By: Charlotte Des Roches
Black Ash (Fraxinus Nigra) is a tree that has long been used for making baskets. It has several nicknames, including brown ash, basket tree, and basket ash. It grows in the North Eastern area of the US, and in Canada. To prepare a black ash for using for baskets, a tall, fairly knot free tree is selected. It should be a minimum of 6 feet & preferably 10 to 12 feet long. The bark is then removed, and the log is pounded up & down the length with a mallet to loosen the growth layers. The growth layers can then be peeled off the log & rolled up & saved for further preparation work at a later time. If all the work can't be completed on the log right away, the log should be soaked in a pond until it can be worked on.
The next step in the process is preparing the splints from the growth layer strips. If they have been allowed to dry, you will need to soak them in water before you start. You will need a few tools for this part of the process. A sharp jackknife, scissors, a piece of heavy canvas or leather for protecting your leg, a splitting box, a pencil, tape measure and some clothes pins. Instead of trying to explain the whole process,which many have done before me, and can be found in books and on the web, here are some pictures me working on black ash splints that I use for making miniature basket.
My splitting box
Close up of splitting box
Splint & knife
The Ash in the splitting box
Prepared black ash splints cut & ready for weaving
The Black Ash Splints soaking in preparation for weaving.
Link to a wonderful description called: Process Black Ash Woodsplint For Basketmaking
I have had the opportunity to do the whole process from tree to basket, but that was when we lived in the Northeast. It is hard work, but very rewarding. Now that we live in New Mexico, I order black ash from back east, and get it in strips and do the rest of the processing.
Here are some pictures of some of my Black Ash Miniature Baskets.
Hope you have enjoyed this little journey, and if anyone reading this article is fortunate enough to have a stand of Black Ash Trees on their property, you might consider contacting a local basket weaver. It is a tradition with Black Ash Basket Weavers to trade a basket for a good Basket Tree.