Sunday, March 2, 2014

Failure is not...not an Option

Those of you that have been following my blog for a while have noticed that I have had several cliff hangers that have not been addressed. I would like to blame these loose ends on relocating for my new job...but mostly it is because I am a lazy blogger. So here is my small peace offering for those that have been waiting anxiously (but not really) to find out how my basket weaving attempt ended.

Although I started well enough, things soon turned south as I went to start the sides of the basket. Before this debacle, however, I first collected some cherry shoots from my pseudo-coppice in the Alden House garden.

Two cherry faggots for the sides

The next order of business was to do some research. I found a couple of helpful articles and videos online that are worth taking a look at, even just for pure unadulterated curiosity. After picking up what I thought would be helpful tips I got back to work. I sharpened the spars, so they jam into the weavers better, and inserted 12 of them into my basket bottom.

Sharpened spars

In case you aren't familiar (like me) with basket weaving, 12 is a very poor number for spars. In order for the weavers to alternate over-under-over-under continually as you spiral around the basket you need an odd amount of spars...and through four years of mathematics and engineering I am almost positive 12 is not an odd number. Unfortunately I did not know this fact when I started this basket.

Once the spars are in, it was time to bend them to set the hard corner between the base and sides of the basket. I tried several methods to achieve this bend, and none of them worked very well. Boiling made the cherry brittle, bending without modification just fractured the stock, twisting while bending only rent the fibers asunder, so I found the best (out of the horrible solutions) was to cut a small notch through half the thickness of the shoots which helped reduce fracture. This is probably a good reason why you don't see a lot of cherry baskets.

Spars inserted and bent up the sides

Finally I started winding the weavers over-under-over-under-over-over; yup that even number of spars bit me in the ass.

Oh, and another good tip that I found AFTER botching this basket, is that you can reverse the direction of weaving when you start the sides, this reversal makes the basket stronger (don't ask me why).

As can be seen...the sides didn't shape up very well

After a couple hours of trying to weave the sides, unwind them, and try again, I finally surrendered and admitted to myself that this basket was not meant to be. Since this attempt I have done even more research, including videos, books, and blogs, and I have been looking into some basket weaving courses locally. Hopefully my next attempt will be a little more inspiring, but this is The Clueless Woodwright, not 'The Has Everything Figured Out Woodwright' (that just doesn't have the same ring).


  1. Let him among us who has not failed at something cast the first basket! If you haven't already, Jason, have Mark bring you on a field trip to the mini-stand of basket willow out in the woods behind the River Street House.

    1. Rick,

      I always like to try and fail miserably at gives me a fighting chance at the next go around. I will have to bug Mark about that willow stand, although I don't know if he would appreciate me cutting it all down :P.