basket making - basket making; basket making - It may be stated at the outset that although the art of basket making is commonly thought to be confined to the use of osiers, there can be little doubt that the use of cane for this purpose is now nearly as great, particularly in the making of fancy goods. An authority has stated quite recently that as much as one-half of the cane grown and cut is now used in basket work, while bamboo is gradually growing in importance for a certain class of goods. Rushes also take a place in light and fancy articles; but although it is not the intention to treat of the use of rushes or bamboo in these pages, it may be stated that the latter is beaten flat to cause it to split into strips, and is then woven into coarse baskets and rough though strong packing hampers. With care bamboo work may be given an excellent finish, but it does not then compare favourably with osiers or cane in cost.
The Osiers, known also as willows or rods, are the stems of various varieties of Salix or sallows.
The green-leaved osier, or ornard (Salix rubra), is strong and tough, and in request for carboy baskets.
The Spaniard, or Spaniard rod. (Salix triandra), has several varieties, some very good and others very inferior. The black-budded Spaniard is used for the bottoms, rims, and handles of large baskets. The grey Spaniard comes in useful for coarse brown baskets. The horse Spaniard is a very poor kind.
The old common osier, being soft, of course, and brittle, is not worth cultivating in many instances; but there are some varieties of the Salix viminalis that are extremely useful, and the good and inferior ones bear such a close resemblance to each other that the difference often cannot be detected except in the working. The best variety is known under several names, as those of the snake osier, brindled osier, blotched osier, and speckled osier. The yellow-barked osier is also a good one, while the long skin is of smaller growth, but has the good qualities of being heavy, firm, and tough. The brownrod, brownard, or silver osier (Salix hoffmanniana), has a whitish hue on the under side of the leaf, eel baskets being usually made of this variety. The gelsler partakes somewhat of the nature of the Spaniard, but is of more tapering habit, with a thick butt. The new kind (Salix forbyana) is also akin to the Spaniard, being equally strong, but more pliable in working. The Hollander resembles the new kind in its qualities, but is different in appearance; and these may be seen growing in large quantities on the Dutch coast. The stone osier is a good kind, used for fine work.
The blunt-leaved ornard (Salix lambertiana), the bastard French (Salix lanceolata), and the rose ornard (Salix helix), are very inferior, used only for fish baskets and hampers, their ends snapping in the working inward and outward, which consequently makes inferior work; but the bitter ornard (Salix purpurea) grows tough and slender, and, like all the other ornards, will thrive in water.
The French, French rod, or real French, has been imported from France, where it is much used in the manufacture of small ornamental baskets. On the Continent it is much in request by wine coopers, who bind on their wooden hoops to the wine casks with it.
The rods, or willows, as they are termed in the trade, comprise several varieties, as the skit-willow, the gold-stone, or hornrod, of which there are 2 subdivisions - the wire hornrod, which is thin and tough, and the water hornrod, which is very inferior. The rods (osiers, etc.) grow best on strong and loamy soils.
Osiers are not used freshly cut; they are allowed to shrink and dry, which may take some months. To make osiers workable, they are damped in bundles, water being sprinkled on, or they are dipped in a trough of water, after which they are covered with some damp matting. When they get thoroughly damp they are pliable. Brown osiers take the longest to prepare, and require soaking under water for about 4 to 7 days. If wanted quickly hot water may be used, or even boiling may be resorted to.
The principal obstacle to the general cultivation of the osier is the labour of peeling it, a work that must be performed at or near the locality of its growth. The shoots are cut after the ground is frozen, to prevent the roots from being pulled from the soil in the act of cutting. They are bound in large bundles and placed in a tank, or on a level piece of ground, supported in an upright position, and water to the depth of 2-3 in. is allowed to flow over the butts. After standing until spring, the stem has absorbed water enough, by capillary attraction, to render the removal of the bark easy. This is done by drawing the shoots through a special tool consisting of a stake about 3 ft. long and 3 in. thick, with some of its heart removed by a saw for about 18 in. of its length, and cut larger at the bottom, as shown (See Fig. 1).
The pieces of iron, of a section as Fig. 2, are secured by screws to the sides of the opening, the slightly rounded surfaces facing each other. By putting an osier between the irons, pressing the top sides together with the hand and then drawing the osier through, the peel is stripped so as to be easily removed.
Cane is used either round or flat, the cane (except in large sizes) being split and finished to size, so that its natural hard polished skin is not always seen. Exception to this is in the case of chair canes, which always have one side of natural exterior Surface, while others can be had either way. The sizes of canes are recognised by numbers, most cane merchants issuing illustrated price lists, or sample cards, showing the sizes. Fig. 3 will afford an idea of the sizes of some of the numbers, these being about four-fifths of full size. The round canes range from No. 00, which is about 1/25 in. diameter, to No. 16, which is ¼
In working with cane, a suitable quantity is loosely coiled, then dipped into a tub of cold water for a few minutes, then taken out and allowed to lie wet for 20 to 30 minutes. This would be for small cane, while thicker would be allowed longer; but it should be noted, that if the cane is soaked too long it may become rough and rather spoiled.
