Pounding ash splints

pounding ash splintsSometimes, you just want to take the piece of wood and beat the hell out of it. Thankfully, the other week when Phil, Frank and I did just that it was for good reason and not just to release some built-up frustration.

In the US there’s a whole branch of basketry based on ash splints, thin ribbons of wood created by separating the growth layers by pounding either the whole log or a prepared billet. I’d seen it done in some videos and when Jarrod was over for Spoonfest he brought some small samples with him to use in his bark sheath workshop. Jarrod’s wife, April makes beautiful splint baskets from ash, see them at Woodspirit in the gallery. Several UK makers were interested in the process and discussed trying pounding our native ash, spurred on by some old references to the technique.

ash splintIt’s always easier to actually get on and try these ideas if there’s two of you so I mentioned it to  my mate Phil Bradley who’s a basketmaker. He was immediately excited by the possibilities and the video links I sent so we met up on a damp day earlier this month for what we refer to as a ‘play day’ but should probably come under ‘continuing professional development’ or something.

Phil’s mate Frank came over too and we each took turns hammering the billets we’d cleaved and drawknifed out of a green 6″ diameter log. It was satisfyingly easy to do and didn’t need as much hammering as I’d expected, just a series of overlapping blows top and bottom (perpendicular to the growth rings) to break the bonds between layers and then angled strikes to separate them. This gave us splints about 1.5-2mm thick which we split further using a pocketknife to start a split and then pulling it apart. The inside has a gorgeous silky texture which seemed ready to use.

ash splints splitting ash splints

Phil kept the splints and plans to use them as highlights in his willow basketry, I just wanted to see if it would work and have a day out in good company.

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About Steve Tomlin

I am a greenwood worker and scythe tutor. I carve spoons, bowls and other products from locally sourced greenwood. During the summer I teach scything around the UK.
This entry was posted in Ash splint baskets, SteveTomlinCrafts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Pounding ash splints

  1. Tim says:

    That is interesting to see how that process works. Is it only ask that it would work on or can other species be separated like that as well?

  2. Dave says:

    Good article. I laughed at the first sentence abut sometimes you needing to just beat the hell out of a piece of wood. Good one.

  3. Charlie says:

    Where did you get your ash log?

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