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THE FLAX COMMISSION.

The following Interim Report of tho Flax Commissioners appointed during the last session of the General Assembly, has been published :—

la reply to the circulars issued, comparatively few returns have; been received. But those sent in give such an amount of useful information as to justify its publication in an Interim Report. A more complete and detailed one will be laid before the General Assembly during its next session.

The intention of the circular was to elicit information on the growth, culture, and manufacture of the New Zealand flax ; and in these remarks the same order will be followed :— GROWTH AND CULTURE. It may be taken for granted that flax will grow from seed : though the natives never adopt this mode, but always transplant it, and for this obvious reason, that it takes three years to mature flax from seed, while by transplanting it can be ready in. two years, or, if planted in suitable soil, earlier. '.■••■.

The seed should be pulled aa Iho pods begin to open. This occurs in February and March, arid it should be sown at once according to one return, or in spring according to others. But the general impression is that the seed should be tested i before being sown, and various modes have been suggested for this purpose.

1. Steep the seed in water of about HOdegs. heat for about five hours, or till it falls to the bottom. What then floats may be considered bad or non-pro-ductive. ■

2. Put seed in a bag and deposit it for about three hours in a bed of refuse .of the flax, which heats very much. Then put it in water, as above, to test its vitality.

3. Feed fowls with flax seed, and place deposit in earth. -

; The seed should be sown in beds or boxes, for convenience, where it remains till it grows to two or three inches in height, when it should be trans^ planted, into nursery beda. When the planta are a year old, they should be planted out in their permanent locality. Flax will grow in; almost any soil, but soil is not material, except for quality. One return says it grows; best on light: rich soil—by the Bides of rivers and brooks, where sheltered from the wind. Another says it grows best on rich dry but not deep, clay ; soil, having; yellowclay subsoil, with plenty of light and'air. The same authority also •■ says that "deep alluvial soil ia very suitable ; but tho greatest crops are reared on high volcanic SOll. " ' ' ■'.•■. ' ■--.■ •-.::■

■; Another return saysthata well-drained i swamp gives largest returns, and this fact has been verified by observation in !,tffl Upper Waikato and elsewhere. : Stagnant; marshes are prejudicial to the growth; of flax, but as soon as they' are drained, and the water sweetened ; j the same flax will grow rapidly. The: drains should be open, and the water' therein should flow about twelve inches below the surface. If practicable, swamp land should be ploughed as soon as it is ;dry enough for the purpose, and allowed to remain till summer, or till March when it Bhould .be again ploughed, and iplanted immediately thereafter. The isoil will be well pulverised by thai -time;! •Should the land become very dry in sum.-" mer, the drains might be stopped, so is to irrigate the soil; for any land that .is pe-' riodically inundated is very suitable for' promoting rapid growth. Alluvial 'soil should also be ploughed in winter or spring, arid allowed to dry'till autumn, when it should again be ploughed, and planted out, that is, in March'or April/or as soon as the autumn, rains arrive—in' fact, the earlier the better, for the plants make roots all winter, and are ready to come away with a vigorous growth in' the spring. ; One return recommends trenching and" subsoil ploughing, but it is thought that at present, either process; would be too"'. expensive, and might kill the plant by de- • pnvmg-it of- the impermeable substratum I that retains the. water necessary for the rapid de7elopementof the flax. If, ho we yeW : the experiment is wished to be tried.' the . process is this :—Select a piece of ■ opW land, well sheltered/from,sweeping winds —near; a creek or river—in extent, ac- ■ cording to the supply required ; dig ' it' two feet deep, and in the course of di»> gmg mix plenty of, two-year-old manure ' thoroughly with the soil.' As soon as t&e •• seed is? matured sow in drills two feet apatt-"". When the plants are large enough', to'" handle, thm them out to four' inches ;. apart. In the course of the season water the plants liberally, and keep them freo from weeds. If seedlings are used, a , cropof cabbages, cauliflowers, mangold turmpa, carrots, or any crop deemed desirable, may be; : grown alternately with the flax, during the first two! years. But ; the ■■■ suggestor of this plan has .evidentlynever put it to the practicable test, or ke must have found the expense of the pro-r I cess fatal to its success. .! „..

. Reverting .to the. method of cultivating by transplanting, tlie plants should be sown in rows; and in the same way as1' trees are planted;, but the returns differ as to the distance from, row to row and from each plant in a row. It seems to be overlooked that planted flax will not beallowed to grow into large bushes, as it, . does in the uncultivated state. On the. contrary, the constant cutting which will be carried on will confine it within a ' comparatively limited' space. The roots thrown out by the first plants will undoubtedly spread around it; but still ife will alwaya be practicable to keep the bunches within a small space. With this view the rows might only be four feet apart, and only three feet between each ! plant in: a row. At all events, the quantity of soil that would be saved in this way would justify the experiment on' • a small scale. In this case, -the'roots. "■ should 08 planted across the lines in rows. Six feet is generally recommended to bo v between each row andeach plant, because closer planting might impoverish the soil. Bat it should be kept in. view that flax needs shelter, and the near proximity of ■" the plants to each other would afford . tins, and assist in, drawing up leaves, and " in matmg finer fibre. X suitable knd is ■ chosen it is thought that impoverish- ' f ment of soil will not result from the doss -- planting. ; With the view of still xarther econo- ; mising space, it is suggested that about ten or twelve: rows . should be planted, ' thena break of 10, or 12 feet should be-, •. left;-for drays to pass along and collect flax when cut. Then other ten or twelve ■ rows should be planted, then another -break, and so on. The size of the ground , : to be planted must however regulate this- *: so far. • ' . ■ ' ' ° ...';

