Basketmaking Tools

Tools

There are many tools used today to make baskets.  Some are modern and would not have been use by our forbears and others have fell into disuse.  There are also various basketmaking techniques which require there own tools.  I will start with willow and cane basketry which are similar.

Stake and strand basketry

I suppose the only tool actually necessary to make this type of basket is a knife and this is a universal tool for most basketry projects.  However man,  being an extremely inventive animal,  has gathered a great variety of other tools to help.  I will start with the knife.

The knife

If you are using a  conventional knife then you will need a stone on which to sharpen it.  The knife must be sharp.  I use a Stanley knife and change the blade every now and again as necessary.  For pricking up you need the blade to be a bit less pointy that the normal Stanley blade but this can be altered by modifying old blades on your stone.  For trimming a curved blade is again better than the conventional Stanley blade.  Pen knives and other knives with folding blades are not really suitable unless the blade can be locked into position. 

Shears or secateurs

These are very useful for trimming and cutting the willow.  Ordinary garden secateurs will do but side cutters (wire cutters),  if they are really sharp,  do a better job.

Bodkin

This is a tool (usually metal) for making holes.  You can buy bodkins especially for basketry in various sizes.  You can make bodkins by filing down an old screwdriver to a point.  It is not necessary for this to be made of metal and you can also make perfectly satisfactory bodkins from wood.  Hard woods are preferable which are just sharpened to a point.

Ruler

This is quite useful for measuring heights and widths of baskets etc.  I use a folding ruler but many basketmakers use a meter stick.  A piece of willow cut to size is often very useful and you can mark the willow with notches if you want something more permanent.

Lapboard

These can vary a bit in size but are used as a sloping table on which to make your basket.  They are usually about 3 foot wide and about 3 to 4 foot long with short (2 to 3 inch ) legs at one end.  The basketmaker either sits on the floor or a low bench and the lapboard is placed with its legs towards the basketmakers feet and supported by the basketmakers legs.  The basket is then "nailed" to the board  usually using the bodkin through the centre of the base in such a way that the basket can be turned around pivoting on the bodkin.  It is a good idea to have some sort of back support when working in this position.  Either work with your back against a wall  or you can use a low seat (an old car seat perhaps).  The lapboard itself can be modified by fixing a turntable on it for the basket to revolve on.  The simplest idea for a revolving table is just a round piece of board with a piece of dowel  fixed to the centre.  The dowel is then dropped into a hole drilled into the lapboard and the basket is fixed to the revolving platform thus formed.  Further modifications of this idea are bolting the platform to the table and having spikes coming upward through the platform onto which you spike the basket base.  Some basketmakers use weights to steady the basket while they are working on it but I have never found this to be very satisfactory.

Screw block

This is a couple of pieces of timber ( 2 to 32 inches thick) about 2 to 3 feet long which are bolted together in such a way that willow stakes can be clamped between them when making square bases.