Rd (Rt 143)
Chesterfield MA 01012
map | overhead view (Google)
Ash Baskets - Handmade
from Tree to Basket
In the August, 1965 Yankee
Magazine, Benjamin Higgins is featured as "The Last Basketmaker".
Fortunately, that title has proved erroneous, as Ben's son-in-law,
Milton Lafond, is continuing the family tradition. In a shady grove
on Route 143 in Chesterfield, Massachusetts, the old Basket Shop
is again in the hands of a devoted craftsman, to the delight of
old customers and new.
Pounded ash baskets are
a lifelong investment, as can be seen in the first egg basket made
by ten-year-old Ben. Over 75 years old, this basket is as sound
as new and enhanced by the patina of time. Old customers constantly
return with stories about their baskets.
The secret of longevity is
in the wood. White ash trees, increasingly rare, are selected from native
woodlands. The logs are split into wedges and roughly shaped with a
drawshave. The trees must be 50-75 years old to be used. Only ash can
stand up to the pounding and has the unique characteristic of splitting
between the growth rings. The split ash strips, each representing a
year's growth of the tree, are planed smooth and ready to be woven.