Crate making

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Re: Crate makin

Postby Terence » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:30 pm

Hazel was used for huge baskets called creels (about the size of those crates or bigger) and for lobster pots in the west of ireland. The crates look very simple structures compared to these - i think with correct handling of the material you do not need any steaming or boiling. A vice grip might come in handy for twisting heavy rods.

Joe Hogan would be the man to ask about crates though. He's made a lot of big stuff out of hazel and id say if he doesnt know someone in the uk who's made them no one does. Also told me about hazel crates/baskets they used for lowering groups of men into the mines.
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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:29 am

How about tiny ones for bike panniers?
Bike trailers?
Car roof-racks?
Replacement of Bulk-bags or those metal metre-cubed pallet crates for delivering firewood? Could then end up as kindling when worn out.

Sadly, like a lot of traditional products, they would probably only be a luxury for people, apart from perhaps pottery museums.
But they were originally made out of necessity, and were quickly replaced when metal/plastic became affordable.
High labour input with low capital (but sustainable) investment has been replaced by low labour input with high capital (including non-sustainable environmental) investment.
It's a bit like the band Metallica; sad but true.
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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:31 am

Terence wrote:Joe Hogan would be the man to ask about crates though. He's made a lot of big stuff out of hazel and id say if he doesnt know someone in the uk who's made them no one does.


Who is Joe Hogan and how can he be contacted?
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Re: Crate making

Postby Brian Williamson » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:56 am

Looking at the photos as closely as I can online I'd tend to agree with Sean that the diameters aren't that different from hurdle making. Perhaps a touch on the smaller side, but certainly something you could get out of 6 - 8 year rotations.

Looking at the spacings between the 'uprights', they were certainly less than that between the sails on a hurdle, which would make for a very tight twill. Possibly the 'best quality' remarks refer to the bendability of the rods, rather than their strightness or knot-freeness. It would be perfectly possible for a well established intustry to specify that kind of quality.

I'd also agree that those tight turns should be achieveable with good quality hazel of the right diameter - though I wouldn't be surprised if the had a fire going from the off-cuts in cold weather to make the rods a bit more pliable.

We'll just have to make one!

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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:12 am

I'm getting closer Brian, I'll hopefully be visiting the Pottery Museums in Staffordshire before Christmas.
One man I have been emailing at the museums is very keen to have an entire crate-packing/shipping display built, including the canal boats, cranes etc.

He said that quite a lot of the crates had Willow used in them, which I disputed with him.
BUT, he knows for a fact that most crate-makers had soaking ponds near or at their yards.
Also, one pottery still has overgrown Willow pollards nearby that were definitely in use up until the mid 20th Century.

I have contacted Joe Hogan now to see if he knows anything about them...
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Re: Crate making

Postby quickthorn » Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:05 pm

SeanHellman wrote:
quickthorn wrote:From descriptions I've read, I'm guessing that the rods that are used for the ribs or bows are steamed or boiled and bent at 90 degrees to get that radius at the bottom side corners as sharp as they are. I can't imagine being able to form cold hazel like that.


Are you referring to the descriptions on this page or from other sources?



I've assumed it from Brian's quote from Edlin:

There is a bit in Edlin's 'Woodland Crafts in Britain' concerning crate making.

[...]

He goes on to say that some crates are '...of simple, rectangular outline', whilst others are '.... ingeniously constructed by bending, twisting and interlacing heated hazel rods to form a boat-shaped structure that is very resistant to shocks'.


On second reading, perhaps he's only referring to the ingenious boat-like crates. It would certainly be a lot easier if they could be just twisted and bent.

As for uses, I know one potter who's expressed an interest in smaller versions, probably of the size of those plastic crates you can buy - 6-8 cu. ft or so.

I also thought of firewood. A crate could be loaded with green cut and split wood, which hopefully would be able to season in the crate better than it would in a bag or other box that didn't allow as much airflow. A lot of firewood producers sell in bulk bags which are supposed to carry between half cubic m and 1 cu. m, so a crate that size might fit the bill. It would be even better if a crate could be slung, as a number of firewood people deliver in vehicles with a crane or hiab fitted.

Just for reference, I saw advertised on the internet similar sized boxes made of softwood, pallet type bottoms for forklifting, capacity 1.2 cu. m. These were priced at £75 each. I doubt if a crate would be worth that much to most people, but it may be feasible at half that price.
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Re: Crate making

Postby Mark Allery » Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:54 pm

Hi,

£75 is an interesting price. There is a big market for wooden crates in agriculture still. Virtually all apples are harvested in wooden crates approx 3ft by 3ft - carrying about 330kg (1/3 ton) of apples for examples. At least they are around here - and thats thousands of crates just for one apple farm. I suspect they aren't cheap either. Mind you I don't see woven baskets being a replacement for these markets as they get a lot of abuse from telehandlers on the farm and they seem to live outside. I reckon they must be a standard size as I see massive piles of these crates on other farms - maybe for cabbages? Most roots are just transported in big trailers but cabbage and cauliflower probably can use large crates.

In Somerset the wicker (willow/osier) basket/crate industry still survives and it's man rated these days - either alive or dead. Balloon baskets and coffins are products still being made in a wicker factory outside Bridgwater.

