A Prisoner of War Invention.......
There have been many different English men, (at least half a dozen), who claim to have invented the humble straw splitter. But it is now widely accepted that it was invented by a French Prisoner of War whilst in England, documents refer to it being invented at Yaxley Barracks near Stilton around 1803-1806.
It was a fantastic tool for splitting straw, rather than by using knives, which was laborious and inconsistent and not possible to cut it very fine.
The straw splitter is a very simple tool consisting of circular central pins from which small knives or blades radiated out, from three to ten blades., like spokes.
The central pin was used as a guide and a dampened straw was pushed through the blades where it was sliced into thin slithers.
After splitter the straw would be flattened by rollers so that it would then be ready for plaiting.
The prisoners would use both the shiny yellow outside of the straw or the white inside of the straw or alternate between the two.
This little invention enabled the French Prisoners to produce very fine plait which in turn was used to make very skilful straw boxes, cabinets etc. which were in very high demand at the time.
These two paddle straw splitters date from around 1830-40 and should be remembered for their importance in the straw plaiting industry.
Both are available to buy from www.opusantiques.co.uk
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