The following remarks are extracted from a paper on "Basket Making," delivered by Thomas Okey before the Society of Arts, and reproduced by permission.
Materials and Tools
The willows when they reach the workman are known to him as rods, which he roughly classifies as osier and fine. The former is generally used brown for coarse hamper work, and is unstripped; the latter, stripped of its skin, and used whitened or buffed, is employed in the manufacture of the finer classes of work - buff rods being rods which have been boiled before stripping, and so stained a rich light brown hue. The technical terms for the sizes into which the rods are sorted are most ancient and curious. The smaller sizes of brown are known as luke; the rising sizes, as long small, small, three penny middleboro; and the largest, as great. The white is more carefully subdivided; and the smaller sizes are known as tack, short small, long small, etc. Ragged, is the rough twiggy stuff which is rejected as valueless for whitening purposes. Having been soaked in tanks the requisite number of hours or days, the stuff is ready for use. The tools required are few and inexpensive: a shop knife, for cutting out, Fig. 4; a picking knife, for trimming off the rough projecting ends, Fig. 5; one or two bodkins, for staking up or making handles, Fig. 6; an iron, for driving the work closely together, Fig. 7; a pair of shears, for cutting off bottom or cover sticks, Fig. 8; a dog or commander, for straightening the sticks that form the rigid framework of square baskets, Fig. 9, A screw block (See Fig. 10) in which square baskets are commenced; and a cleave of boxwood for splitting osiers - usually made in two shapes, one to split into three, and one to split into four, Fig. 11. The split pieces are called skeins, and are used for sieves and finishing; the splits are then successively drawn through a shave to remove the central pith, and through an upright to render them uniform in width. This is the full kit. An ordinary round or oval basket can be made with no other implement than a knife. The employer provides a lap board, on which the basket is placed while the sides are being filled up.
Strokes and Methods of Working
A rod to the workmen has four different parts - the butt, the top, the belly, the back. To make a round basket, the workman first cuts off the bottom sticks from the butt end, slipes them and places them crosswise beneath his feet, and in this position proceeds to weave the bottom. He first binds them together by two rods, called slath rods, and, gradually opening out the radiating sticks, he fills the bottom up to its required width. The first task of an apprentice is confined to making these bottoms - a peculiar form of torture, known as taking the boy's backbone out. There is a method of making a round or oval bottom in a sitting position, by splitting one layer of the cross sticks with a bodkin and inserting the others. This, however, is rarely practised in this country, and it is scorned by the English workmen as fit only for women and foreigners. The bottom sticks being cut off (and if the basket is to be a common slewed one), the workman sharpens by two cuts on the back an odd number of stakes, which are to form the warp, so to speak, of the sides; these are inserted in the bottom, and then pricked up by the point of the knife, gathered into a hoop, and set up or upsetted in the direction of the body of the basket. This being done it is sided up to the requisite depth, the stakes are bordered down, and the projecting tops are cut off. This is known as the belly. If a foot is needed, it is now put on by inserting the tops cut off from the stakes alongside the upsetted stakes; the foot rods are waled, and then laid down as in a border. A cover is made in similar fashion to the bottom, and handles are fixed by twisting a rod and roping it under and over the border. The strokes chiefly used are termed: a slew, when two or more rods are woven in together; a rand, when one single rod is woven at a time; a pair, when two are woven alternately one over the other; a fitch, when two are woven alternately one under the other; this last stroke is used for making skeleton work. A wale is three or more rods woven one after and over the other to form a binding or string course. Besides common borders, many other forms, such as plaited, roped, tracked borders,are used.
Fig. 12 is an engraving of a waste-paper basket made by Mr. Okey (with no other tool than a knife) to illustrate the chief strokes used in basket making.
