Ash Pounding, Sharing Skills, and a few Dough Bowls

Spring is here with temperatures in the 60-70f. This is very unusual for mid March. After looking at the forecast we decided not to tap the maples this year. The nights need to be cold and days warm to get the sap flowing up and down. We just never got the cold nights. I looked back at last years log records and we tapped on the 15th. Wow! this year is quite a bit different. I've been talking to a few friends that tap and this year has been pretty much a bust. I'm glad we decided not to do it. It'll give the trees a brake anyway. 

With the weather as it is, it feels more like April when we pound Ash logs for April's basketry. Last Sunday my friend Dan came over to visit and catch up and help with the work. Having friends around to help is always good for me when pounding, because it's a lot of work. It helps the day go by quickly.  We started with a large log and are still working at it, with a few more inches of growth rings to take off.  For those who don't know how ash splint is made, I'll explain.  The ash is a ring porous tree, meaning it has very loose fibrous growth in the spring and very dense growth in the summer. Most of us have counted rings on a tree before, what you've counted the summer ring. The growth which is in between the 2 summer rings is the spring ring. When we hit or pound the log with a blunt object, the loose spring ring basically gets destroyed as well as the bond between between it and the summer rings. Once this bond is gone the dense summer ring is peeled off the log. This is what is used to weave baskets with. Black Ash is a very strong and flexible material. I believe that it is superior to other splint material like reed and veneers,save for white oak, which is another strong material. I believe the the older and more time consuming methods produce a higher quality material.  These materials were/are mostly abandoned due to the labor involved at the compromise of strength and flexibility. I have a pack basket that I have used for trapping and general bush use for over 7 years. This basket sees almost daily hard use and is still going strong. The key to it's long lasting strength is the flexibility. Ash does not seem to dry out and get as brittle as some of the other materials.  I could go on and one about the use of local materials and techniques. I'll end with the question "why use imported materials from around the world when we have it right our our door, for free?" We need to reconsider why we use such material as imported split reed, or even imported baskets for that matter.

I also spent some time last week with a new friend and budding green woodworker, Rico.  Rico flew up from Colorado to spend some time here learning to turn bowls on a spring pole lathe. We also did a little black smithing and spent some time carving spoons and going over different knife grips. Rico is an accomplished Bower (bow maker) using only hand tools some being stone. Here is his blog here. I'm looking forward to seeing some of his work on the pole lathe he is building and some hand carved wooden spoons too.

While Rico was turning I had a chance to try out my new bowl carving adze, and carved few dough bowls. I'll add more on that later.
the "pounder"

Dan hard at it

you can see the de-lamination between rings

pulling up splint with ease

coiled up and ready to storage
more to go

Rico hewing bowl blank

turning the inside of a bowl

trimming the "button" left on the bottom

spoon carving

more spoon carving

a couple of dough bowls drying
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