Ash Baskets: A Totally Different Way to Work with Wood

April 3, 2020 by Charles Rollins
Transporting Black Ash Logs

Moving Logs for Basket Weaving

Amidst the Covid-19 shut down we all are trying to find ways to keep ourselves busy and entertained at home. This pandemic has given me the opportunity to practice making baskets with black ash, a native species of tree that has historically been used for basket weaving by indigenous populations across the eastern half of the US.

Timo, one of the partners here at THVT, owns land adjacent to our Vershire shop where he graciously let me cut down a black ash last summer. Just cutting the tree down, cutting it to manageable lengths, and getting it to my car was a process.

Then comes the work of pounding out the splints. After peeling off the bark, I hammered the entire log with a mini-sledge, which crushes the fibers between the growth rings. This results in each growth ring later peeling off the log in sheets that are about 1/16″ thick.

After the logs have been pounded, comes the tedious work of cutting straight, even splints from the wide panels of material that peeled off the log. All this and we haven’t even start to weave a basket yet! Good lord almighty.

Finally, once all that prep work has been done, it’s time to weave a basket.

This was my first project, a backpack basket. After weaving the main body, I carved a rim and handle from some leftover unpounded logs. After lashing them onto the rim, I had a pretty spiffy looking basket. But it STILL wasn’t done until I fussed with the sewing machine for about a day to get the harness just right. I’m pretty proud of the result.

But why just have one basket? I was able to put the finishing touches on an even BIGGER backpack basket and this nice round gathering basket.

Thanks for looking and hopefully we will be back in action in person again soon!