Flax Scutching, Hackling When the retted flax has dried, breaking separates the inner core. A flax brake looks similar to a saw horse and consists of heavy hinged wooden blades that fit into wooden grooves in the lower part.
Flax Brake Put a large cloth under the flax brake. Open the bundles of dried and retted flax plants. Lay the plants across the grooves of the flax brake and lower the upper part of the brake sharply in quick repeated blows. This breaks the wooden part of the core that should fall to the floor, leaving the clean strick or flax fibre behind.
If the flax fibres are breaking, the flax has been over-retted. The wooden part of the core, called the boon can be used for garden mulch, burned as fuel in your fireplace or can be used in making particle-board.
If any boon is left on the fibre after the hackling process, it is removed by scutching. A bat-shaped or knife-shaped wooden bladeboard or blade is used to scrape the flax to remove the boon.
Hackling separates the long line fibre from the shorter tow. A hackle is a bed of pins or nails. Secure the hackle firmly to a bench. Hold the flax firmly and one end and comb the fibre through the bed of the hackle. Be careful as the pins or nails are sharp.
This hackling process is similar to carding wool. The longer fibre left over will be the strick. It should be shiny and uniform in length, with the fibres running parallel to each other. The fibre left in the teeth of the hackle can be removed and recombed to be used as tow.
Both hemp and flax are similar bast fibres, so the processing methods are the same.
The flax is now ready for your spinning wheel!
I took this flax video during a Spin Flora Workshop that I taught at the AGWSD Summer School 2017. Peter Hoare was kind enough to bring along his flax brake to show us how it is done.