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Pack Basket Treat or not Treat

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I very recently acquired a black ash pack basket and hunter orange waxed canvas utility pack. Most of time I use canvas packs for hiking and canoe trips, but this is the first basket I’ve bought for myself. While it will serve double duty, it’s primary purpose is a garbage collector. I will be lining it with a garbage bag, inserting it into the utility pack and collecting trash along the local reservoirs where I hike my pup. I’m going to smooth the runner edges and glue some scrap inner tube to them to reduce canvas wear.

is it a good idea to put some oil on it before putting into service? If so is one type good or bad for black ash? I have several types for paddles and gunnels, etc


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Thanks,
Barry
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I have had a pack basket for 35 years and have never put anything on the wood. I use it only to hold canoe gear, shoes, straps, throw bags, and other items in the back of my van. I suppose you could oil a pack basket -- I don't think it would hurt -- but I'd only consider doing that if the basket is expected to be exposed continuously to the elements, particularly water, without any cover.

Varnish and shellac are not recommended:

 
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I apply a very light coat of equal parts of Boiled Linseed Oil, Turpentine & Pine Tar mixed together, warmed in the sun or double boiler on a stove. I do this with most wooden things. Wooden handles on tools like axes & saws, gun stocks, knife handles and my pack basket. I like the smell of Pine Tar but, I do not do this in the house. My grandfather did this with all his wooden things. He would put very light coats on, "once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then once every year." He told me that the Scandinavian's had been doing that for a long time, with good results. For wooden stuff that I use to drink out of (Kuksa's or wooden cups) I use mineral oil or vegetable oil.
 
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Thanks for the input. I will probably not treat it but might reconsider if it becomes a main part of my paddling kit. I will store it in my basement to make sure it is dry. The pack will be for day hiking in areas where the hunting is active.

Boreal that application schedule is the same one I use for my paddles. I don’t make my own mix though. I’ve never seen pine tar for sale, but see it is readily available online.

cheers,
Barry
 
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I have found Pine Tar at Tractor Supply, it’s used on horses.

That’s a nice pack basket Barry, I’m always looking for one on FB marketplace. I have seen some that need some repairs, might give it a try.
 
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I Amazoned pine tar. I was surprised to see pine tar soap and shampoo.. Anyone partake of those?
More to the point ;I have some ash baskets that are old and dried but I use them for yarn stash. Some of the pine tar products are advertised as extra sticky.. I don't want that. The yarn baskets are of course inside furniture.
So any recommendations?
 
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If you do go the route of pine tar, do a search for 'Boat Soup'. Those ingredients work best when they've had some time to work together before application. Another good trick is to do it on a hot day and put the finished basket into a black trash bag and leave it out in the sun for the day. That will give you better penetration.
These people make the best pine tar I have found and they have the premium Boiled Linseed Oil and Mineral Spirits.
 
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I have been using a similar pack basket for 35-40 years with no treatment. I have used it on canoe trips and it serves as a storage container for rolled topo maps at home. It still looks new, no splits or problems, after 5 years in humid Connecticut and 30+ years in dry Utah climates. Part of my retro camping gear!
 
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For what it's worth, I've made a couple of black ash pack baskets under the guidance of a friend who offers classes in the skill. Bill taught me to let nature take it's course with the ash and not to coat it with any varnish, oil, etc. The wood, even though it's "dead," benefits from being able to absorb moisture from the air, rain & elements. In fact, he told me that he periodically dips his baskets in a pond to refresh the wood. I've used the first pack basket I made with him over 30 years ago and never had any issues by following his instructions.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time...be well.

snapper
 
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I use Watco Teak Oil on mine every Spring. No issues so far.
 
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I appreciate reading all the tips and views on how to care for a basket. I have about 7 canvas frost river packs. the basket in the OP is a size medium. I am going to buy the small once it is back in stock and between the two I will have the right size basket for 6 out of the 7 packs. The Lewis and Clark would be be too big for either basket.

We have a Tractor Supply so I will see if they have pine tar and I will try Boreal Birch’s recipe and treat the small one only. The other one I will dip in a lake every once in a while. The Frost River baskets are made in US but it doesn’t say by who. They are decent baskets and priced accordingly. I expect that they will last a good long time, but they aren’t the high grade boutique ones that you see crafted by artisans in the ADK’s and Maine.

