The Dusack’s Agricultural Origins

A German DusackThe dusack is a remarkable weapon. It’s traditionally made of wood or leather (although some metal examples are known) and was used as a training weapon the the German schools of swordsmanship and the town guard in Eastern Europe to quell hordes of drunken revelers. The dusack fighting system outlined in Joachim Meyer’s Art of Combat (1570, tr. J. Forgeng) is bone-breakingly fast.

Scutching KinfeMy question has always been where on earth did such an unusally shaped weapon come from? Then I stumbled across this.

Dusacks in Pennsylvania? Gangs of militant Amish keeping the law with quaintly decorated wooden swords?

The Dusack is an agricultural tool using in the manufacture of linen from flax. In this context, it is more commonly called a scutching knife or a swingle knife.

Flax is a hardy grass and needs some working in order to reveal the soft fibrous material hiding inside. After harvesting, the flax stalks are smashed (or scutched) with against a hard surface to break apart the tough outer husk of the stalk. Then a steel comb is used to drag out and, like raw wool, card the flax fibres which are then twisted into thick ropes for transport to fabric, thread and rope manufacturers.

The technique is still used today and there’s even a festival dedicated to keeping alive the secrets of flax.

Meyer’s adopted town of Strasbourg, where he established his fencing school, was the region transport hub of a region known for its flax production. It is hardly surprising then that he picked a common implement to teach beginners single-handed sword techniques.

And here’s one I prepared earlier.

For those interested exploring this weapon further, here’s some links which may be of interest: