5 – The Forest in Nivernais – Debarker5 April 2018
The fifth postcard of the series “The Forest in Nivernais”, printed from a photograph of Raoul Saulnier d’Anchald, depicts a woodcutter striping the bark from a oak.
The fifth postcard of the series “The Forest in Nivernais“, printed from a photograph of Raoul Saulnier d’Anchald, depicts a woodcutter striping the bark from a oak. The bark was usually taken from young trunks or branches (between 10 and 25 years old) because there is a maximum concentration of tannin.
When the coppice had a sufficient proportion of oaks, the loggers of a section decided to shape some bark, and as soon as sap rose in spring, the woodcutter became a debarker. This one was cutting the bark by a circular notch, then by a longitudinal notch and thanks to a tool to remove the bark, he detached a “canon” of bark. The “canon” were then bunched before being shipped to the tanning mills where the bark was crushed.
Tanneries were important consumers of oak bark powder for leather work because the tannin contained in the bark has the property of preventing the rotting of the skins. The skins were thus macerated in a bath of vegetable tannin in special tanks, consisting of three essential phases: swelling, penetration and fixation.
Achille Millien embellishes the postcard “Spring VI – Debarker” of some verses on this forest activity subject to climatic variations because the cold, by slowing the rise of sap, makes debarking more difficult: « Avril est au calendrier / Mais on dirait que Février / Souffle encore. Froide est la sève / Et l’écorce n’obéit pas : / Il faut peser avec les bras / Pour qu’elle cède et se soulève. »