Saturday 21 May 2022

Ash Splint Baskets - Day 1

 On a whim the other day I booked a weekend away for my wife and me. Now obviously I'm someone who enjoys doing something and when I saw a course about ash basket weaving I was really interested. This wasn't a subject I knew anything about and I thought it might be a good mix of my woodworking skills and my wife's skills for knitting/sewing. 

The course was near Bristol, was over tow days and my wife had been given a hotel voucher to use for her birthday so we decided to make a weekend of it. The course was through a company called Tree to Treen and the instructor was to be Chell Mateo

The first day was all about material prep, and this is not for the faint of heart (or hand). The method comes from North America but was never adopted here. 

Basically you have to hit a ash log until the growth rings start to separate and it kind of delaminates. You can just see a split starting with the growth ring in the picture above. 

Then you keep beating it. A lot. 

So much so that my wife struggled to use a knife and fork that night! I use hand tools a lot in my day to day life and even my hands were getting sore from it by the end. 

It is magical how the layers come apart though. You work on the log in sections and peel it until you get some resistance, then beat it again. 

It was amazing how much material we ended up getting though - far more than we needed. The other major advantage was that you could then store this material and just soak it before you needed it. 

We then had to select out different thickness pieces (some is different from others) from the pile for different purposes. With the thickest being for the base and thinnest for weaving the top together. 

As we selected them we used special spaced cutters to rip down the ash to the right width. 

With them cut we'd soak them and wrap them up so they could be kept in water. 

But that wasn't us ready to use them! Oh no - we still then ahd to take all the roughness off the pieces and thin some down for different purposes. This was tricky and quite hard on the hands at times. 

So the first day was very hard work but rewarding. 

I'm really glad we didn't dot he one day course where the material is ready for you, otherwise you just wouldn't appreciate the effort that goes into getting these materials ready! 

We certainly felt that we'd earnt our meal that night!

Anyone else on here made baskets from ash before?


  1. This is interesting and zmazing stuff - can't wait to see your baskets.

    1. It was really interesting. I was so impressed with what ash can do in a completely different way to the way I normally use it.

  2. You have both gained new wood working skills and perhaps the start of a basket weaving company? They would make great presents.

    1. Ah no, I have a trade I love, but I'll always look for ways to add new things to it.

  3. I noticed that the mallet had an ash handle and the club was a rolled up ash layers bound with leather. Niiiice. Glad you had fun making the material. Looking forward to the weaving ....

    1. Ah not the layers are rawhide - ash wouldn't take much pounding that way on.

  4. Lovely to meet you Kev, my hands hurt too! :-)


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