It has been some time since there has been a posting in the “Toys Are Born” series. This one is a simple make of a large Birch. The main material used is Cornus alba ‘Sibirica‘ also known as Siberian or Red Barked Dogwood. Rather than bore you with the Horticultural details of this shrub, here are a few links, for those that wish to learn more about this plant Cornus alba – Wikipedia, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ / RHS Gardening, and Cornus alba
Getting the branches
If the Dogwood is cut close to the ground in the spring it will produce long red stems during the summer, that will stay supple through the winter until the spring and are usable for this purpose throughout this period. Cut about 10 stems from the shrub, choosing the straightest and best coloured. As you can see from the photo, if properly pruned by spring, this shrub will produce very long stems in one seasons growth.
Making them usable
Pick the six choicest stems, keeping the rest for reserve. Using some secateurs, cut them to a manageable length but leave them at least 20cm longer than you want the finished article to be. then trim off all of the small side branches.
Lay the six stems close together and using Gaffer Tape (that’s Duct Tape to those of you who prefer to use the American name) stick the stems together in a line and then do the same from the other side, as in the photo above. This is to stop any of the stems slipping out of place once the Birch is finished.
Rolling the stems
Now roll the stems together, as tightly as you can.
Making the handle
Using some secateurs, trim the ends of the stems flat. Then using Gaffer Tape bind the end of the stems together for about 15 cm of their length. Bind the tape around until it is about 3 layers deep. This will be the main binding for the Birch and will form a comfortable handle for the spanker.
The second bind
Grasp the stems in a fist and move that fist up and down the stems until you find the pinching point that creates the spread of the branches that you want on the finished Birch. At this point bind the stems together with Gaffer Tape, as in the photo above. Bind the tape around three times to create a strong bond.
The final trim
Decide what the final length of the Birch is to be, for this one I decided on 110 cm. Using secateurs, trim the stems evenly, so that they are all the same length.
You should now have a large, menacing looking, beautifully red Birch bundle. It should make a wonderful swish, when swung through the air and can be used to instil a strong psychological threat. In use though this is not the most severe type of Birch and you will find it has to be swung pretty hard to bring on a severe pain level. At normal levels of play the pain levels produced are not that harsh and even those with a relatively low level of pain tolerance should be able to play with this toy. It does need to be made out of freshly cut stems and does have a limited life span of about three to four weeks. If you have access to a Siberian Dogwood shrub though it costs next to nothing to make and is available for use right through the winter period and into the spring. It is also a nice plant for a bit of winter colour for any garden.