■ About one thousand roots planted six teet apart each way will coyer an aero of-:": land, but if the land is planted four feet^v; by-three, feet as recommended above ? : about one-third more will be required fo ■ j an aerev ■ ■ ■.:

In on© bnsh of: flax there will be from twenty to fifty roots for transplanting. The returns differ also as to the number

o? roots that should be planted together; one, two, and three are variously recommended. X two or three aro planted together a larger space of ground would require to be left around. Care should be taken to avoid planting tho centre portion of an old plant, which is not so productive as young shoots, and has a, tendency to run to flower, when it requires more nourishment than all the leaves-do. Tho flower-stalk should therefore be cut down as early as possible, and when this is done the cut part should be rubbed over with a little earth to prevent "bleeding." But if the close planting shall be adopted, only one root should be planted at one place. The time it takes for maturing and for cutting the leaves is still an unsettled question. It is pretty certain that flax grown from seed will not be ready to cut sooner than three years. But, where suckers are planted, the leaves will be ready in two years. . The quality and position of the soil will greatly affect this question. In favourable circumstances some will be ready in twelve months. Messrs Rees and Gibson, of Rangitilvei, mention in their return that leaves cut in August were replaced by others in February following, about four feet in length ; and Messrs Cummings, Finnimore, and Co., Wanganui, after three years' experience, say that succeeding leaves are ready in about eight months after previous cutting. They have even cut one entire bush growing in swamp land, and could cut again in that time. This statement, however, is not supported by the other evidence.

When the rotation of cropping shall be established, from two to sis leaves may be cut from each root every six, eight, or twelve months, according to soil, care, and attention. , . .

The maturity of the leaf is ascertained by its texture and firmness, or by its being split at the point, or by the recurving of the blades from the central midribs. The leaf of the best flax should bo over five feet in length, excluding the butt. The top of the leaf, says Mr Locke, should feel soft to the touch, and droop a little; this occurs in. winter.

The natives say that the flax should not be cut from the time the flowering-stalk shoots until it dies again, as the fibre is then brittle, and of a red tinge; and during winter they carefully preserve their flax swamps. But if a pei^manent supply is to be kept up, it will be difficult if not impossible, to comply with their notions ; and hence it has been suggested, as one mode of remedying this, that the flower-stalk should he cut, but the best time for cutting it requires experience ; it is thought s the sooner the better. The question of fencing the cultivated ground must also be considered and provided for. Cattle will not only destroy the outer leaves, but also the very life of the plant, by eating the heart of it. This is an undoubted fact; indeed it was the mode which the cow used to get the epidermis off the fibre, which suggested to Mr Whytlaw the machine he invented for dressing it. Some law must therefore be passed to protect parties investing large capital in cultivating a plant that is so likely to be beneficial to the colony. The reckless burning of flax land should be put a stop to by legislative authority. ,

The general understanding is, that in Gutting flax only the outer leaves should be cut, and that in doing so great care should be taken not to injure the leaves which enclose the centre shoot. With this view the knife should be inserted at the leaf enclosing the centre shoot, and tine outside leaves, two or three on each side, cut downwards and slanting outwards ; but no leaf should be cut before maturity, as this also weakens the plant and makes it liable to go to flower. Another return says that in uncultivated sioamp land all the plant may be cut down, and that in twelve months therefrom there will be an entire new crop ready, and if the land shall be drained a second crop may be got in eight months; but this probably may be explained by the previous existence of undeveloped plants in the land which take] the place of those destroyed. The same return says that in cultivated flax only the outside leaves should be cut, and that in four months thereafter another supply could be got. But it "will require very favourable circumstances to secure this.

Good soil does not require manure to make flax grow ; but after the second or third year a top dressing of refuse of flax, preserved for the purpose and thoroughly decomposed, would keep down weeds", and assist roots by sheltering them from the sun, and by supplying the exact mineral constituents required for the growth of the plant. Well fermented Stable or other manure would assist greatly; if the question of expense is of no_ importance. Bone dust is also very suitable. About twenty tons of decomposed manure would be required for cash acre cultivated. But, as already stated, if the land can be periodically iuundated by the overflow of running streams carrying sediment, no manure whatever need, be used, The natives do not use manure, though they prepare the soil wife treat care.

A supply of the best kinds of seed may be procured at Wangahui, Taranaki. Hawke's Bay, "Waikato, and indeed anywhere in the North Island. The natives should be employed to procure these, and roots too, if required. Some assert that the aeeds of the different varieties are gradually being blended together by the aotion of the bees, so that by and bye it ■mil be difficult to get supplies of any distinct kind. It is also stated that there is a triennial development of the flowerBtalks and seeds, which only then reach maturity, and that during the two intermediate years it would be'extremely difficult to get the seed in quantity. During the last year the supply has been remarkably abundant all over the country. It is difficult to name the best kinds of flax for cultivation, as different trihesand localities have different names for the same variety ; most probably soil, climate, and cultivation have more to do with this tnan is generally believed. Mr Nairn, of Pourere, Hawke's Bay Bays there are four kinds of fl*x, named by the natives in his neighbourhood, the Tapoto, the Wharanui, the Kauhangaroa, and the Wharariki.