I reckon there must be a premium 'ikea' type market for wooden crates in some kind of storage system to replace plastic boxes for the Chelsea crowds. Maybe designing them to be stackable would be the key? Maybe this would make them useable for firewood/kindling as well as the last thing most domestic users want is a big crate taking up space -though I think they do like to reuse firewood bags.

I'd been thinking of trying to make small crates from thin slats - a crate version of a trug really - but a woven version would be interesting and perhaps more acceptable to some 'premium' markets?

cheers

Mark
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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:47 pm

Crate Update!

Just received these photo's from Don Carpentier in NEW YORK.
He has a pottery collection and this original, possibly 19th C, crate is in his possession.

It's in remarkably good condition, and the photos show some of the detail of it's construction.
There is clearly Hazel withies, and possible Alder heads...

Image

I'm pretty certain these rods and withies are both Hazel, though the withie could be Willow?
Image

Image

The bark on this round pole head looks like Alder to me;
Image

Makers mark?
Image

Image

Split and round rods used for the framework. The rods are all about Hurdle-making size too;
Image
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Re: Crate making

Postby Graham Mead » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:33 pm

Hi,

About 16 years ago somebody lent me a video of a chap making a pottery crate.
The video began with 3 men cutting and trimming in woodland near Basingstoke.
The wood was then shipped by canal to the Potteries.
The crate maker's workshop had a fire with a large chimney in it. The rods that were withied and then twillied, were placed up the chimney to warm while the crate maker got on with the larger framework pieces.

The chap that lent me the video (which I returned without copying) is cutting near me. I'll ask him if he still has it. If so, I I'll digitise it and put it on my web site.
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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:17 pm

Graham,

Thank you, that is fantastic.
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Re: Crate making

Postby quickthorn » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:18 pm

Thanks for those pictures, monkeeboy, they show a lot of detail. Do you know if that crate was made here or in the US?

Graham, that video sounds great, I'd appreciate it if you could digitise it and put it up for us.

I'd be interested in the idea of warming the rods before use. I'm no hurdlemaker, but my recent ham-fisted attempts at bending and twisting unheated withies ended up snapping a lot of them (this is on very fresh stuff, so I've got a few bundles cut and standing, to see if ageing will help). However, even running a section of hazel under a hot tap for several minutes improves the pliability a little bit.

I found a link to a family history website which gives a bit of detail on how they made their crates, and that included heating the rods before use. I got in contact with the site owner, who tells me that all the information on how is family made their crates is on the site, but he might ask around to find out more.

http://www.eyupmiduck.me.uk/occupations/cratemaker.htm
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Re: Crate making

Postby monkeeboy » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:26 pm

The guy who owns the crate in the pictures I posted thinks that it originally came from England, around the mid-19th Century.
But I guess there's no real way of knowing for sure, unless we can find out if there are any US-made ones in pictures to compare.
He also told me that a pottery museum in the US that he knows of commissioned a Staffordshire-based Crate Maker in the 70's to make a couple of display models for them. They still have these crates on display at their museum, presumably it was the same Crate Maker who made the display models for the Staffordshire Pottery Museum. I am still waiting to find out if the UK museum can find details of that maker, he may still be alive.
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Re: Crate making

Postby Brian Williamson » Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:27 pm

Picking up on the notion of warming rods before use:

quickthorn wrote: I'd be interested in the idea of warming the rods before use.


Hazel is perfectly usable from the minute it is cut. Indeed, many hurdle makers who make in the woods in which they cut would do pretty much that - cut the rods and put them straight into the hurdle. Personally, I do think that the rods improve for being kept a few weeks after cutting, but it is pretty marginal.

There is no doubt, though, that temperature has a marked effect on the usability of the rods. Frosty mornings make for brittle rods! There are plenty of simple things to do to mitigate the effects of cold; cover the rods to keep the frost off; stand them up somewhere they catch the sun; that sort of thing. Many hurdle makers will burn their trimmings as they work, and that fire can be used to warm the rods. A sheet of corrugated tin rigged up horizontally above the fire makes a very good warming platform.

I'd be more surprised than not if the cratemakers didn't have some way of warming their rods in the winter. Those photos (great find, Mike) make it clear that they were working really tight twills, and they'd need the rods to be as supple as possible.

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Re: Crate making

Postby quickthorn » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:22 pm

Brian Williamson wrote:
I'd be more surprised than not if the cratemakers didn't have some way of warming their rods in the winter. Those photos (great find, Mike) make it clear that they were working really tight twills, and they'd need the rods to be as supple as possible.

Brian.


Yes.

From that link I put up:

The crates were made from Herefordshire Hazel and locally grown Osiers (Willow saplings). These were first soaked in a large pit covered over with planks of wood to ensure complete immersion. After a thorough soaking they were then placed across iron rods inside a large flue and heated - the whole process ensuring the required pliability to weave the wicker-style crates.


I suppose the soaking would restore any rods that had dried out a bit on the journey or in storage, and ensure that the heating itself didn't dry them out; I'd imagine hot dry rods wouldn't be too supple.
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Re: Crate making

Postby Toby Allen » Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:30 pm

Brilliant.
I've heard how big the crate making industry used to be, but never seen one.

A friend did a college thing about coppice and was very surprised by the amount of coppice that used to go into packaging of different sorts.

Far more than hurdles, yet now they are the main hazel product. Is that because its the biggest mark up, the most known about product or the only thing people know how to make?
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