cork
Bark as a surface coating has been attractive to artists and craftsmen worldwide: print-makers and furniture-makers in Europe, canoe-makers and north America, home-builders in aboriginal Australia.
In Australia shelters were made of bark, particularly in the more temperate regions. Bark belts were worn in the hotter north-west, also headdresses, caps, personal ornaments associated with mourning, coffins, and containers.
Paper bark was used as wrapping for pigment and for spearhead tool kits. Bark shelters were decorated inside with ochre paintings of hunting scenes. Over the last century, the use of bark as a base for painting has been concentrated in Arnhemland and Cape York districts. Some paintings were created specifically for sacred purposes, although the great majority are now made for sale, mostly on cardboard and synthetic surfaces.
Canoes made of bark have been in use for over 3000 years and were still being made in small numbers during the last decade by a few skilled specialists among native peoples in the eastern states of Canada. The bark was obtained by these groups from the white or paper birch.
Birch bark canoes were usually used in inland waters throughout the year and could last for many years if well cared for. Canoes on the north American pattern are now being made using a synthetic equivalent of birch-bark.
Birch bark itself was also used in producing souvenirs for the tourist trade from the early 19th century onwards in north America. It is still made into a wide range of containers there as well as in Europe.
The cork oak grows in several countries in the mediterranean region, Portugal produces 50% of the world’s commercial cork. No cork can be removed for the first 25 years of the tree’s growth. The outer bark, which supplies cork, can be removed without damage to the tree.
The boiled planks of cork are stacked for two to three weeks to flatten. Only the highest grade planks are used for producing corks. Machines can punch 45,000 corks a day; skilled workers can punch up to 20,000 of the best quality corks a day.
Good quality corks are an essential part of ensuring that wine resides happily in its bottle until required.