The Tapoto is the flax principally used by natives for dressing. It gives a strong lustrous fibre,, and is readily dressed ia their way. It is often planted by them. It luxuriates in very rich vegetable soil with plenty of moisture, and will grotf, in favourable situations, to the height of four feet. The leaves are narrow and stand erect, have a deep purple margin, *£? > md is Panted by the natives in rows 20 feet apart. The Wharamri is the other kind used by the natives for the same purpose, and is planted in the same way. This variety grows much better, and has a much wider leaf with a red margin, and is tound m the same localities as the Tapoto.

The Kauhangaroa is a dark green, and very tall growing variety, with a black margin to the leaves. The leaves bend utwards, and are dressed by the natives

only for baskets and matting. It is never planted by thorn, and is very easily broken with a jerk.

The Warariki is very broad and tall in its leaf, and is used by tho natives for the same purpose as the Kauhangaroa. The fibre is also very tender, and never used by natives except for kits, &c. This variety is found in the richest of the aoila—-bottoms of small valleys, by the sides of streams, and is never planted by the natives.

The Rev Mr Taylor, of Wanganui, gives ten varieties of flax, several of which are cultivated and used by natives for their own purposes. And Mr Armstrong of Christchurch, gives twelve varieties, which, he says, are cultivated in the Government Domain there. He says the most distinct varieties are

(1) The One. — Leaf narrow, very strong, edges of loaves orange coloured. (2) The Atiraukawa.—Leaf broad, light green, abrupt at the points, edges light brown.

(3) Hukiroa.—Leaf very long, tapering at the point, edges light brown. (4) Tihore. —Leaves linear, very strong, edges dark red.

(5) Tapoto.—Similar to Tihore, tapering at ths points, edges red. (6j Kauhangaroa.—Leaves very large, coarse-looking, edges and base of leaf dark brown, and two variegated forms. ■Mr. Armstrong Has furnished the Commissioners with the weights of several of these varieties, both before and after being dressed, viz :— Weight before Weight after dreading, dressing. ib. oz. oz. Kauhangaroa ... 014 2| Kuroa ... ... 112 5 Hue ... ... 16 74 Tihore ... ... 113 5£ ;. ; Rutaroa ... ... 1 6 4| Tapoto ... ... 3 4 9f Variegated kind ... 3 5 10 But this does not fshew the relative market value of each variety, so as to shew which sort it is most advisable to cultivate, and it may be that Mr Armstrong's experiments have been performed on several specimens of these plants not indigenous to his province, and but recently introduced there.

Mr Kelly, of New Plymouth, gives the names of twenty-two supposed varieties known in his province, viz:—Atiraukawa, Huhiroa, Parekoritawa (variegated), One, Tihore (I have not been able to satisfy myself whether this variety is identical with a plant of the same in the Auckland province) Ngutunui, Atewiki, Korako, Taiore, Takaipu, One, Ratarou, Raumoa, Manumi, Tipuna, Huruhuruhika, Ngutuparera, Tito o moo wai, Ngaro, Turareke, _Warariki, Pato. He says, " I cannot give a description of the whole of the above, the following are the only plants of which I can give any reliable description" :—

Atiraukawa.—This plant is said by the natives to produce the best and most abundant fibre ; it is not large, as. compared with Huhiroa, but is said to be a quick grower. , The leaf is inclined to bronze colour when at maturity, when young of a light olive green, the young leaf is Gothic pointed, and the edge of a dull dark brown, a shade lighter on the inner margin, sometimes leaves are seen with the brown relieved by a bright red line.

Huhiroa.—This plant has a bluish green coloured leaf ; which narrows gradually to the point, and a narrow edge of black or very dark brown, the keel has a reddish chocolate colour, it grows very luxuriantly and produces goodjfibre; it is easily separated from the green gummy matter by the native process of stripping. One.—This leaf is narrow, of an olive green, and the edge and keel orange coloured. (In'the enclosed papers this description applies to TiHore, but I think erroneously bo.) Parekoritawa.—This is a very beautiful plant, the leaf is of a bright green, striped longitudinally by a brimstone colour, the edge arid keel are of an orange colour. I thinkthis'is a Bport, as some of the leaves of the plant are often found green or very partially striped ; the fibre is very good. Manumi has a short leaf and black edge. :

Atewiki.—This plant is easily distinguished—the leaf is narrow, ha 3 a reddish tinge, and a narrow line of bright scarlet on the edge and. keel, the fibre is very white.

Taiore is abundant in the Opunake district, the leaf is a light green, and has a wide black edge, is easily distinguished, Tito-o moe-wai has a long red-edged" leafy the point of which falls over.

Takaipu.—The leaf Btands erect, has a brown edge, the fibre is very strong, and is used by the natives for making fishing lines, v ■'• ■ - ■-■ ■■- ■ ■•■": .".-..'■'; ••■ •'•':

' JSfgutuhui.— The leaf similar to the last but has a blunt point; and is red at the butts,when;split; •'•" ' <• i ■ .■:• Huruhuruhika bears a general resemblance to the Takaipu. Korako.—The leaf is of a dark green, the edge.has a narrow line of dark brown, which appears black, the keel is a pale yellow. '■;•■.■ ,

