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Title:hatchel; hetchel
Date Made:1750-1840
Type:Tool - Textile Working
Materials:wood (bird's eye maple?); base metal: iron
Place Made:United States; New England
Measurements:overall: 4 1/4 x 22 x 4 1/2 in.; 10.795 x 55.88 x 11.43 cm
Accession Number:  HD 69.1119
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

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 were used to align the flax fibers combed through them, separating out the shorter (tow) fibers from the longer ones desired for spinning into yarns suitable for weaving linen. As many as five hatchels of increasingly finely spaced teeth could be used to refine the flax before spinning. Formerly in the collection of the Pocumtuck Vallery Memorial Association (PVMA), this example is a finer hatchel, perhaps the third in a series used to comb flax. Holes in the wooden base suggest it was used when nailed to a wooden bench (with corresponding wear marks on the reverse side). The iron nails or teeth may be hand wrought.

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