Beginning the basket/cradle

Today was basket weaving, or more accurately, cradle-weaving. The project is a woven cradle for the Old House in Cutchogue, Long Island. I’m using white ash splints I pounded off a log some time ago. I soaked them in water for a while, then began “dressing” them. Sometimes this means scraping the splint by pulling it under a heavy slojd knife; like this:

Other times it’s peeling them apart. Score across the splint, bend the “tab” back to begin to divide it, then pull. Here’s an old, brief clip:

Once they are cleaned up, I cut them to the widths I need. Sometimes just a pair of scissors is all that’s needed. The uprights are heavier; both thicker & wider, than the weavers (horizontals). I had measured and photographed an old woven cradle at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, that was the basis for this one. I started in with the base woven like a large placemat. Below I’m adding in the short uprights:

Then measuring to arrive at the right size base. My uprights were a little wider than those on the old cradle, so I used slightly fewer of them, but just stopped when I hit the right dimensions.

I need lots of weavers for this project. I made a slitter for slicing the weavers. I’ve never seen one of these tools in the flesh, so I made this one up. It has a series of X-acto knife blades embedded into the end of a narrow pine offcut. Then I screwed a cap of oak to the end grain to keep the blades from slipping:

Then I pull a splint across it, slicing the ash into weavers. I’ve rarely used such a tool, I usually just use scissors. But this basket requires a lot of weavers…

 

Because I’m pretty new to using a tool like this, I don’t really quite “have the technique” yet. Here’s a short view of the action

 

It’s always cumbersome getting the big ones going. They want to flop around a lot…I keep it moist, and bend each side as I weave around it.

After a while, it begins to take shape and I can coerce each “wall” upright, then weave around & around.

It’s beginning to hold its shape on its own.

I weave with a continuous spiral around the basket; here I’m overlapping a new weaver under the end of the previous one.

Next up is figuring out how to weave the hood; I’m splicing in 9 side uprights so they’ll reach across and loop over the top. The long bits to my right form part of the hood at one end of the cradle.

I got this far & quit to take Rose to her violin lesson. Tomorrow I’ll pack these rows down tighter (after they dry overnight) then add a few more to bring the main body of the cradle to its finished height. Then tackle the hood.

my, what semi-perfect ears you have…

For some reason, I have always referred to these things as “ears” – musta heard that term somewhere. They are the bits that a swing-handle fits on for a basket. I make them from white oak or hickory, white oak is the 1st choice. Those on the right in this photo are semi-perfect; those on the left are perfect; the middle ones might make it, they might not. They tore up on the outside of the bend. Might be enough wood to shave away & still have something left behind. Bending white oak basket stuff is what I did today; after running around doing chores first. 

semi perfect ears

I didn’t take shots of the process – it’s too hard to do it & shoot it too. This photo shows some ears and other handles. I rive & shave them from green wood, then steam them in a steambox, a pretty simple one I cobbled together back in my windsor chair days. 

handles & ears

 

Here’s an un-bent ear; for an idea – these are 3/8″ squares; the shaved portion is 3″ long. Quite small. 

unbent ear

 

 

Here’s my newest swing-handle basket = a big one, about 14″ in diameter; about 10″ high to the rim. White ash & white oak. 

 

 

swing handle basket

This style of swing handle is one I learned from a book – The Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket, by Martha Wetherbee & Nathan Taylor

Here’s mine with the handle propped up, as it will be in use…

 

swnig up

And here are the ears in detail; they cross the basket from inside to outside; and fit in a hole bored in the handle. Then the ears are notched, and the rims fit into the notches inside & out. the ends of the ears are shaved thin, and slide under the basket’s weaving. Then the lashing binds it all together. 

installed ear & lashing

installed ear