The following list of names has been given by a native of Taranaki as the best varieties, and formerly used by the natives for making the best garments ; all the other kinds, he stated, were only used for making rough garments and ropes— Parikoritawa, Huhiroa, One, Atiruakawa, Otewhike, Korako; NgutiinuL To this list other names areadded by nativesfrom other districts, namely :—Jitataroa, Taiore, Manunu,{Takaipu.' ~.-..•-■ : Mr Benjamin Wells, of Taranaki, also givea the names of the various kinds of flax there, . which are as follows :—1 Aoanga, 2 Ate, 3 Harakeke, 4 Maori Kohinga, 5 Korari, 6 Ngarahi, 7 One, 8 Quhe, 9 Paritaniwa, 10 Ratawa, 11 Raomoa, 1 2 Eerehape, 13 Tarariki, 14 Tihore, 15 Uhiroa, 16 Waranui, 17 Warariki, 18 Wararipi, (1. 2, 12, 16,18, are not known among the, natives of this province, except as synonymes of more generally accepted names,) and says, of these Mr Wells is acquainted with Aoanga, Tihore, Harakeke, Maori, and Ngarahu. Aoanga is beautifully variegated on the upper surface of the leaf. The margins and keel, or underside of the .leaf, are of orange colour. The fibre is very fine and silky.

Tihore has a deep olive green, the margins and keel are of orange colour; the fibre is fine—this variety is held in hit>h estimation by the Maoris. Ngapahi is of apple green colour, the margins and keel are black ; the fibre is plentiful, fine, and good. The above are the best kinds of flax.

Harakeke Maori is of apple green colour ; the margins are orange colour. It is very common, and is useful for many imrposes, but its fibre is not equal in quality to that of the above-mentioned varieties.

Mr Kelly thinks that the following are the quickest growers of the best varieties, and arrive at maturity earliest, namely:— Atiraukawa, Huhiroa, Ngutunui, and Rataroa. Mr,. Kelly adds, all the varieties grow from seed naturally. I have been told by the natives that they have tried to propagate the best plants by sowing the seed, but have always failed ; and it has always been to them a mystery how it was that young plants sprung up

where the earth had been disturbed by them when they took up roots for transplanting, and yet they could not get the seed to grow. I think the explanation is a simple one. The conditions necessary to the vegetation of seed were not fulfilled by the natives, who, I suppose, had sown them in a seed-bed in the usual manner, and were not imbedded in a rich vegetable mould, and kept in that condition of moisture and Bhade which the seed shed from plants growing in good soil generally obtains. The disturbance of the soil, and the letting in of light, by taking away roots for transplanting, probably hastened the vegetation of those seeds, which had been subject long enough to the above condition. I have aown seeds of the Huhiroa in an ordinary seed-bed, and although I found that a few vegetated, they invariably died off when about ten inches high, which I attributed to want of shade from the sun, and a want of uniform moisture in the soil. The natives also observed that, after a fire, the young plants cfimo up vigorously. Mr Schnackenber<r, of Uaglan, mentions several other varieties, and considers that the Ngaro, which has a black border, is the best of all the kinds for all purposes, and yet none of the other returns mentions this variety under the same name.

Mr Locke again says that Tapoto or Takirikau is sometimes called Tihore or Takiri, and considers this the best variety known to the natives on the East Coast. He states, however, that it has scarlet edges, while Mr Nairn says tho articlo bearing the same name in his locality has a deep purple margin; but probably the colour of the margin may vary with the season and the aridity of the climate where the flax growß.

After the Tapofco or Tihore, Mr Locke classes the One and Wharanui as next in value, bufc of these Mr Arms'rong does not give the relative quality of fibre turned out from the same quantity of green leaf. Whether Tapota and Tihore aro tho same cannot be said at present, but Mr Armstrong shews the quantity of fibre in each is nearly the same.

Mr Manning, of Hokianga, says that a preponderance of fibre is indicated by the leaf assuming a light colour approaching to straw colour. ' The only thing therefore which intending purchasers of seed or roots can do, is, to ask parties acquainted in the flax districts to select the best kinds for. them.

In conclusion, under this branch of the subject, it may be,suggested that great care should be exercised in commencing the cultivation of flax, as it is a very expensive operation, and two or three years must elapse before any return can be got. On the other hand, it is quite certain that exaggerated ideas are everywhere entertained as to the quantity of flax in each locality, and parties have gone into the business in the belief that they had an unlimited supply of flax for several machines, when it turned out, on enquiry and working, that there was not enough for one. Cultivation must therefore be encountered at once ; but let it be done judiciously and according to the meaiis at the disposal of parties commencing the operation. In this way alone will failure be averted, and a permanent supply be kept ; up; It is estimated that on good flax land (uncultivated), such ad is to be found in the Waikato, about four tons of green flax can be cut per acre, without injury to the plants, where it has not been cut before; so that one hundred and fifty to. two hundred acres of good flax land are required to keep two machines going for a year; and as it is far from certain that the second year's crop will produce four tons per acre, it would not be prudent to put up a mill without previously securing from two hundred to three hundred acres of good flax.

