Annette Rüffer, Chip basket manufacture

DE_09_Rüffer_Chip Baskets_Portrait_4

Annette Rüffer grew up in her parents' company in Grünstädtel (Erzgebirge) and learned the processes of chip basket production in the traditional family business from an early age. She completed an apprenticeship as an industrial clerk and worked as an accountant in an industrial company before joining her parents' company. Today, she is passionate about making chip baskets alongside her job at the Schwarzenberg parish association to maintain the tradition and to fulfil customer wishes. A wide range of baskets and boxes are produced, from small to large, depending on customer requirements. Most in demand are chip boxes for fresh goat's cheese (organic quality), but also chip baskets for mushrooms and fruits. The products are very durable, and the chip baskets can hold 10 kg. The wooden packaging in a chipboard box gives fresh cheese a particularly aromatic taste, as the fragrances of the fresh wood are absorbed into the cheese. A minimum purchase is required for production because a whole tree trunk is always cut to size and peeled. Chip basket making has existed in the region around Lauter and Bockau (Ore Mountains/Erzgebirge) since 1830. Before the invention of chip removal, flexible spruce branches were woven into baskets, or the fine roots of the spruce trees were dug up because there were no willows in the Erzgebirge. This led to a ban on digging up tree roots, so they had to come up with something new - the chip basket. From 1830 onwards, more and more producers made chip baskets, mostly at home, with the help of children. In the 19th century, the chip baskets from the region around Lauter and Bockau were distributed internationally and were shipped as far as New York and London.

Name of Craft in the local language
Spankorbmacherei
Type of Craft
Production of chip baskets and chip boxes in various sizes (e.g. for fruits, cheese) in small batches, individual production on customer request possible.
Knowledge Holder
Annette Rüffer
Location, Website
Erzgebirgische Spankorbmacherei, Schwarzenberg/ Erzgeb., OT Grünstädtel Link to website
Contact
e-mail: erzgeb.spankorbmanufaktur@web.de
Type of Business
Family business in its fifth generation
Year of Establishment
The production of chipboard baskets in Grünstädtel was founded in 1868 by Gustav Trommler. He opened a carpenter's workshop that specialized in crate building. In 1890, he bought the site of the current location of the “Erzgebirgische Spankorbmanufaktur” and opened a sawmill and a wood sanding shop using the local waterpower. After his death in 1910, his son Emil Trommler took over the business and expanded the company to include a paper factory in which the company's own wood pulp was processed. The grandfather of the current owner, Annette Rüffer, took over the business in the 1930s and sold the paper mill, which had previously burnt down. In the early 1950s, he started producing chip baskets in Lauter, 14 km away. The production was moved to its current location after the sawmill was closed. He also ran a wood grinding shop in Blechhammer near Carsfeld, where the wood waste from the chip basket production was processed for the paper industry. After the death of her grandfather, Annette Rüffer's mother took over the company in 1968, which was nationalized in 1972. Her mother continued to run the business. At the end of the 1970s, Annette Rüffer's father took over the management of the company and in 1982 the chip basket factory became part of the “VEB Kombinat Schnittholz Karl-Marx-Stadt" in the “Vereinigte Holzindustrie Marienberg” division. In 1989, although she was the sole owner, her mother bought back the company after the fiduciary had dragged off its reprivatization. Annette Rüffer began working in the company at the end of the 1980s and experienced the end of the GDR era and the restructuring at the beginning of the 1990s at first hand.
Successors
It is questionable whether the craft can be continued, as it currently only serves as a sideline business and cannot provide a full living. Children are taking different career paths.

Workshop and sales space
Workshop, former loading ramp
Materials
Corpus: spruce wood, but also poplar wood. Straps, handles: hardwood, mainly beech. Wood is delivered in whole trunks.
Technology / Tools / Machines
Peeling machine, cutting machine, cardboard stitching machine, woodworking tools
Techniques / Processes
Cutting the log to size, peeling the fresh wood, cutting chips to size, bending, weaving, attaching straps and handles. Between the production steps, the wood chips that are not processed immediately must be spread out to dry. After being placed in water, these can be reused for later processing.
Members / Employees
Annette Rüffer is the only employee. In GDR times, 25-30 employees worked in the company (5 men, 25 women). Production took place every day of the year (Mon-Sun). The baskets could be loaded for transport from Monday to Sunday - after the wagons had been made available by the railway company. The men were mostly responsible for preparing the material, cutting and peeling the logs. The women wove and finished the baskets.
Apprentices
As chip basket making is not an apprenticeship, there are no apprentices. However, the forestry apprentices from the Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz vocational training center go on an excursion to the chip basket factory every year to see how growth management and the way the wood is harvested affect the production and usability of the wood.
Education of the Craftsperson
Training as an industrial clerk, a passion for chip basket production.

Best-selling product
Cheese box, especially for fresh goat's cheese. Chip basket for fruits and mushrooms. Storage and transport basket. Decorative items.
Average time of production
The average production time of a chip basket depends mainly on the quality of the wood and the amount of processing required and can vary greatly. Sometimes Annette Rüffer needs a week for 100 baskets, but sometimes much more or less.
Average price per item
As a whole tree trunk is peeled for each delivery of chip baskets, the average price for a basket is extremely dependent on the currently fluctuating price of wood. Added to this are the energy costs, which are also currently fluctuating, meaning that a valid average price cannot be given.

"The wood has to be freshly processed; you can't store the wood shavings until you can make a box. As the desired sizes and shapes are very different, I only produce to order and hardly have any stock. I make chip baskets because I just love the smell of freshly peeled wood. I really enjoy doing it as a balance to my work as an office worker. Here I make something with my hands, I can see what I'm doing, and I'm left with something that lasts."