Wooden hatchel with iron spikes. Hatchels, also known as hetchels, were used to comb flax fibers in preparation for spinning and weaving. The name comes from a late 15th-century English word (hackle) meaning to prick or pierce. The long iron teeth would align the flax fibers, separating out the shorter ones from the longer fibers desired for spinning into yarn for weaving linen. As many as five hatchels of increasingly finely spaced teeth could be used to refine the flax before spinning. This example is a finer hatchel, with the nails spaced closer together. Hatchels were used to straighten and grade the fibers in the processing of flax fibers for spinning into linen threads.