As a rule for the guidance of others, it may be stated that wherever flax cannot be laid down at the port of embarkation at L2O, leaving a profit, the manufacture should be discontinued or not commenced. And with a view still farHier to assist parties engaged in, or -wishing to engage in, the manufacture of flax, it may be taken for granted (1) that a man will cut half-a-ton of green flax a-day, the expert cut a whole ton. This is the only part of the manufacture that should be done by contract—the other parts should be done by day wages. (2) That sis tons of green flax will make one ton of fibre; (3) That three machines will dress five tons per week. (4) That the dressing of the flax will cost about Ll6 per ton of' fibre. (5) That the cost of machinery, &c, will be, say,

£ s. d. 8-horse engine and : Cornish boiler 200 0 0 Three machines .. '.. ... 66 0 0 Scutchera ... .. ....".. 20 00 Screw press ... ,„, ... 30 0 0 Buildings i.; ... ..V ..i 200 0 0 ' ; ■■■'; '516- 0 0. (6) £ s.; d.; ■■••• : ' 5 tons of flax sold at £20 100 0 0 Depreciation of ma- . chinery ..; ... 115 0 Eight men's wages at 30* ... ',;.:.. ; ... 12 0 0 One ruaa at engine .., 115 0 Fourteen lad 3at 14a each ... ... 9 16 0 30 tons green flix ...37 10 0 Packing, baling, &c ... 6 5 0 3 tons coal at 25s ... 315 0 Freight or cartage, say 7 10 0 • — '■ —— 80 6 0

■.'•■■ ■ £19 14 0 Of ; course, position and other circumstances will modify or enlarge these figures, but it would not be safe to calculate on a larger return.. It will thus be seen what there may. be to assist in the work of cultivation ; and again, extreme caution is urgedin commencing operations without a thorough appreciation of the capital and extent of flaxland required to carry on three machines; and a smaller number would not pay, except in unusually favourable circumstances.

Mr Manning thinks that great results cannot be obtained till manufacturers trust entirely to cultivation, by which means an unfailing supply can be obtained, by planting in alluvial flats, in the vicinity of water power. And he goes so far as to say, that a sufficient quantity should be planted to prevent the necessity of cutting a second time in less than two years from first cutting ; though many leaves may be fit for the mill sooner. This is a hint worth taking. In the appendix hereto will be found, an able paper by p* Hector and Mr Skey, on " Fibrous Materials."—No I

Another on " the Classification of Phormium Tenax."—No. 11.

Another on "the obstacles to the Utilisation of New Zealand Flax.' 3 —No. 111.

Letter by Mr Field, No. IV. To all of which special attention is requested, for although some of the views therein put forth have been falsified or modified by subsequent experience, yet they are all worthy of a careful perusal, MANUFACTURE. The information received in reply to the queries issued on this branch of the enquiry, is rather limited, and not very important. The reason of this is, that up to the time the circulars were issued comparatively few had engaged in the preparation of flax, and fewer still knew anything about the matter. At present, therefore, only sucli remarks will be made

as will be useful to those interested in the manufacture of flax. The cleaning process, with a: few exceptions, is pretty much the same all over the colony. The entire leaf is crushed between rollers, one or both of which are fluted. But as the Auckland made machines are fully described hereafter, nothing further thereon need bo said hero. Tho exceptions referred to are those of Messrs Pownall and Co., of Manawatu, and Chalmers, of Lyttelton. Tho former is patented, having been made in London, and aaid to last2oyoard. The latter was made by Mr Williams, of Christehurch, but aa it has since been altered to the Auckland design, it will bo unnecessary to notice it separately. In the appendix (No. V.) will be found a description of Messrs Pownall's process. The crushed flax is afterwards washed, with the view of removing the gummy and dyeing matter in the leaf. The usual way of following out this process is to immerse the flax in water (running if possible), and after rinsing it well, to send it to the green to bleach. This process, however, does not remove the colouring matter from the leaf, the butt ends of which are red, even after two or three weeks' bleaching. This defect in the washing is obviated by soaking the flax in water for about two hours, according to the season of the year, temperature, and quality of the water. In dry weather more soaking is required than in rainy. A little experience will guide the manufacturer ; in this matter ; but it may be taken for granted that the soaking will ramove all the gum and red colouring.matter from the butts of the leaves, and will-make the flax after being soutched very soft to the touch, without in the least, injuring the fibre. The crushing of the leaf breaks the cells which contain the colouring matter in the butt, and allows that matter to spread amongst the fibre. It is, therefore, of importance that the leaf should bo in the water as early as possible after being crushed. The soaking process, as already stated, removes these colouring matters, but the sooner the flax is in the water tho shorter time it requires to be there, and the less time it requires for bleaching- ■•..-.:;: :

Various modes of soaking are in operation at present.

1. Hanging the flax over ropes, fixed in the stream—up and down, 2. On perpendicular polos—hank above hank. Mr M'Arthur, of Southland, thus describes that process ;—" Taking for granted therb is a vanning stream near the mill, with bends in its course. There is a ( race 3 cut across the bend, which is lined, both sides and bottom, with one inch or two inch boards, and |ri the bottom are stuck as many wooden pins as may be considered necessary.' The flax from the rollers is doubled across the pegs, and the current playing upon it washes it hotter than any other way. It has this advantage also, that" one boy can do a great amount of work by this mode of washing, as all he has to do is to'throw'the Jibro round the peg and let it alone."