Cheers,
Barry
 
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I have had two pack baskets made with splints pounded out of a straight grained log and woven by a craft persons. The first I used pretty hard, never treated with anything. In time some of the splints started to break in the bottom corners. One spring I heard of a Anishinaabe grandmother on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota that made ash baskets (not pack baskets) maybe she had some splints I could get to repair my basket. She was happy to see me, invited me in for tea, She didn't have any splints, but would show me how to make them. She had me drive her to a nearby woods, then a walked into it to a black ash swamp to a perfect tree that she knew about. I cut it down and sawed it again just below the first limbs, making it into a ten foot log, then packed it out to my truck. Back at her home we put them in a little creek to soak for a week. The next week-end she taught me to how to pound it to make splints dress them with a knife. That was a lot of work, but I ended up with a handful of splints for my use, She ended up with all the rest. The next winter I moved to Alaska, I left a bunch of my stuff including the pack basket with a school teacher girlfriend in Manhomen, MN, I never saw her or my stuff again, I later heard she had married a Minnesota State Highway Patrolman, thought it was best to let them keep my old canoe camping stuff.
My current pack basket was made in Maine, living in a dry climate I painted it many times with the pine tar "soup". I put in a Frost River Old Number 7 pack when I made my annual autumn visit to Minnesota, the combination made a nice travel bag. Once I was there I would pull the pack off the basket, then I would have two packs for my canoe fishing/camping trips, using stuff I keep stashed in Minnesota at my bachelor friend Jeff's place (no wife to complain about my stuff taking up room behind the couch). The basket has stood up to air travel which is maybe harder on it than canoe travel.
Back in the wooden cross country ski days pine tar was used to coat/melt into the bottoms of ski's to give the ski wax something to get a smooth surface to grip for glide and kick sections, another of the dark arts, like forge tempering knife blades.
yellowcanoe........
For years I used Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap, I haven't seen it anywhere I have been in the last ten years or so, not going to pay shipping fee's to Alaska for a bar of soap, so have been without it for awhile, my bride doesn't miss the smell of it. So, that is also in the equation, kinda like Lapsang Souchong Tea. Which a friend say's "it smells like Lipton brewed over a campfire."
I still use Neutrogea T/Gel shampoo, because of the pine tar smell.
I had a old Aviation Law Professor friend that lost his sense of smell because of age or misfortune. The only thing he could smell was pine tar, he would open his can of it and stick his nose almost into the tar to take a deep whiff, he could just get a hint of the smell, but it made him very happy.
.........BB
 
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I just picked up a pack basket on Monday and am debating on weather to treat or not. It’s old and seems well used but isn’t dry or brittle.

I was looking for one to put in my Duluth food pack. I was thinking an 18” would be about right but this 20” seems perfect. Here is a photo from yesterday. 076796D7-0772-4DEF-9C5C-83CECEBC8AD0.jpeg
 
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I have been looking for a pack basket for a while and it looks like I found one that will work for me. It's ash, probably not pounded but looks good. I'm meeting the seller Friday. She sent a lot of pics and it looks solid.

I always wanted one, I think this thread sped up the process.



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Back in the wooden cross country ski days pine tar was used to coat/melt into the bottoms of ski's to give the ski wax something to get a smooth surface to grip for glide and kick sections, another of the dark arts, like forge tempering knife blades.
.........BB
Yeah, I remember those days. Heating up the bases and pine tar prepping them was ski craft; getting the wax right and applying it was ski art. The rest of the day or night spent in the snow was ski magic. I always took along a complete wax kit and full wine skin. Those were the days.

Never heard of a pack basket till I saw them years ago at LL Bean. Interesting reading here:

Real nice looking gear.
 
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Odyssey...........
Thank you for the link. A little way into it, shows the woven Birch Bark Packs that the Scandinavians make. A couple of friends of mine from Minnesota taught me how to make one. Very labor intensive, doubt if I will ever use it for anything other than decoration. I have it next to my big soft chair in the radiant floor heated Sun Room. I store my current and future small handcraft project parts in it. When I made it, I used the thickest birch bark I could find, it is double woven, so it became fairly heavy even when empty. If I was to make another one to use for berry picking or mushroom harvesting, I would use the ash pack baskets for a general pattern as it is not so complicated.
 
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I found my first Pack basket. I never really thought much about buying one, but it’s in great condition with a liner and living in Maine sorta convinced me it was time. I don’t know it’s pedigree other than made by Wilderness Baskets in Monroe, Maine
I ordered a leather harness for it, and the plan is to find a nice antique ash basket down the road and hopefully the leather will be broken in by then.

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