The most common example of work for a novice is to make a round mat, and, as this is similar to making the bottom of a round basket, the description may be given here. It is supposed that small cane is used so that the whole operation can be conducted with the hands and made visible for if osiers were used the booted foot has usually to be employed to hold the first cross spokes or stakes while the weaving is commenced. Fig. 13 shows how four spokes are placed to cross four spokes, when the weaving is about to be commenced. These spokes must be long enough to reach well beyond the edge of the mat (or well beyond the top of a basket), to allow of their being finished off properly at the edge or border. Now take a weaving piece or "weaver," and bind it round, over and under the four spokes, as shown at the commencement of the work in Fig, 14, going round twice or three times before "breaking out," which this illustration is intended to show. The breaking out is the beginning to take the weaver over and under each spoke separately, as shown, and at the same time the spokes are spread out more like the spokes of a wheel. After the weaver has been taken round, say twice, in this manner, it will be noticed that the weaver goes under or over the same spokes each time, and this will not produce a strong or proper example of basket work. To overcome this, there must be an odd number of spokes, when it will be found that the spokes which have the weaver go over them on one round will have it go under them the next, and this results in the true kind of basket work required. To arrange for this there has to be inserted what is known as the "odd spoke"; (The desired result can be obtained in another way, this being to start with two weavers, one over and one under, in which case an even number of spokes will do, but the general plan is to insert the odd spoke.) this is shown in black in Fig. 15. The spoke may be merely pointed and pushed in, though the best plan when it is possible (the spokes being thin), is to use the thin end of it for the first binding (as Fig. 14), only beginning with the proper weaver when about to "break out."
When the odd spoke is in, the weaving is continued without interruption, except to see that the spokes are evenly spaced, and to join a new weaver as the last one is used up. There are two or three methods of joining the weavers, that is to say, arranging for the ending of one weaver and the beginning of another. For general purposes the methods are two, these being depicted at Figs. 16 and 17. In the first, it will be seen that the end of one and the beginning of the other are bent at right angles, and, after making a space with the bodkin, these ends are tucked down one each side of a spoke. In the other, a long splice is made, the two ends being tapered off and laid together, and, being held so, they are woven in as if they were one solid weaver. Care is only required to see that the ends of the splice come against the spokes, as shown.
When the circle is of correct size, the question whether the work is to be a mat or the bottom of a basket decides whether the margin or border is now to be made or not. If it is a basket, the spokes have next to be turned up as Fig. 18 (first deciding which side of the finished work shall be inside the basket), and the weaving is continued. A good plan to follow is that known as "turning up at twice," this being to turn up half the spokes, alternate ones and those which the weaver has passed over, then, having woven round one more turn, the remaining spokes are turned up. What is known as "curving" can be done in the same way, except that only a few of the spokes are turned up at the time, so as to make a curved turn instead of an abrupt angle. Curved rims may be made in, this way.
Borders. - There are quite a number of borders that can be made either plain or fancy. The common form of plain border is as Fig. 19, in which the spoke, when turned down, is first passed under the next spoke, over the following, under the next, and is then tucked down beside it. Fig. 60 is a simple open border. Needless to say, there is abundant room for the worker's ingenuity to design borders, while there are numberless examples to be seen in windows of shops dealing in fancy goods.
Colouring Wicker Work
In colouring osiers, those which are boiled with the peel on are given the rich buff tint which wicker chairs usually have. A brown stain may be made of ¼ lb. permanganate of potash in 1 gal. of water; which, after application, must be followed with a second stain consisting of ½ lb. American brown potash, 2 oz. nut-galls, 1½ gal. of water, and Vandyke brown to the required shade. A mahogany colour can be obtained by first coating the wicker work with gum-water, which, when it is dry, is brushed over with a solution of bichromate of potash dissolved in hot water. The work should then be varnished with shellac varnish. A mahogany colour can also be obtained by boiling some logwood chips in water, then adding (very slowly) a small quantity of sulphuric acid. This is brushed on the work, which is afterwards varnished. (And see stains.)
Bleaching is a process not required for osiers, but is sometimes resorted to for cane and rush. The method is as follows. Make a suitable sized bath of boiling water, and dissolve in it 1 lb. washing soda to each gallon. Steep the cane in this for an hour to two hours. After this, wash or soak the canes in clean cold water. Make a bleaching bath by adding ^ lb. chloride of lime to each gal. of water, and immerse the canes in this for about 12 hours. Next put them in an acid bath, ½ pint sulphuric acid to each 3 qt. of water, and let the cane pass through this. Finally wash well in clean water, to ensure all acid being removed. It is best to pass some spare pieces of cane through the process first, to judge the result. (And see bleaching.)
Varnish for Baskets
(a) Good linseed oil is boiled in a capacious vessel until a drop of it, when poured upon a cold stone slab, becomes so viscid that it strongly adheres to the finger when touched, and can be drawn out in long threads. This is mixed with 20 times the quantity of good, fat copal varnish, and the mixture is reduced with as much turpentine oil as is required to bring it to the desired consistence. To colour this varnish, if required, it is best to add aniline colours dissolved in benzol, and to mix the solution intimately with the varnish.
(b) Mix 1 oz. shellac and 3 oz. rosin with 1 pint naphtha; shake till well dissolved and allow to settle before use. (And see varnishes.)