3. On horizontal poles, across the millrace, or, ' ••.;/: k 4. .Placing, the .flax-on open frames, drawn into the streara.t ■, : Perhaps the last is the most convenient mode, as a considerable quantity can be placed on each frame, and taken to the dam and hauled back without, twisting the flax. It is possible, also, that the flax might be tramped on the frames, so as to squeeze or press the colouring matter entirely out. These frames might be so made as to be lifted, out of the water and carried to the green without touching the flax ; or, if it has to be carried any distance, they might be placed on a dray or truck, and taken to the green. It is advisable that the flax, whether, taken1 off the frames at the water-side, or carried to the green as above, should be allowed to drip some time, as it is then more easily spread. It may here be remarked that green flax should always be stored standing on its butt- end 3. In fact, the nearer its position is to the perpendicular, the longer it will keep, and if its butts are : amongst water,: it will keep. fresh .still longer,; perhaps 8 or 10 days._ It should not be wetted,. as this occasions heating and discolouration of fibre, more especially if laid on its side and piled up. For the sa.tne, reason it should be shaded from sun and rain. Mr Chalmers, already referred :to, washes by hand as the flax comes from the mill. Each hank is then, slightly twisted, and laid in a sheaf or bundle, which on being loosely tied is laid in a pool of still water, not stagnant,, but fenoed off. from the running water to prevent .too much motion. , lThe wet bundles! are afterwards lifted by tackle .andvdipped in the millrace, to remove any earthy sediment that may have adhered,in the still water, then left some,time to drip before being spread out on the green. The time the flax should be in the water,, in order to remove the red .colouring matter, and prevent the colour getting dark, is from one to two hours. Mr Chalmers says that the cost of his process is not appreciably more than the ordinary system of washing. ~ .•

Bleaching, is,.perhaps, the most important part of the process of manufacturing flax ; and top much attention cannot be bestowed on it. It is decidedly best to bleach on grass, as the flax can, be spread thinner' and more ' regularly—is easier turned, catches less of wind, and more pf the dew that falls during the night, the dew settling on fresh flax. The fibre is thus submitted to a process resembling the dew retting of the Irish 'flax. In winter and, rainy weather, wires or poles are so far necessary ; but they should be avoided as much .as possible, on account of the waste in putting the flax on and taking it off the wires. In fact it is scarcely possible to bleach on poles. The time fpr bleaching, as well as for turning the flax when on.the green, is so entirely dependent on weather, time, place, and circumstances, that it is scarcely possible to fix a period. The colour should decide this—care being taken to hive the flax in before the colour begins to get dark. It should further be kept in view that, when flax is dried quickly, without exposure to the rays of the sun, as in ovons, or where thickly hung on poles, it always retains a green colour. Even those parts that may dry yellow often become green again when wetted.: How long it will retain'this green colour is not yet known ; hut it certainly cannot be taken as a proof that flax is damp or that it has "been stored damp. _ '

Five tons of green flax can be spread on an acre and a-quarter of land. This will give about one ton of unscutebed flax, so that a mill of two machines ought to have about five acres of drying ground. The flax when taken off fche green should be piled up inside, and allowed to remain about eight days before being scutched. During this period it undergoes a heating or sweating process, which has the effect of still further pulverising the gummy matter that may still be in the fibre, and greatly facilitates the scutching operation, -i ■■ ■ ■ ,-.; :". :. ' '■:

If scutched on being taken off the ground, the Flax will break off short, and make too much tow, on account of the gummy matter still in the fibred There are two kinds of seuh;her3 in use, so far as yet known—the Arm Scutcher and the

Barrel Scutcher. The former mode makes more tow than the latter, and doea not dresa the article so well. Some manufacturers don't scutch at all, but hackle instead. This appears to be a miatako, as tho process of scutching is cheaper than hackling, und if the former is well done there will bo no necessity for the latter. The ordinary quantity of tow in a ton of scutched Flax is between threo and four hundredweight. Many of the mills, it is understood, have given up scutching, and opinions are divided as to the best way of getting up theflax for the English market. But when it is considered that the coat of scutching is only 25a per ton, and that unscutchod flax, from its bulk, must pay at least that sum more in freight, and that a much lower price will be received at home for the one than the other, the obvious inference is in favouring scutching hero ; and though tho tow will assist so far to lesson the difference, it is thought the wisest and tho cheapest course to scutch here.

The packing is another important part of the process, as it is certain that a wellpacked^ article will always command the best price, all other things being equal. Care therefore should be bestowed on this part of tha process, and proper presses procured for this purpose. Messrs Price make a small press oapable of making a bale of flax, containing about 2cwt, ten of which make a ton— cost about LIB. This, however, requires to be filled and pressed down twice. Messrs Fraser and Tinne make a screw seten feet by three and a half inches, which can press a bale down at once. The case must be made by others. The whole may cost about L3O. One of these presses is in operation in the province of Auckland^ having two boxes orcasea, the one capable of being removed from under the screw and, filled again, while the other is being screwed down ; thus making one screw do for two cases, and other ways expediting the operation of packing. Messrs Price can supply three machines —water-wheel, all pullies, scutcher, and everything necessary to start a mill, except buildings and reoeptacle for waterwheel, for LIBO.

In a large manufactory a hydraulic press should be used, as it saves repressing before being shipped. Indeed, but for the expense, it should bo in every mill. ':

Captain Hutfon, of the Waikato, bales with three strand galvanised wire, instead of flax lashings. He says that with 12 bales to the ton, and four wires on each bale, the cost of the wire (including oarriage to the mill) is 6a 3d per ton of flax, i His reasons for preferring wire are—

