Butt and pass log homes must be built out of logs that have had their bark removed.
Leaving the bark on the logs for too long can lead to insect infestations, mold growth from trapped moisture and instability of the structure when the bark becomes loose. There are a variety of ways to remove the bark from a log using hand tools or large, commercial machines.
Here I will explain several methods for removing bark from a log and why I think using a spud is the best way, but first here are several other ways to remove the bark.
Note: When removing the bark from a tree you will need to consider several factors such as species, time of felling, time of year and equipment. Depending on these factors either of these solutions might work better for you 🙂
Mechanical Ring Debarker
Logs at a lumber mill are most commonly debarked using this large, efficient machine. Many lumber mills use a mechanical ring debarker to skin logs that are sent in for hewing or shaping. Sharpened cutting blades are rotated along the surface of the log as it passes through the machine, pulling off any bark all the way to the innermost layer. However, homeowners cannot use one of these machines to skin logs on their land, and having logs finished at a sawmill can be expensive. Mechanical debarking is usually the best choice if speed is an issue in building a cabin.
Pros: Quick and requires no work from you
Cons: Very expensive and can damage the surface of the log
Peeling the bark off of a log by hand requires a sharp, strong tool that separates the layers of a log without chipping away at the timber too much. A crow bar is a great tool for taking off large chunks of bark and won’t catch on the wood inside the log like other tools. Peeling a log with a crow bar is best done in the spring because the sap and water in the inner layers of the bark will make it softer and easier to remove. The curve of the bar will help give you extra leverage for pulling up large sections of bark, and the tapered end of the tool will slip between the bark and the timber easily.
Pros: A simple way to remove bark that is loose and does not damage the surface of the log
Cons: Requires a very long time to de-bark a log
Scraping a thin-barked tree requires a sharp, smaller tool for a more precise cut. A draw blade works well for removing soft barks on trees like birch, or carefully trimming off stubborn pieces of thicker bark. Two handles and a slightly curved blade let the user pull the tool towards him instead of pushing away. Cutting two score marks in the log is usually required before skinning that particular section, as the thin blade can have trouble cutting into harder types of bark. The timber is smooth and ready for hewing after being skinned with a draw blade, but it takes much longer to debark a tree with this tool.
Pros: Only that it can be used to remove bark from an area you want to be more careful about
Cons: Requires a higher level of skill, takes a long time to de-bark a log and can damage your log
A spud is a thin, sharp blade on the end of a sturdy pole, much like a sharpened and straight shovel. Butt and pass log home builders debarking their own logs can put all of their weight behind the spud when pushing it under the bark. Gouges and nicks in the timber are more likely to occur with a spud because the blade may catch on the wood, but it doesn’t take as long to finish the job as it does with smaller hand tools. To help prevent nicks in the log you should not sharpen the spud but better leave it slightly blunt. I suggest practicing on a “spare” log before starting on your home logs.
Pros: A quick way to remove bark without damaging the log
Cons: Requires a little practice to perfect your technique
The best and cheapest way to remove bark from a log is by using a spud (not the quickest). You can remove the bark from a single 40 foot log in about 2 hours but after you would want to have a rest, it’s pretty hard on the back and arms. If you have family or friends that can help out then the task is not so difficult.