Bent walnut stock in clamps
In the end, I opted for the piece on the right. It didn't bend symmetrically but had the best length and proportions. While it dried out, I begun to lash the rim with 1/8" leather lace in a double cross pattern. Some space was left in the back for the handle which was shaved down with a crooked knife and further shaped with notches where the inner flat rim would rest. The tips were cut down to a point to insert into the weave of the basket.
Bushel handle; Inserted into the rim
After the handle was securely in place, the remainder of the rim was lashed with lace to end up with the following...
All lashed up
The bottom of the basket still needed runners - pieces of wood that elevate the bottom weave from the ground while also securing the straps of the harness. An unused scrap walnut found in the storage room would do nicely. It had a distinct warp to it, but I figured it was still usable for this project since the bottom of the basket will naturally bulge and curve when loaded. At 1 - 1/8th", it was too thick so after marking out the pieces, I shaped them down with the spokeshave and rounded the edges. Slots where the harness straps would run through were chiseled out too.
Walnut stock; shaped with a spokeshave
The pieces would be secured to the basket with wood screws attached to inner runners made from another scrap piece of neatly planed basswood - figured the light creamy basswood would blend nicely with the unstained reed. I couldn't resist decorating this wood with pyrography since it burns so well, so one of the inner pieces has a paddle design quickly burned on it.
Runners complete; attached to the bottom
View into the bottom
Unfortunately, trying to reach down into the basket and screw the runners properly proved to be a major difficulty as I had difficulty seeing and had to work by feel. In the end, they went on lopsided, but this is the bottom of the basket so I didn't care by this point.
Still to do...a custom pack harness saved for another post.
July 26 Update: Part 3 now posted