1. Quickness.—He can turn out; two more bales per week than with flax. 2. Strength and noh-elasticity. 3. Safety <in case of fire, from these lashings not being Uable to burn. He puts four shingles at each corner to prevent the wire cutting the flax, though this is scarcely necessa-y,,'Shingles are also used for branding bales, but when the ordinary flax lashings are used these shingles fall out when the bales are handled in the ship, and those having the contents of each bale marked on them, get mixed or lost. It is a bettor way to mark the contents of each bale on a slip of leather, fastened to the lashings.- ' . ■.."'■.. : ~ MACHINERY.... , • ' The Machines used in the Province of Auckland for manufacturing flax are of three kinds, made respectively by Messrs Fraserand Tinne of the Phoenix Foundry, Auckland, by Messrs A. Gk Price of Onehunga, and by Messrs E. Gibbons and Op. of: Onehunga. . All of these machines are, however, identical .in prin: ciple, and vary only in details by which: the principle is carried out. This principle is, that the flax leaf is held between horizontal feed-rollers, revolving at certain speed, while as the leaf passes out from them; a drum armed in its circumference with iron beaters, and revolving, more rapidly than the feed-rollers strips the .epidermis and tissue away from the fibre ; means being provided for adjusting the beating drum to a proper distance from the roller or bar against which the flax leaf is stripped, ao that the leaf may. neither on the one hand pas 3 through without being crushed, nor on the other, have the fibres cut. Another contrivance common to all the machines is vulcanized India-rubber cushions, or spiral, springs placed over the journals of the upper feed roller, so as to allow different thicknesses of leaf to be passed through. : . -

The first essential of a flax machine is, of course, the quality-of the fibre if produces. This depends to a certain extent upon the shape and velocity of the beaters, but; more particularly upon the ease and accuracy with which the machine can be kept in adjustment. The length of that portion of the tip of the leaf, which is left undressed by the machine, depends upon.the firmness with which the feedrollera grip the thin point of the leaf, and the distance of the place where the leaf is crushed, from the place where it is held by the rollers.

We know .that on the one hand, simple percussion with a hammer on a block of wood, and on the other scraping with a knife or shell, can each be made to yield good fibre; so that the limits of the speed at which the beaters strike the leaf, which is necessary for making good fibre, are probably very wide. The velocity with which the beater scrapes the flax, is, of course, the difference of velocity between the beater and the leaf as it passes through the rollers, and as the blow is delivered not at right angles to the leaf, but at first at an acute angle, which rapidly changes to the same direction as the leaf as the boater passes round with the circumference of the drum, it follows that the greater the velocity of the beatera the more will their action be '"one of scraping ; and the smaller, the velocity, the more will their action be one of percussion, or more properly detrussion. In Fraser's old machine, and in Price's smaller one, the beating drum is thirteen inches in diameter, armed with four?een beaters, consequently, when makin<* 1260 revolutions a minute, the velocity of the beaters is 715 feet per second. The velocity of the circumference of the feedrollers or, in other words, the velocity of the leaf, is about 2 7 feef per second thus leaving a velocity of 67 8 feet per second, with which the beaters pass the leaf. In Gibbons's machine, the beating drum is seventeen inches in diameter" armed with thirty-eight beaters, and revolves at only half the speed of that of Price s and Eraser's smaller machines, the feed-rollers of all moving with the same I angular velocity. Consequently, when I Uibbons s drum is making 680 revolutions per minute, the beaters have a velocity of 46 7 feet per second. The feed-rollers of this* machine being slightly larger than the others, the velocity IS*T?i eet per Becohd > making a velocity of 40. 9. feet per second, with which the beaters outstrip the leaf. So that the Telocity of the beaters to the feed is as 1: 7 ,m_plbbons'3, and as 1: 26 in Prise's and Fraser's old machines. In Price's and Fraser's old machines there are fourteen beaters on each drum, the feed-

rollers are 2.5 inches in diameter, and the drum makes five revolutions to one of the feed-rollers, so that each blow of a beater is on an average (as the beaters are not equi-distant), rather more than one-ninth ot an inch from the one bofore it. In Uibbonss drum there are thirty-eight beaters, the foed-rollors are 2,6 inches in diameter, and the drum makes 2h revolutions to one of the feed-rollers. Consequently, each blow is doliverod rather more than one-twelfth of an inch behind the former one, and the power saved is proportionately great. Notwithstanding these differences in velocity t and in number ©f blows to an inch, we are of opinion that all the machines when in proper adjustment, make equally good flax. In Price's and Fraser's old machines the beaters wore placed diagonally across the face of the drum, sloping alternately in opposite directions, and the spaces between them were . filled with wood. Gibbons's new machine has the boaters set on the angle but all running parallel, which allows thorn to be placed nearer together. In Price's new machine the drum is 15 inches m diameter, with 26 beaters, which are of the same kind as in the smaller machines, but being placed closer together, increases the rapidity of the blow. Messrs Price tried the chevroned beaters, but afterwards abandoned them. In all these larger drums the wood between the beaters is omitted. We are of opinion that the position of the beaters on the drum matters but little ao far as making good flax is. conoerned, provided that the velocity is sufficiently great, and the striking edge of the beater round and smooth. It may here be remarked that Captain Button thinks that the beaters on tho drum should be hard ; but that the bar or plate against which the flax is crushed should be soft. Mr Booth, of Dunedin, is endeavouring to carry out at least a portion of this idea. The adjustments of the different machines vary considerably, but all are capablej with more or less ease, of adjustment while the machine is in motion ; a point of the greatest importance. In Price's machine, the flax is crushed between the beaters and the lower feedroller. And in his earlier machines the distance between the two was regulated by means of screws, which moved the journals of the beating drum forwards and backwards on a sliding bed ; now the drum is fixed, and the whole of the standards carrying the feed-rollers are moved in the same way, which allows the feeder to adjust his own machine without moving from his place. In Fraser's new machine the flax is stripped against a thick plate rounded at the end, which is slipped under the feedrollers ; the back of the plate has a •flange, which is. pressed forward by two screws against India-rubber, the elasticity of which pushes the plate back when the screws are loosened. This adjustment is very easily made by the feeder. In Gibbons's machine around bar with square, ends takes the place of the plate, and being near the beatin* drum, it leaves very little of the leaf uifdressed. The adjustment is given by pinching-screws, which act through the boxes carrying the journals of the beaters.

