Friday, August 19, 2022

 It Works! She lives!

Image of a wooden flax brake with flax placed on top.

What you see here resting on my outdoor worktable is a prototype of a fully functioning tabletop Flax Brake! I am thrilled! This will now serve as my working (yay!) guide for making the final maple brake for the American Swedish Institute Teaching Tools Grant I received early this summer.

Check out the product of the first test—properly broken flax stalks!

Image of hand holding broken flax

I plan to cut the maple wood for the final brake at my husband's friend's workshop sometime in the next month and do my magic to create a fully functioning, gorgeous maple flax brake that will serve my students—and me for flax processing demonstrations—for years to come.

It's built to last. I chose to use screws rather than dowels for the construction since wooden dowels tend to shrink and expand with the changing seasons, which erratically loosens and tightens connections. I also decided to use a strong metal piano hinge for the pivot rather than a large dowel because the weakest point in both of my vintage brakes has been the wooden pivot dowel. This brake should stand the test of time—and the use of many hands!

Hackle News

I just learned that the three hackles, which are the other tools I requested in my grant application, are coming in from the UK next week. (A site in the UK was the only place I located that still makes a properly graduated set of three flax hackles.) I'll post the news and photos when I have the hackles in hand.

Flax News

Sorry. Nothing new to share on the flax plant front. They are still growing, albeit slowly, in the pots, but a few stalks are starting to yellow. Their growing season should be ending soon, with drying and harvesting to follow. Perhaps I'll have more to share about the plants in my next post.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Growth with the Project—in more ways than one!

It's been a few weeks since my last post, but this lapse has only been due to being too busy to post. The accident I had nearly a month ago also kept me from working on the prototype for a couple of weeks. But since then, I've been in mad creation mode! 

Each piece is connected by wood screws 
in an attempt to make a really strong flax brake 
that will stay strong in all seasons (to avoid the 
seasonal shrinking and expanding of typical wood 
dowel connections) and to withstand heavy use by students.

The prototype is nearly finished! Last Sunday, 7/31/22 (my goal date for having the prototype done—I nearly met that date and would have if not for my accident), I screwed together all sections to test the general fit. 

Here's the built prototype sitting in front of its purpose, the flax,
before pulling the brake completely apart to cut the blades.

On Monday, 8/1/22, I was in a friend's woodworking shop to create the blades' angled cuts. Of course, I forgot to take photos of the action in the workshop. Perhaps I'll remember photos when cutting the final maple brake. Nevertheless, here's a photo of what the angled blades look like from a side perspective:

I still need to soften the wood edges at the top of the blade angles
to allow the blades to break the flax without cutting it.

Now, an update on the flax growing experiment…

The flax has not grown substantially in height during the past few weeks.
The average flax stalk height is now 24 inches. The smaller black pots
are still lagging behind, with some being pretty short and stagnant in their growth.

It's possible the stalks may grow taller in the next month since they can reach 3 to 4 feet tall in perfect growing conditions (a field with full sun). The challenge here is they are growing in pots, which is perhaps not ideal, and the adjacent tomato plants have also been taking over their direct sun. Today, I moved the flax to a more ideal location away from the tomatoes, so now there is less competition with the sun. I'll see if that makes a difference in their future growth. There have been a few more flowers, although they have not been prolific. Perhaps that means there is more growth to come!