The 7 stages of know-how to make a Makhila
Medlar wood, the heart of the makhila (makila)
Working the medlar wood is what requires the most time and patience. It takes around ten years for the stem to be wide enough to be tapped. Once the scars have healed, the stem is cut, placed in a kiln to remove the bark, then the stem is rectified. After this, a long maturing stage lasting 10 years begins enabling the wood to be straight, solid and with a patina.
Choice of varieties
: It was our ancestors who chose this variety: Mespilus Germanica, for its qualities: solidity and flexibility, two essential characteristics for a walking stick. The wood is dense, but not heavy. Its grain is thin and it takes on a beautiful shine. The medlar tree grows slowly, which is why it is so robust, whilst remaining a light wood.
Scarification of the stems
: We mark the stems when the diameter is large enough to become a makhila. Marking is a delicate operation which requires a great deal of experience: you need to know how to mark the wood enough to enable scarification, without marking it too much, which does not give it a very aesthetic appearance.
: The stems, still green because they have just been cut, are placed in our wood kiln and debarked by the heat. This is when they show the extent and beauty of scarification. We obtain a white wood which often has to be rectified.
: For 10 years the wood dries patiently in the workshop’s loft. The wood is then stained, a technique perfected by our ancestors and kept secret. This natural process is always a surprise: even if the process is always the same, the colour obtained is always different.
A very particular technique
A quality leather is needed to make the handle and strap. We use kidskin from a tannery in the Basque Country. We have chosen this leather for its resistance. We think this skill was inherited from our ancestors (Ainciart Bergara) who were weavers until the late 19th century.
A know-how kept secret
Weaving the strap of Ainciart Bergara makhilas is know-how passed on from one generation to the next, and a jealously kept secret. The lanyard includes highly technical know-how and the diameter is often different from one end to the other.
Many hours of training are needed to master this skill perfected hundreds of years ago by the Ainciart family. The lanyard is finished at the bottom with strips which are joined one by one. To weave the strap four-shaft weaving is used which, although less complex than weaving the handle, requires a great deal of dexterity and concentration.
From the plate to the ferrule
For each order we go into the loft to select the medlar stem which is best suited to the size and weight of the future Ainciart Bergara makhila user. All woods have different diameters, colours, spindles and lengths. Once the wood has been chosen, we transfer its measurements onto the metal plate (brass, nickel silver or silver) before cutting it.
Cutting takes place according to a very precise process which gives conical ferrules whose end diameters are different. The top has a smaller diameter than the bottom. Once cut, the metal parts are shaped using a hammer. They are beaten until a cone is obtained, and then brazed.
Brazing is an essential step because this is what makes the join between the two parts of the metal plate invisible.
Decorating by stamping
Stamping enables decorative patterns as well as letters to be engraved on the ferrule. Each part is hand stamped with both patience and agility.
With regard to designs, we can find different patterns inherited from our ancestors, which are organised along the ferrule, separated by triangular filed sections. This is also used to create intersections and hachures.
For lettering, each makhila is customised with the first name, surname and motto (in Basque) of its future owner.
All our makhilas are also signed at the bottom: “Ainciart Larressore” before 1926 and “Ainciart Bergara – Larressore” after 1926. This signature enables you to check that your makhila really comes from our workshop. Finally, each makhila also has the year it was made.
Here are the main patterns on Ainciart Bergara makhilas: the Basque cross and fern, our “signature” engraving patterns.
The initials are hand engraved on the handle. The technique used, known as “ornamental engraving”, enables metal to be removed using a burin to make the lettering appear.
The letters are engraved intertwined, a shape which is well suited to the round handle. They are made with upstrokes and downstrokes, which shows the engraving and makes it last over time.
The collection of letters is inspired by a model made in the 19th century by a very well-known French engraver: Charles Demengeot, who namely created a monogram using the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
It is also possible to engrave drawings or coats of arms on request onto the metal handle.
Le montage des différentes pièces
Once all the parts of the Ainciart Bergara makhila have been made (around 20): ferrule, handle, strap, braid, top spike, end spike, etc., assembly begins.
This means finding a unity of design while respecting the user’s balance to make it easier to walk. The wood’s line is extended by metal parts on the ends, the thin tip at the top and the thicker one at the bottom.
The makhila is assembled without adhesive, resin or lead. The parts are adjusted by forcing between the wood and metal. It is a very meticulous interlocking and fixing operation. Generally, the assembly is designed to make the joins invisible.
It is one of the most complex stages in making an Ainciart Bergara makhila because it requires a good eye, which can only be required with years of experience.