The wear-upon both the surfaces of metal, between which the flax is dresaed, 13 very great, while the slight wear prevents the machine from iressing the flax properly, so that the surfaces have to be constantly filled up or changed. In Price's machines, the lower roller, against which the flax is dressed, is a cast-iron hollow cylinder. As their roller is three inches in diameter, and: by constantly revolving always presents different surfaces to the beaters, it lasts much longer than any other of the machines ; but when it ?s too much worn the machine has to be stopped, taken to pieces, and the old cylinder ground up, which is a work of considerable time, but they give a spare roller with each machine.

In Gibbons's machine the round bar, having four-sided ends, can be shifted so as to show four different surfaces to the beaters as one after the other is worn out, it is then thrown away arid a new one put in. It was at : first thought that eight changes might be got from each bar,°by shifting.it end for end ; but this is not the case if good flax is desired, and -as the cost of the bar is trifling, there is no necessity for trying it. This can easily be done while the machine is in motion; As Gibbons has two machines on one shaft, the stoppage of one necessitates the stoppage of the other. In Fraser's machine no change of face can be obtained, but the worn plate can be; slipped out, and another put in in a few seconds, without stopping the machine. And the old plate can be ground up again, ready to replace the second when it is in its turn worn hollow. The cost of these plates is also small, being only 2s 6d each.

The importance of dressing the leaf out to the tip is considerable, as it prevents great -waste. la Gibbons's machine, and also in Fraser's new one, the feed-rollers are deeply and sharply fluted, and hold the leaf firmly to the tip; the distance, however, to the place where the leaf is stripped, is rather longer than in Price's, which, beating on the lower roller, reduces this distance to a minimum., On the other hand the lower roller of Price's machine must be made smooth, as the flax is dressed on it, and so cannot take so good a hold of the thin end of the leaf, but allows it sometimes to be pulled through by the beaters. This can, to a certain extent, be remedied by the person feeding, either twisting the thm portion of the. leaf round his forefinger as it enters the rollers, or by "tailing," the butt end of one leaf to the thin point of the one before it, and so increasing the pressure on it. This " tailing on,'; however, must not be overdone, as the leaves are apt to entangle with the out-taker" under the machine. Fraser's old machine had the fault of a smooth lower roller, combined with a considerable distance between the beating-plate and the feed-roller. In practice, when the machines are in good order, and working well, we are of opinion that there is little difference between Fraser's, Prices, and Gibbons's machines in this respect. j

Next in importance to the quality of the fibre produced comes the quantity of green flax passed through in a given time. This depends not only on the diameter and velocity of the feed-rollera, but also upon the size and shape of the leaf tak^u through, the liability to stoppage by flax geiting round the shafts, and the ease of clearing the machine when choked. The diameter of the feed-rollers is nearly alike in all the machines, those of Gibbons's teing the largest, and the angular velocity can of course be altered to the wish of the flax-manufacturer. It is easy to drive the machines fast, and the "feeder" can put a large number of leaves through in a minute : but our experience is that from thirty to thirtyrfive leaves a minute is quite as much as the " out-taker" can manage, without entangling or losing a large part of them, and it is in this direc'ion that improvement is most required. It will be found that feeding at the rate of 2| feet per second will pass thirty-three average-

sized leaves through per minute, or a quarter of a ton per hour per machine. The size and shape of the butt of the leaf that the machine will allow through ia important, for much time is lost when the machine refuses to take in big butts cut square at the ends, and it takes too long to go over all the flax first and cut off the the thick ends and point them ; to say nothing of the waste of stuff that ha 3 been paid for. Tn this respect both Gibbons's and Fraser's new machines, which have both feed-rollers fluted, have an advantage over Price's, the lower roller of which is compelled to bo smooth. The merit of this improvement is claimed byMessrs Gibbons, and is one of the points for which they are now taking out a patent.

Stoppages are sometimes occasioned by flax getting round the shafts of the drum or feed-rollers, and into the bearings; but with the machines in good order, thisnow seldom occurs except through carelessness. As, however, it will in spite of all care happen occasionally, it is of importance that every facility should exist for clearing with as little delay as possible. Fraser's old machine was very deficient in this respect; but his new one, and Gibbons's and Price's, leave little to. be desired. Mr M'lntyre, of Oneliunga, (as instructed by Mr Dongal, who claimsto be the originator of these machines) has recently,begun to manufacture flax machines, but as these are on the samo< principle as Price's, no further notice need be taken of them, except that they have been got up with great care, and with a view to durability—the bearings being all brass. Mr Mills of Wellington, and Mr Murray, are also making ma-' chines; but neither is it necessary to dwell on these, as the above remarks can be easily applied to any other machine,, and its merits ascertained. [The Appendices to the Report have, also been published, but they are toolengthy for publication in our present issue. ] •■*;■.

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Bibliographic details

THE FLAX COMMISSION., Otago Daily Times, Issue 2574, 7 May 1870, Supplement

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THE FLAX COMMISSION. Otago Daily Times, Issue 2574, 7 May 1870, Supplement

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