Monday, November 26, 2012

From the Top Shelf - Punishment Birch

"How to Make a Punishment Birch" was originally published in The Governess magazine published by the Alice Kerr Sutherland Society. It contains some very useful instructions for those would like to experiment with birching but don't know how to construct a birch.

A properly made birch rod is an instrument of surpassing beauty - and tragedy, since if correctly manufactured, with due regard for the age, sex and physique of the recipient and the gravity of the offence, it will last, if administered with finesse, precisely as long as the apportioned chastisement...and not one stroke longer.

Construction of the rod therefore must be undertaken with all those variable factors very much in mind, though a birch which outlasts the punishment for which it has been specifically created is less grievous a sin against aesthetics than one which flies apart at an earlier stage.

Begin by cutting and selecting the required number of suitable twigs. Choose green (young) twigs if you wish to show mercy, otherwise select switches from the older trees. In all cases trim off all greenery and the lower side shoots from each switch, preserving the general club like profile.

Place the prepared switches on a table and take some moments to study them. Note the spread and direction of even the smallest side twig, and remember that the greater number of these finer twigs that remain within the 'envelope' of the finished rod, the more slowly will the birch move through the air and the lighter and more diffused will be the resulting stroke. This prime characteristic can, to some extent, be cancelled out by the length of the finished rod and the power behind the stroke.

Having grouped the trimmed switches into the perfect punitive profile, secure loosely with string while you prepare the handle. All birch rods should be properly dressed with ribbon- preferably silk- before presentation and eventual use. With the ribbon, begin winding from the base upwards, relaxing the tension as you ascend. This preserves the conical shape. Bisect the free end of the ribbon and knot, then fashion into as elegant a bow as you can contrive.

I think I'll go for a walk and admire the birch trees in the neighbourhood. Maybe I'll bring my secaturs, just in case.

From Hermione's Heart


Simon said...

Good luck making your birch and I hope you enjoy the results. Personally I find birches the most intense and painful implements to be beaten with. Whilst the first few strokes sting the pain builds quickly and after a surprisingly few strokes becomes exceptionally intense. With most implements I have a reasonable endurance but a birching can quite quickly have me squirming and pleading for mercy.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the lesson. All those twigs would make fine kindling material on a cold day.


June said...

I have a particular fascination with being peat once. I wonder if I could convince Ward. He equates switching as correction, though. Couldn't hurt to ask....well actually in this case I guess it could!

ronnie said...


Don't you normally have to soak the twigs or am I thinking of another type?

If you do make one, I hope you take a picture and share it with us.


Unknown said...

Hmmm... All I can think looking at that is it would make a mighty fine broom :P

The Man does love perusing branches on trees when we take the dog for his evening walk though. Luckily for my bottom he has yet to find any he deems satisfactory.

Pecan nutjob said...

We've often fantasized about birching, but we've never make any attempt. First, there's the problem of finding birch, second, to make the actual rod, and third, it looks really painful, isn't it?

Unknown said...

I think I'll keep this post to myself. ;-)

Hermione said...

Simon - Your description has made me have second thoughts about trying this for real.

Joey - Yes, that's an excellent alternative.

June - YEs, it could, but he probably wouldn't mind the suggestion.

Ronnie - Yes, you do, but maybe that depends on whether the twigs are young or old.

Dawn - It would make a good broom. Your Man may one day find the perfect set of branches for you.

Pecan - For some reason your comments always get classified as Spam by Blogger. Yes, I suspect it is very painful; see Simon's description above.

Young Lady - Very wise of you.


Aimless Rambling said...

I don't think I will be making one of these. A while back I cut a couple of switches because I just had to try, that was enough for me.

Blondie said...

Don't think I am going to make one of these. Stick with paddles for now.

Anastasia Vitsky said...

Oh my goodness...I was cringing as I read this. Ouch ouch ouch. Very interesting, though.

Jake said...

I love DIY projects, and this is one I think I could definitely find time for. Thanks for sharing, Hermione!

Hermione said...

Sunny - Switches are so ouchy!

Blondie - I'm sure paddles feel like marshmallows compared to a birch.

Ana - Not for the faint-hearted:)

Jake - Welcome! I hope you give it a try.