Blazing supplies and procedures

Last rev.: 5/22/19 by Peggy Liversidge. Needs Committee Review for new blazers

Blazing Supplies

  • Tool caddy
  • 29 oz. cans of yellow, red, and blue paint*
  • Wide-mouthed jars for smaller amounts of each color paint to take out on trail
  • Paint brushes (3 small, inexpensive brushes, with about 1-1/4 inch bristles)*
  • Aluminum foil, cut to small rectangles/squares (to cover wet brushes when out working)
  • Sturdy paint scraper
  • Cardboard template of a 2” x 6” blaze
  • Pruners
  • Collapsible saw
  • Work gloves

Basic Procedure

  1. Temperature for doing blazing: Do blazing only above 50 degrees F (according to instructions on the paint can). [I believe 50 was the temp. specified on Ace Hardware paints that we used to use, but I’m currently using Clark + Kensington paint (provided to me by Bettina). These cans all say 35 degrees is the lowest temp. you should use it at. Is this now our specified paint brand?]

2.    Paint consistency: Our paint is latex and so is thinned with water. I would say that ideally the paint will be “moderately thick,” so that you can apply a coat that is thick enough so that the brown/gray of the bark doesn’t show through and so that it doesn’t drip. When adding water to thin the paint, I’d suggest erring on the side of initially putting in too little water, since my observation is that a little water goes a long way.    

3.     Paint brushes: The bristles of the inexpensive paintbrushes I use are about 1-1/4 inches wide and long. I’ve found that this is too long, giving too much flexibility, so I cut them back to around 3/4 inch. If you wash out the brushes after each use, they can last for a long time.

4. Reblazing: Most of the work you’ll be doing will be reblazing, so choices have already been made about frequency and the tree to be used, and most of those choices are good enough so that you can just repaint the same blaze when you’re reblazing. However, you sometimes will have to add new blazes or choose new trees to blaze, for various reasons: the tree originally chosen has fallen down or is dying and may fall before you blaze the area again; you may see a gap and decide that an additional new blaze is needed; you may think that the tree originally chosen wasn’t the best one and choose not to reblaze that one but to pick another one; etc. In the latter case, I try to scrape off the original blaze as well as possible.  

5.Frequency of blazes: Blazes should be frequent enough but not too frequent—sometimes this is a bit hard to determine, but generally you should be able to see another blaze at any point as you’re walking along, or it should come into view pretty quickly. When the trail is winding and twisting or is harder to discern underfoot (usually because of rocks), the blazes should be more frequent and be placed both before and fairly soon after twists in the trail. A straighter, clearer path will need fewer blazes.

6. Height of blazes: To make blazes accessible for most people to work on them, I’d suggest that blazes be done at approximately 5-1/2 ft. from the ground. My rule of thumb is that a person who considers him/herself to be short should put blazes a bit above eye level, a medium-height person should put them approximately at eye level, and a tall person should put them a bit below eye level.

7. Trees to choose for blazes: There are several things to consider here:

  • Tree size: In general, try to choose the biggest trees that catch your eye as you move forward.
  • Live vs. dead trees: Also, take a look up to see if the tree is alive. A dead tree can serve as a workable tree for blazing for a number of years, but if you have a choice between two well-placed trees, one alive and one dead, I’d use the live one.
  • Differences in bark: The bark of different trees varies, and older trees have thicker, rougher, more uneven bark, so, if you have a choice of possible trees to blaze, you might factor in what’s easiest to scrape and/or make smooth. Old white pine, for instance, is easy to scrape but impossible to make smooth; it’s the hardest bark to blaze well, I think, because of its deep crevasses. Large black oaks often have ridges that are hard to scrape smooth because the bark is so tough. Birches don’t accept the paint as well as most other trees. Etc.

8.Scraping bark before painting: Whether reblazing or making a new blaze, use your scraper to remove excess or loose bark, peeling paint, lichen, and/or moss and to smooth out the ridges as much as possible before putting on a coat of paint. Minimal scraping (if any) is needed on smooth or thin-barked trees, but if you do see a reason to scrape these, go easy on them so you don’t cut into live tissue. (I’m actually not sure that this harms the tree but I try to minimize it just in case.) Before painting it’s also a good idea to back up a bit and see if the spot you’ve chosen is well aligned from the standpoint of the oncoming walker’s line of sight.

9. Size of blaze: The official Land Stewardship dimension for blazes is 6” x 2”; it helps to cut out a cardboard template and carry that with you to guide your painting. When applying the paint, try to make as neat a rectangle as you can. You usually won’t get very sharp edges or corners, particularly when blazing a tree with thick, crevassed bark, but take a look from 10 or 20 feet back after you’ve painted it and see if you should try to make any adjustments.

10. Removing vegetation obscuring the blaze: Always look to see if there are branches or undergrowth near the blaze that will obscure it as the walker approaches the blaze, and use your pruners or a saw to remove obstructions. Again, step back after you’ve painted and pruned to be sure you haven’t missed anything.

11. Keeping track of what you’ve done: I keep a document to briefly record what I do and when, and at the end of the season I summarize the areas done. For instance, here’s my record of my blazing for Camp Acton in 2010:

Camp Acton: 8/15/10: Blazed both red trails between CA and SH, in both directions. 8/17/10: Blazed yellow loop in ccw direction; also did just a few blazes on red trail (entrance road) to parking lot from Pope Rd. 8/29/10: Blazed yellow loop in cw direction. DONE.

Notes prepared by Peggy Liversidge