The Cyntell is the traditional Welsh framed farm basket which was used for many agricultural purposes.
The frame for the Cyntell is made from very stout hazel or willow which is harvested in the winter months and wrapped round a circular forma – made from MDF or an old bicycle wheel – and left for several months to dry naturally.
The baskets range between 18 and 22 inches in diameter and were originally designed to fit into each other for storage when the baskets were not being used. The size of the basket is determined by the diameter of the hoop. The Cyntell basket also has ribs which are shaved from willow and also dried around formas.
I was taught by Les Llewellyn, who was himself taught by the late DJ Davies, a master in the craft. Les provided us with a set of formas which are exactly the dimensions which DJ Davies originally used. The ribs are made by splitting very stout willow in half using a knife or two thumbs. The ribs are then shaped by shaving the sharp edges off to form an oval which will not skin the weaving willow as it passes over the ribs. The ideal shape is an almond ‘eye’ shape with no sharp edges. It takes a lot of practice to achieve this!
Once the hoop has dried it is joined by cutting two slypes that fit snugly together and then wood glue is used to ensure a really strong frame. 4 ribs are then attached to the hoop with 4ft willow which is firstly criss crossed and then simply woven in and out. The willow is always joined in with butt first – the butt resting along the rib which is closest to the hoop. It is very important that the butts are trimmed neatly and in line with the rib. New ribs are added in as soon as a pocket has been formed by the weaving.
If this has peaked your interest, why not join Les and I to learn how to make a Cyntell yourself! Details are on this page.