It is hard to believe we are only 2 weeks out from Thanksgiving! This year has gone by way too fast, although I think I say that every year. Lol. This past week I shared with you our Thanksgiving mantle and it showcased our DIY tobacco basket. Some of you may not know what a tobacco basket is but you have probably seen these baskets all over Pinterest or on HGTV. While I in no way promote tobacco or it’s use, I love the look of these antique tobacco baskets. Tobacco baskets were used primarily in North Carolina up until 1980 to store and show the tobacco product that was being sold at the market. If you are lucky enough to live in the south where you can find them, an authentic tobacco basket can be very expensive, usually over $100 and upwards the bigger they get.
For those of you who do not have access to them or do not want to spend that kind of money on one, as was my case too, this tutorial is for you! This basket only cost me the low, low price of $11.74! Now granted I did have some supplies on hand that I used, but even if you did not have the supplies on hand the total for this basket would be under $20! That sounds a whole lot better to me, how about you?
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For this project you will need:
- 1” (inch) flat reed
- 5 mm brads – we used 20
- Hot glue gun
- Clamps of various sizes – we used these and these
- Carpenter’s knife
- Steel wool
- Foam brush
- Drill and 1/16” bit – we use a Dewalt drill that came as part of a combo set. We use these all the time and love the Dewalt brand.
- Scrap pieces of wood
- Spray paint
We wanted our basket to look very authentic so we took some extra steps to ensure this would be the case. Some of these steps are optional but we were very pleased with the end product and would suggest all the steps be done to achieve the best results.
I had seen DIY tobacco baskets done on a couple other blogs like Lucy’s at Craftberrybush and Jamie’s at Anderson & Grant. While theirs turned out great, I wanted to tweak a couple of things when we made ours. I liked the reed that Jamie used in hers so we went with that for our basket as well. One thing that we did not like about their baskets were the staples that were showing. We wanted a way to fasten ours that resembled the nails that were originally used in these baskets. I remembered that I had some mini brads in my stamping supplies so we tried one out and it worked perfect!
We figured out the approximate size we wanted it to be. I knew I wanted to be able to hang some wreaths in front of it, so it had to be a pretty good size. We unrolled the reed, and figured out the total length of all the pieces. From the total length, we figured out that we would be able to make a 30”x30” basket that had 10 strips weaved together. Please excuse the messy workshop, but we use this all the time for our projects so it has never ending piles of sawdust. But that is okay because it is where all the magic happens! 😉
Mr. Wonderful thought we should soak the reed in water and form it around some wood over night so it would hold it’s shape better. He drew out the size of our basket on his workbench and we used a paint can to draw in the corners. That ended up working out perfect to give us the angle we wanted on the corners. From that drawing, he made a template to cut out a couple scrap 2x4s. This is what we would form the reed around overnight.
Also from that drawing, we measured the distance around the outside edge to find out the total perimeter of the basket. We got a total of 113”. Luckily there were a couple longer pieces of reed that measured around 120” in length. We kept those off to the side and clamped them to the workbench to straighten them out.
Extra reed length is needed for the curve on each side of the basket. So, while the basket’s final size would be 30”x30” each strip was increased by 2” on each end (4” total added). Using a carpenter’s knife, we cut 20 pieces of reed at 34” long. There was just enough reed left for our crossbars. We cut those down later before we secured them to the basket.
We soaked the reeds in a bucket of warm water for about 5 minutes before laying them on our form. Using one clamp with a 4×4 on the top of the reeds, we bent the ends around the curve of our form. The ends were secured with couple more scrap pieces of wood and another clamp. We let it sit like this overnight.
This is the best stain to achieve an aged look on wood. It is so easy to make as well. Just take a piece of steel wool and put it into some vinegar. We used a pint sized mason jar filled about ¾ of the way with vinegar. Let this sit overnight, the longer it sits the darker it will become, however if it sits too long, it will turn orange from rust. The next day we unclamped the reed and it had the perfect shape to it. We used a foam brush to stain all the pieces of reed. Here are some samples of the reed before and after the staining. The reed will darken up as it dries. It is an oxidation process so Mr. Wonderful tells me… 🙂
We set the reed outside in the sun to dry it out faster. While it was drying, we painted the brads to make them look more antique. We just stuck them through a pizza box, and sprayed them with a textured spray paint first, followed by an oil rubbed bronze color. Then we lightly sprayed the brown color on top to make them look a little rusty.
We started weaving the basket together after everything was dried.
Placing the long strip around the top of the basket, we secured it together using lots of little clamps. We had to use some binder clips when we ran out of clamps to hold it all together.
I wanted to try and space things out a little unevenly because if you look at an actual tobacco basket, they are not perfectly spaced. I even thought about breaking out a couple pieces but decided against it because I loved how it turned out. Maybe I will still do that at a later time. We did measure the first strips 4” in from the side but the rest was all just by looking at it.
When it was spaced how we wanted it to be, working with one strip at a time, we secured the 2 pieces of reed with some hot glue. Then Mr. W drilled a hole through the 2 pieces of reed where we would fasten them together with a mini brad.
After we put the brad in, we flattened the prongs with a screwdriver to make sure it was as tight as possible. We made our way around the basket skipping the strips that would have the crossbars attached to them for now.
We fit the crossbars in making sure they were laying flat against the basket. Then we marked on the end of each crossbar where it needed to be cut.
Where the crossbars met up, we had to fasten the brad through 3 layers of reed. It fit but just barely. After everything was fastened, we hot glued the remaining 120” piece of reed around the inside of the basket to finish off the basket and to cover the brad prongs. We ran a bead of glue along the inside of the reed. Clamp in between each brad for a bit after hot gluing to make sure it is all glued together tightly. Try to avoid clamping on a brad as it will scratch the paint. We learned that the hard way and had to do a little touch up. 🙂
As a final touch, we LIGHTLY sprayed a little of the brown spray paint over the whole basket to give it a more worn look. Make sure to hold the can far above the basket so only tiny drops of paint are hitting the basket.
That’s it, now just stand back and admire your new tobacco basket! Looks pretty dang close to an authentic one if I say so myself. Although this is coming from someone who has never seen one in person, only in pictures. Ha! All I know is that I absolutely LOVE mine and could not be happier with the price for it too. I hope this inspires you to make one of your own.