These are a joy to make and have around the place. Rather than shave the bark off I like to leave it on; especially with birch. When choosing which part of a branch to use I will often go for areas with small burrs or deformities as these gnarly bits add even more character. The irregular grain around such areas can make the process of hollowing more tricky but it’s worth it I reckon.
With most traditional crafts it’s the process which fascinates me as much as the end product and shrink pots are a good example of this. A fairly green log is cut to length then hollowed using a large barrel eye auger. A channel is then cut around the inside of the base of the pot and a well seasoned round base is tapped in to fit loosely in the groove. As the green log section dries, it shrinks around the base, locking it firmly in the groove. Make the base a bit too big and the pot will split as it dries; make it too small and it will forever rattle loosely.
I find they sell well and I love hearing how people intend to use them. So far customers have bought them to keep olive oil bottles in (so the drips don’t mess up the kitchen work-top), to house handwash dispensers in the bathroom, to keep pencils, pens etc tidy and for keeping cooking spoons, spatulas etc in one place. With lids they’re good for coffee, tea bags, sugar…they really are very versatile little pots. They were common in Britain in the bronze age apparently and are still in use in Eastern Europe.