Flax scutching mill
France is the world's largest producer of flax and has more than 20 scutchers who transform the flax plant into dyed fiber. Flax, better known in the textile industry, undergoes several transformations before becoming a fabric. Basically, flax is a fibrous plant of the Linaceae family. This plant is cultivated in France for its fibers which are in great demand in different industries. Nowadays, the transformation of the plant into fiber is mainly done by scutchers grouped in cooperatives.
Before the scutching, the plant knows a first natural transformation which is the retting. The quality of the result during the scutching depends on the retting which must be well done. The retting is this step which follows the uprooting of the plant, it consists in exposing the plant to the sun and to the rain to harden the bark of flax with the aim of optimizing the extraction of the flax fiber. This step has an influence on the color of the fiber, it varies from blond to dark brown. Once the retting is completed, the flax is rolled into bales and delivered to the scorer for mechanical operations. The scutching is an operation which consists in separating the different parts of the linen and working the fiber so that it is scented.
This operation has evolved over time, the scutching was done before mills. These mills were composed of a wheel equipped with blades; and the stems of flax were beaten at a high speed. Then in the 19th century, in some regions the scutching was done using the driving force of water, there was the appearance of hydraulic mills, the wheels were equipped with spatulas in polished ash wood which were used to beat the flax introduced in water. Nowadays, scutching is becoming industrial with mechanical operations.
During the scutching process, the first operation consists in spreading the flax bale on a table in the form of a sheet, then the spreader places the stalks in a homogeneous way before entering the machine; it is at this moment that the flax seeds are removed. Then the stalks are passed through the cylinders to break the straw, and afterwards the stalks pass through grinders and beaters that separate the shives (wood) from the fiber (yarn).
The collected fibers are cleaned by drums, which rub the fibers at a speed higher than 150 rpm, which makes the short fibers evacuate by aspiration. The remaining long fibers are again cleaned on a shaker to remove the remaining waste and are baled at the end of the line. The removed short fibers (tow) are processed again before being packed in their turn. This operation marks the end of the scutching process, the packed fibers are called scutched flax; one hectare of flax produces on average between 1200 and 1600 kg of scutched flax. The scutching process produces raw fibers which are then combed. Nowadays, many scutching plants also carry out combing.
Combing is the step that precedes spinning, this step consists in separating the fibers between them, while combing them to remove impurities. The fibers become finer, parallel, and stretched, then assembled in the form of exploitable ribbon.