Basket tour pt 2

This is the bedlam that basket-making creates.

Baskets to the left:

Baskets to the right:

I grabbed this laundry basket and brought it out to the shop to measure the handles so I can copy them. I made this one in 1988.

The handles are white oak, the basket is ash. Lashing around the rims is hickory bark. That might be the 2nd lashing, it looks newer than the basket, but I forget if I re-did it.

 

It once had a braided foot running around the bottom, When that wore out, I put white oak and hickory bark “skids” on it. These save the wear & tear on the basket’s bottom.

I bought two baskets on ebay, so I could study them in detail. When I’m done I’ll sell them on to the next person, I don’t need to be collecting baskets. This one’s a real beauty, just as simple as can be. White oak throughout. Round bottom, eight uprights, seven of which are split in half to give an odd number of uprights. That way the weaving winds around and around alternating over one/under one as it goes. It’s about 10″ in diameter, and 5″+ up to the rim.

It’s in great shape, nothing missing, no major cracks that I can see yet.

The outside of the bottom:

The handle isn’t notched for the rim. It is woven into the body, and then it pokes out, gets split in half. One half weaves down the bottom, one half turns up & weaves in on itself.

The other is a rib-style basket, usually associated with Appalachia. All white oak as well.

It’s quite small, I forgot to measure it but it fits inside the other one. Just…

I made a few baskets of this form back in the 1980s, but haven’t made one since. I got fixated on New England/New York style baskets, and stuck with those. This is a fine example of that type of basket, very “workmanlike” – not a precious piece of weaving (neither of these two).

 

If anyone wants to buy the old ones, let me know. I paid $94 total for both & shipping. I’ll sell them for $35 each plus shipping. I’ll have some of my own baskets for sale in a week or two. They’ll be way more than that!

Fraxinus nostalgia

First. some blog updating – long-time readers of the blog will have noticed an increase in video-action recently. And a drop-off in the written-text-and-photos approach. Today’s post is all still-photography. I am not turning away from that format, it’s my main interest in the blog. It serves several purposes, one of which is purely selfish. It’s my journal. For the past 12 years almost.

I’m enjoying the videos (now that I don’t have to learn editing, thanks Daniel) and will continue to add them. The goal is to have both formats in regular rotation. I have nothing but time, right?

When I think of die-hard gamers who spend a lot of time blowing stuff up on computer monitors, I think of Mary May, the woodcarver. She just seems so at home with that gamer scene. (that’s a joke) – yesterday I was a guest on her livestream https://www.twitch.tv/search?term=mary%20may%20woodcarver

Mary’s there 5 days a week at 1pm eastern time, carving away or having guests present stuff. When all of our travelling woodworking circuses got cancelled, several of us were adapting one way or another, and Mary’s response was to dive head-first into live-streaming her carving work. Watch them live, or catch them later, they’re archived on her site there.

Now onto what you came here for. Michael Burrey nabbed an ash log for me the other day. I went to his place, mask & all, and split some to bring home. These bolts are eighths of the log. They’re probably about 5-6 feet long right now.

I was planning on mostly making ladderback chair parts from them, with some basket splints and other bits. But when I got to riving it, I saw that the outermost 2″ is so slow-grown as to be hideously weak for chair stuff. Look at this section, just over 2″ – and has over 40 years of growth. (ten years between each pair of pencil marks.)

This got pounded into basket splints instead of becoming a chair post. There are chair parts in the log, the earlier portions are still nice & straight, and grew more quickly. This is a finished shaved chair post, 1 1/4″ thick (at the foot) – just about 11 1/2 rings to this piece.

My work for the past 25 years or more has mostly been making oak furniture, but way back when in my chair-making days, I spent a lot of time making ash baskets. And I still do make a few every so often. Here’s how I go about pounding the sections to make the splints I’ll use to weave the baskets.

After riving out the stock, I carefully shave it so I end up with a piece about 3/4″ – 1″ thick, maybe up to about 1 1/2″ wide, by whatever length I can get that’s dead straight & clear. In this case, about 3-4 footers (they were split for chairs initially, remember). The goal is to have the growth rings running horizontally through the width of this “billet” and shaved very carefully so the top & bottom surfaces are each a full growth ring plane.

Then I take a 3-lb. sledge hammer and pound along the top and then the bottom of the billet. Hard. I make sure the piece is well-supported on the surface of the stump. An anvil is better…but I don’t have one. Railroad track is excellent as well. Don’t have one of those either. Top & bottom, overlapping the hammer blows.

Now I hang one end beyond where the billet is supported, in this case on a reject chair post. And smack that overhanging projection. This causes the layers to delaminate.

Here’s a detail of the end grain. You can see the open pores in each growth ring. These are the “early wood” or “spring wood” growth. These get crushed under the hammer blows. What remains is the more solid part of the growth ring, the “late wood”, or “summer wood.” Ash is the only wood I have ever heard of that delaminates this way. Black ash is the traditional wood for baskets in northern North America, but white ash (which is what I am using) works too. I’m told by my friend Jarrod Dahl that black ash pounds a lot easier than white. I’ve never had the chance to work it.

Keep pounding and then repeating the overhanging smack and things keep coming apart.

Sometimes a couple layers will stick together in places. You can get in there & pull them apart, carefully.

I coil them together like this, then tie them together to store them til I need them. Later I’ll be showing how I dress the splints and weave some baskets. And I shot video of this work too, we’ll get to see that another time. (you can see a snippet of it on Instagram from today https://www.instagram.com/p/B_myVA5nI9R/ )

For now, as I pick each bolt of ash, and rive it apart, I earmark some for splints, some for chairs. I go through the whole billet, making materials for later use. Then onto the next billet, etc. Ash logs don’t last long, so I’m working to get through this one before the warm weather gets here.

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