Photo by Patricia Lehnhardt
Years ago, a new shop came to town called Twigges. They carried—you guessed it—twig chairs, twig baskets, twig trellises and myriad other "twigge” things. One summer, I took a class on making chairs from willow branches. We sawed and hammered all day, each taking home a beautiful, usable chair. I’ve made another chair, a loveseat, and several baskets and planters since then.
Trugs have been made for centuries for use on the farm. Originally made of wood in a boat shape, they were used as a measure or scoop for grain. They now come in a variety of materials from plastic to metal. It’s only natural to use the gleanings of your own property to create a trug to carry your tools to the garden or your freshly harvested flowers and vegetables away from it.
While willow is the go-to natural source of straight, branchless sticks for building, other materials will work, too. In making this trug for my garden, I took a walk around our property and found quite a few options. I thinned the serviceberry (Amalancher arborea) patch for some 1/2-inch straight pieces for the sides and cut down an ill-positioned Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus contorta) for 1-inch footings.
Other materials you might find include suckers that sprout from the base of trees, one-year growth from pruned bushes, thin new beech and birch trees that grow in clumps, bamboo, or wild cherry saplings.
A few rules of the twig-trug-building road:
- Select fresh material. It can be harvested any time of year; however, don’t harvest in the heat of summer if you want to preserve the bark. If you want to strip the bark, summer’s rapid growth will make it easier.
- Leave more than you take.
- Use only sharp clippers and saws, and never rip or tear a branch.
- Inspect each twig for insect infestation. If you discover insects or larvae, discard it.
- When using fresh branches and twigs, drill pilot holes to prevent the branch from splitting as it dries. Choose a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the nail you’re using, and drill less than the length of the nail so it will fit snugly.
- garden shears/clippers
- tree saw
- wood rasp
- 1-inch and 1½-inch panel nails
- 3 9-inch-long twigs, 1 inch in diameter
- 10 18-inch-long twigs, 1/2 inch in diameter
- 8 9-inch-long twigs, 1/2 inch in diameter
- 2 16-inch-long twigs, 1/2 inch in diameter
- 3 9-inch-long twigs, 1/2 inch in diameter
Step 1: Use a wood rasp to shave off the edges of the twigs to slightly taper them away from the bark.
Step 2: Stack the twigs to shape the box, moving them around until the curves work well together.
Step 3: Start with the base. Evenly space three 9-inch-long, 1-inch-diameter twigs. Drill pilot holes, and nail four 18-inch-long twigs onto them with 1½-inch nails. (I used two twigs with side branches to form an X on the base. You can do this or use more twigs to create a solid base.)
Step 4: Build up the box log-cabin style, alternating one 9-inch-long, 1/2-inch-diameter piece per short side and then one 18-inch-long piece per long side. Nail securely on each end with 1½-inch nails, adding additional nails, if needed, to make a sturdy box.
Step 5: Place the 16-inch-long handle twigs on the outside of the box, and nail them to the ends of the middle 1-inch base twig. Use two 1-inch nails at slight angles to secure it to the base.
Secure the handle pieces by nailing the box pieces to it from the inside with 1½-inch nails.
For the top of the handle, nail one 9-inch-long twig on top of and one on each side of the upright 16-inch-long pieces using 1-inch nails.
The trug is usable immediately. After it cures for a few months, waterproof it with a polyurethane spray for continued outdoor use. It will last for many years if kept indoors when not in use. You can also use it as an outdoor planter, which will last for two to three years. (What better excuse to make another?) With a twig trug under your belt, itÕs fun to design trellises and planter boxes with the gleanings of your property, and they make attractive and functional gifts for your gardening friends.
About the Author: Patricia Lehnhardt is a merchant, cook, artisan and writer in Galena, Ill., who focuses on all things natural.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Hobby Farm Home.