Late 1700s or early 1800s hackle or comb for processing flax to produce filaments (fibers) to spin yarn and make linen. This hackle consists of hand wrought nails (spikes to be precise) that were driven through a board of cypress (tentative identification) that had been covered with pieces of hand beaten sheet iron. The sheet iron added strength to the wood mount in order to prevent splitting after so many nails had been driven through it. The nails originally had hand wrought heads that were cut off after they were driven thought the board used to mount them ( see photo close up of nail shanks on back of board). The hackle was mounted years ago on a second wider and thicker board using two hand wrought nails. One of the nails is loose and can be removed by carefully working back and forth after which the hackle can be pivoted to see the back side (see photo with hackle turned about 90 degrees to one side).
In all, there are about 102 iron spikes in this hackle. Each spike is about 4 1/4 inches long and they are set in 21 rows alternating between of 4 and 5 spikes per row when viewed from one of its longer sides. The last rows at each end have 9 spikes and 8 spikes respectively and bring the total row count to 23 rows. If viewed on a diagonal, there are nine long diagonal rows of 9 spikes each followed by four to five partial or incomplete diagonal rows at each end. The spikes are hand wrought as opposed to machine cut spikes and were originally nails with hand wrought heads that were cut off after most of the nail shank had been pounded through the wood mount. The wood mount can be rotated to expose the back of the hackle by removing one of its hand wrought nails used to pin the hackle to its secondary backing board. This secondary board has been reused from some old structure had appears to have been hand riven. It also has some incised lines on its back side (see all photos).
The process of combing flax to make fiber for spinning yarn goes back centuries. The last photo shows a print of a commercial hackle processing room in a factory published by Denis Diderot in 1763 in his pictorial encyclopedia of trades and industry (Plate 28 published in France and titled ‘L’Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers’ and published in abbreviated form by Dover Publications Inc, New York, 1959 and edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie). This print from Diderot shows four hackles in graduating sizes on a table along the far wall with workmen combing hemp (also used to produce fiber for textile thread and rope). In the corner, the hemp is pulled around a bar to remove unwanted plant tissue. In the foreground, another workman rubs the hemp fibers over a rough surface. As this print illustrates, combing flax or hemp requires several different hackles with nails set at finer and closer spacings. The last comb might have hundreds of small steel needles set very close together to split the fibers into very fine filaments. Coarser grade flax filaments could be used for spinning thread to produce common yarn with counts of 200 whereas the finest thread used for Belgian lace, for example, would be made from hand spun thread with counts of 400 to 600.
By the 1820s, machines made thread replaced hand spun thread in industrial areas, however hand combed flax continued to be made in rural areas to produce yarn for homemade spinning wheels until late in the century. The hackle for sale here dates from the late 1700s or early 1800s and reminds one of the period when most American households were farming families that produced their own textiles and yarn before industrialization replaced these ancient crafts. And so if you collect primitive tools or household craft items, then you may certainly want to consider this comb or hackle while it is still available. Good examples like it are much harder to find today this one has a hook on the back for displaying along a wall or fireplace. And as always, this antique hackle also comes with my Docs Antiques 100% satisfaction guarantee or you may return it using my return policy for a refund (see full Return Policy details farther below).
SIZE: The hackle itself consists of a board measuring about 12 1/2 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide through which about 100 iron spikes have been set in rows (board is about 3./4 inches thick). The hackle has then been nailed to a larger board that measures 21 3/4 inches long by 5 5/8 inches wide and varies in thickness from about 3/4 to 1 1/8 inches thick. There is a hook on the back of this larger board for hanging the item on a wall.
CONDITION: The hackle and wood pieces are in good condition with no bugs, mold or other pests. The hackle teeth have age and use related patina and some fine filament deposits from years of combing fibers. A few of the iron spikes are bent and about 1/4 inch of one spike tip is broken off. If one gentle works one of the nails pinning the hackle to the larger board back and forth until it comes out, the hackle with swivel so that one can see part of its back side (see photos). A nice example of a primitive household tool from some 190 to 240 years ago that has no modern repairs and no restoration. Of course, if the buyer is not 100% satisfied, then she/he may return this item for a refund (see our refund policy noted below).
SHIPPING: All US mainland buyers pay $19.40 for well packed USPS Standard Post (this is an estimated savings of about $2 to $8 since insurance and tracking are also INCLUDED in the above quoted amount for all mainland US addresses). No handling or packing fees are ever charged and all international buyers will pay only the exact shipping costs for all verifiable locations outside the continental US mainland. We only use the USPS for International shipping to reduce broker fees and some Custom’s charges when an item is over 100 years old. We always encourage the International buyer to select an International shipping option that also provides insurance against loss or damage, and ask the International customer to send us their address for an email quote covering all insured International shipping options to your location. To date, we have shipped fragile items to 28 countries around the globe and have not had any items lost or broken, however this fact does not guarantee that no postal mishandling will ever occur in the future. Also, please note that International import duties, taxes and other charges are not included in the item price or shipping costs and these additional charges are the Buyer's responsibility. We do offer a petition for VAT relief on the behalf of the buyer which may help reduce certain import taxes should your country allow such petitions for items over 100 years old. Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to purchasing this item -- thanks.
RETURN POLICY: Satisfaction and peace of mind are guaranteed for all Docs Antiques Ruby Lane listings -- please refer directly to our Service Pledge and our Return Policy for full details. And this means that if the buyer is unhappy with the purchase, then she/he may return it by sending the item back undamaged and post marked within fourteen days of original receipt for a refund (certain shipping costs are non-refundable). Items damaged by shipping in the US are covered by insurance and while this rarely happens because we double pack, we will gladly help you file your insurance claim should it ever be necessary (we have not had any claims for damage or loss in over seven years). Of course, never send an item back that has been damaged by shipping since that will void the original insurance. Instead, contact us for help and we will gladly assist.
PAYMENT OPTIONS: We accept checks on US Banks (no temporary checks, all checks must have 9 digit routing code; item ships after check fully clears), USPS money orders, PayPal, or contact us with your verified address for more options. If you wish to use a credit card by way of PayPal, that option becomes available after you submit a Ruby Lane purchase order (see Terms of Sale for additional information). Once submitted, a PayPal icon will appear at the bottom of this listing and then you may proceed from there if you wish to pay via PayPal. Thanks for looking and do come back and visit again when you have the time.
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