There are so many beautiful antique scutching knives out there. In flea markets, yard sales and museums. Ornamented to fit a specific hand, often as a wedding or engagement gift. Clearly used by a skilled hand. A right hands. As a leftie I realized that I will never find an antique scutching knife for a leftie. But I worked myself around that.
With a simple search for skäktkniv or skäkteträ in the Swedish Digital museum you will find lots if beautiful old scutching knives. Here is one example with a sweet and plain design. And, as usual, made for a right-handed person.
While I have seen some neutral scutching knives (I actually have two neutral scutching knives, from the 1980’s), I have never seen one made specifically for a left-handed person. We are only about ten per cent of the population and in many cultures left-handedness has been frowned upon and even forbidden.
A new scutching knife
I follow a very talented wood worker on Instagram, Frej Lonnfors. He makes the most beautiful carving work. Last year he posted pictures of flax processing tools – exquisite hand distaffs, wheel distaffs and distaff pins. One day he posted a picture of a magnificent scutching knife. That’s when I realized that I could get my ornamented scutching knife. Not antique, but made to fit my hand, my left hand.
I contacted Frej and he was happy to do it. This was in late October. He had several orders to complete and I wasn’t in any hurry to process my flax that time of year, so he put my request on hold until he had caught up with his work. Just this week I got my treasure in the mail.
As I talked to Frej about the design my first and foremost wish was for it to be comfortable to work with and fit my hand. I wanted a subtle ornamentation and sent him a few images from the Digital museum to use as inspiration together with his own artistic expression. I also said I would like to feel the traces from the tools in my hand as I used the scutching knife.
I think he captured my requests exquisitely. I love the tool traces inside the handle. The ornamentation is just perfectly subtle and I can see and feel the traces of the band knife and axe on the blade. Frej worked in birch wood, which is one of my favourites.
This week Dan, our daughter and I have been busy planning and organizing the reception for our son’s graduation from upper-secondary school, so there has been no time for anything else, let alone processing flax (I’m so tired I could sleep for a week). But I did carve out (pun very much intended) fifteen minutes to test drive my sweet new scutching knife on my very modest 2020 flax harvest that I broke six months ago.
The scutching knife worked perfectly. It is lovely to hold both when it comes to ergonomics and the sensation of the wood in my hand. I love the notion of a scutching knife made just for me as I work with the flax I have grown right here in the flower bed outside our house.
As I work in the scutching part of the flax preparation process I think of the process of making the scutching knife. The designing, planning, rough carving, shaping, fine carving and finishing. I have no idea what the parts of the process are called, let alone what they are, but my point is that there is a specific process in the maker’s mind and hands. I have no part in this process, but it is still there when I use the scutching knife. Like a sweet whisper from a craft cousin, holding my hand as I scutch away with a singing heart. I can’t wait to prepare the rest of my 2020 and 2021 flax. Meanwhile, my 2022 flax is growing in the allotment beds.
Thank you Frej for my wonderful scutching knife. I am sure we will be very happy together for many flax harvests to come.
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