How to soak different varieties of brown (dry) willow

How to soak brown willow


Brown willow needs to be soaked prior to use. Depending on the variety, soaking times can be over 1 day per foot of rod length. Forward planning is essential.


Soaking isn't an exact science. It can be tricky to get right as there are so many variables to take into consideration. The weather, water temperature and the length of time that the willow has been stored will all play a part. That being said, follow these guidelines and you should enjoy soaking success!


Tips for soaking brown willow


Willow takes longer to soak on a cold winter’s day than on a hot summer one. The times below are a guide to soaking brown willow in clean cold water on an 'average' day. Using warm or hot water will shorten the soaking time. If the willow has been stored for a long period it will take longer to soak.


Length of rods

Black Maul

Dicky Meadows

Flanders Red

Brittany Green

Caledendron

Whissender

Harrisons

3ft

3 days

2 days

4-6 days

3 days

5-6 days

4 days

3 days

4ft

4 days

3 days

6-8 days

4 days

6-7 days

5 days

4 days

5ft

5 days

4 days

8-10 days

5 days

7-8 days

6 days

5 days

6ft

6 days

5 days

10-12 days

6 days

8-9 days

7 days

6 days

7ft

7 days

6 days

12-14 days

7 days

9-10 days

8 days

7 days*

8ft

8 days

7 days

14-16 days

8 days

10-11 days

9 days

8 days*

9ft

9 days

8 days

16-18 days

9 days

11-12 days

10 days

9 days*


* To further improve the working quality of the willow some basket makers recommend steaming for 75 minutes and then leaving the willow in the steamer until cool.


***For Old French willow simply use the same soaking times as for Black Maul***


What to soak in?

A soaking bag has the advantage of being easy to empty and the willow can then mellow in the bag.  Our heavy duty soaking bags are available in a range of lengths and widths and are supplied with simple instructions.


Alternatively, willow can be soaked in a bath, trough or old paddling pool. Always ensure that the water is clean! The willow will need to be weighed down to keep it submerged. Be wary of soaking willow in your finest bathtub. You may end up with tannin stains.


Once soaked, drain the water and leave the willow to mellow overnight in the soaking bag. Hessian, a damp blanket or plastic sheet do the job equally well. Mellowing is a really important part of the soaking process as it enables the inner parts of the rod to become fully pliable.


Leftovers

When working with willow, do keep it covered to prevent the rods from drying out. Leftover brown willow can be kept covered for up to a week and still used. After this time, the willow will need to be dried thoroughly before being stored.


Things to watch out for

Keep brown willow damp for too long (especially in warm weather) and the willow will turn greasy and/or mouldy and the bark will shred. The rods may also squash if used. At this stage, it may be possible to thoroughly dry the willow out before re-soaking. Any mould will need to be wiped off first.


Repeated re-soaking will cause the willow to lose its colour. If a rod starts to get black spots, it is no longer usable. However, if only a few rods are affected, pull these out to stop the mould spreading. The rest of the rods should still be useable.


 


 



accreditations
Musgrove Willows Ltd © 2021