Sunday, July 5, 2009

Applying Finish to a Finished (completed) basket

Another question I get asked often is about applying finish or varnishes to baskets. Of course these are just my opinions, ask 10 basket makers and you will get 10 different answers.
Weaver's Words July 9, 2006

In general you will want to leave your weaving materials unfinished and un-oiled. Anything that is going to seal your basket from the elements is also going to seal it from the moisture it needs to breath and remain flexible. Just like starch makes a shirt look nice, but wear out faster, so does finish on the fibers of a basket. Woven baskets, by their very nature, flex and move, any kind of hard finish is going to make the fiber stiff and more prone to breaking. About the only baskets that are traditionally "finished" are Nantucket baskets and sometimes coiled pine needles (but I don't prefer them to be). Oiling a basket (not tung oil or boiled linseed, which are actually finishes, but something like mineral oil) may seem like it would make the fibers more flexible, but oils tend to attract dust, which will also shorten the life of the basket. If you want to oil the handle or rims that is fine as they don't need to "flex" like the body of the basket. So in summation, it is better to leave your natural fibers (which reed is) just natural.
I will post sometime about how I like to finish my Nantucket baskets. It is a multi-step process, but I think gives a great result. Until then, happy weaving.