The last sickle sharpener in Barga ?

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sickle sharpening by hammer blows

The hammer and sickle overlapping each other were the well-known symbols of Communism or revolutionary socialism. Conceived during the Bolshevik Revolution, the two tools were symbols of the industrial proletariat and the peasantry; placing them together symbolised the unity between industrial and agricultural workers but there was  another relationship between the two tools which had nothing to do with the industrial proletariat and everything to do with the peasantry.

Most people when asked to describe how a sickle is sharpened, would mention using a stone to bring back the blunted edge but in fact the tool which was used most often was not a wetting stone but in fact a flat ended hammer.

It was a very delicate and skilful operation and those who could do it well were much sought after.

These days almost all the practitioners of this ancient art have all but vanished from this area but this afternoon one of the very last sharpeners had set up shop in the bright spring sunshine and the sound of his gentle tapping could be heard right across that part of the valley.


In next to no time people were arriving bringing their dull sickles ready to be turned once more into useful tools.  Just for a few brief moments the clock was turned back to a slower ( and without a doubt much more difficult) way of life to the sound of metal on metal tapping away with breaks occasionally as he dipped the sickle into a bucket of water every now and again to cool the edge as he hammered.

A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crop or cutting grass for hay. The inside of the curve is sharp, so that the user can draw or swing the blade against the base of the crop, catching it in the curve and slicing it at the same time. The material to be cut may be held in a bunch in the other hand (for example when reaping), held in place by a wooden stick, or left free. When held in a bunch, the sickle action is towards the user (left to right for a right-handed user), but when used free the sickle is usually swung the opposite way.

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