A friend recently recommended this book "Celebrating Birch" published by North House Folk School in Minesota. I ordered a copy and it arrived a couple of weeks ago. It is a lovely inspirational book, full of projects using this most versatile tree, from bowls and spoons to birch tar glue and bark boxes.
The first project I was inspired to try was "shrink pots". I have been aware of these for many years in fact made one nearly 10 years ago when I had a visit from a Hungarian woodworker who showed me how to do them but I had not done one since. They are a very nice example of working with the natural properties of the wood and using the shrinkage as a tree dries as part of the design. A short section of the trunk is hollowed out completely by drilling a hole then expanding it with a knife. Then a groove is cut for a base to fit into. The base is made from dried wood and cut so it just fits the internal diameter of the pot. As the pot shrinks the base is drawn further into the groove until it makes a tight fit.
These shrink pots are sometimes regarded by archaeologists as the precursor to coppered vessels and they were common in Britain in the Bronze age. In Eastern Europe they are still made today, in 1998 I visited Ion Constantin a Romanian bowl turner and one of his products was butter churns made in just this way. In Russia I have seen big vessels made like this out of hollowed trees 2 feet in diameter but my favorites are Scandinavian. Here are some that we just made from a small birch log.
And here is one with carved and painted outside from the shop at Saterglantan, Sweden's national folk school, http://saterglantan.se/eng/index.htm I have always wished I bought this pot.
And a couple of small pictures from North House Folk School's website, it looks an inspirational place. www.northhouse.org/