Basket Making Tools

Market Lavington had its very own family of basket makers for more than 100 years. Four generations of the Mullings family lived and worked in Market Lavington or Easterton from the 1850s until the 1950s.

Here we look at a pair of tools used by the Mullings family, our basket makers.

Withy cleavers used by the Mullings family - now at Market Lavington Museum

Baskets were made out of withies – thin, young stalks of willow trees but of course, some of these strips of willow had got too large and inflexible to allow for the weaving of a basket. These tools were used to split the willow.

A length of willow could have been pushed down onto the white top of the cleaver on the left. It has three ‘blades’ so the willow would have been split, along its length into three more serviceable pieces. The skill of the Mullings family would have let them make the right choice of cleaver, for the one on the right would split the willow into four lengths.

Market Lavington Museum has a cabinet filled with tools of the basket making  trade which gives some idea of the former importance of this craft.

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2 Responses to “Basket Making Tools”

  1. Bob Burgess Says:

    The split withies (or splints) were more commonly used to bind handles than to actually make the baskets. Two other tools were used – a splint plane or shave with one blade to remove the pith and create an even thickness, and a brass tool with two steel blades to create an even width by cutting off the ragged edges.

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