May / June 2019

The Basket as Boat

Construction highlights of willow-framed hulls
Finished boat

Skin-covered boat framed in willow.

Willow is easy to find, sustainable, and usually inexpensive or free. It is flexible when green, stiffens without becoming brittle when dry, and can be returned to flexibility by soaking in water. It has been used in currach and coracle construction for thousands of years. Hazel rods and thin strips of ash are also traditional materials for currachs and coracles, and I have had success using red-osier dogwood, which locally is called red willow. For a few years, I grew my own willow in what the Irish call a salley garden, from the Latin salix, for willow.

On the following pages, I’ll show the construction details of a skin-covered boat framed in willow. These details are meant to provide highlights for guidance, rather than a detailed process, to inspire readers to experiment with their own willow-framed boats and to study the subject further.

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