Bashing ash and Wild about Wood

On Jarrod StoneDahl’s mocotaugan making course last month we got into a discussion about delaminating ash to make splints for weaving.  Jarrod does this for his wife to make baskets from.  See his post on this here.

There was some feeling that this used to be done in the UK.  However, the ash Jarrod uses is a swamp growing variety which grows very quickly so the annual rings are thick. There was some feeling that Edlin had something about this, and indeed on page 28 of his Woodland Crafts in Britain 1949 he describes a Yorkshire tradition of soaking an ash log for several months in a running stream and, after drying, the log is hammered with a wooden mallet causing strips to split off along the annular rings, the bands being used for making birch and heather besoms.  He also has a picture (plate 114) of two men stacking besom heads in Winlaton, Durham and describes the ash as riven.

I’ve eventually tracked down more info on the Yorkshire use of ash strips for fastening ling together to make brooms.

Them were the days.  These are pictures from “Life and Traditions in The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire” by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby (Smith Settle 1990). There they go off to market, notice the oak ‘scuttles’ in the background, these look like the ones we made with Owen Jones.

There is a clearer picture of the tools used in “Made in England” by Dorothy Hartley, Eyre Methuen 1939 (This really is a most excellent book with lots of added colour – look at the adder on the rock.)  The picture will zoom in twice as it’s a scanned image.

So you don’t get a crick in your neck, here it is turned so you can get a flavour of Dorothy Hartley’s writing style:

One of the joys of this book is that she actually took the trouble to go out and visit the craftsmen and record, first hand, how they worked, she often travelled by bike and slept under hedges. There is an excellent account of coppice work on page 23.

Castle Howard

Only two more shows left this year now, having completed our tour of duty at Wild About Wood at Castle Howard.  It really is a joy to work there in the arboretum with so many unfamiliar, wonderful trees from around the world:

We camped a couple of nights next to a Chinese maple.

This beauty is an ash tree, but not as we know it!