Wait...that's wood!? The Basket Weave Illusion

Basket Weave Example623 Woodworks was first introduced to the basket weave illusion through a woodturning magazine. The magazine contained an article about well known artist, Harvey Meyer, and the techniques that he uses. The name is self explanatory. At first glance these pieces appear to be woven like a basket. It's not until you hold the piece that you realize, "This is wood!" Plenty of study and a lot of trial and error eventually led to our first completed plate (No, we're not showing you this one.) The most surprising revelation about the process was that it was really enjoyable! We've honed our skills and our gorgeous pieces are being well received. Although the basket weave plates/platters are where we began, we have since found applying the basket weave to hollow forms to be more satisfying.

HollowformSo how does it work? The process begins by turning either a platter or a hollowform in the usual manner. Next, the beads are applied while the piece is still spinning on the lathe, using a specially made beading tool. The quality of bead required for the basket weave illusion is extremely high and definitely took some practice. 

The next step in the process is to woodburn the valleys between each of the beads. This creates a visual separation of the beads. The work is too precise to accomplish with a woodburning tool. What is one to do? Cardstock! That's right, a piece of cardstock! We get the piece spinning between 2200 and 2300 rpms (revolutions per minute) and then touch the valleys between the beads with the edge of the cardstock. The friction actually burns the wood.

Now comes the indexing. Really, a fancy way of saying that we are going to visually divide the piece into sections along it's Y (top to bottom) axis, perpendicular to the beads we created in the previous step.

Indexing a basket weave illusionThis is accomplished with the help of the lathe and a homemade jig. This step needs to be extremely precise. Pencil lines are marked over each bead working from the top to the bottom of the piece (or center to the perimeter on a platter). The jig assures that the marks are equally spaced from one bead to the next. After the entire piece has been marked up in pencil, the lines need to be burned in. For this we use our custom pyrography pens. Yes, those are a thing and yes, we made ours. This is the final step in the process before we can begin adding color and design. It's important that we take our time and be very precise. This step can easily take up to 8 hours to complete!

The final step of any basket weave illusion; adding color! We don't just grab our inks and dive in. Everything has been methodical up to this point and coloring is no different. We plan out each design on graph paper. Each design is custom to the piece it will be applied to as the design is influenced by the size, shape and number of bead segments. This can be a daunting task at first but when you start applying the ink (we prefer india ink as it does not bleed in the wood and it dries quickly.) and see the final piece coming together, it is all worth it. The coloring and design step can easily take up to 30 hours to complete! 

When the coloring has been completed, the piece is signed on the bottom and then a few coats of acrylic clear-coat is added for protection. The final product is a stunning example of creativity, precision and patience. If there ever was a labor of love, it's our basket weave illusion pieces. We hope you enjoy owning them as much as we enjoy making them.


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