Instructables

Pvc pipes for retting flax plants

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The suggestion of trying out pvc pipes for retting flax plants came my way and I have decided to try it out. Here is a collection of photos I took while getting the pipes ready, stuffing the dried flax plants in the pipes and drowning them with water. The flax has now been soaking for one full day.

Notes:

DAY 1
- I am using 10 feet, 4 inches diameter pvc sewage pipe.
- The pipe was really easy to cut with a small saw.
- The caps have ends that can be removed so I check the root end as well as the flower/seed end w/o having to take out the whole plant.
- The pipes, when full of plants and water, are a bit heavy yet it is really easy to store them and to roll them so to make sure that the whole bundle gets soaked.
- I have to find a wrench large enough to tighten the caps of the pipes. The water that has been dripping out of is quite minimal. It is quite easy to just add water to the pipe yet I am getting a large wrench to fix the issue.

DAY 2
- The water is getting brown and the flax smells like wet vegetation.
- The roots still feel like they have not absorbed that much water. They still break as when they were dry... before the retting started.
- I am thinking that the retting in the pipes will take longer since no light is going in plus I am wondering about the lack of air. I have yet to see any signs of mould just yet plus the water does not smell bad which I am noting as a good thing.
- I added some more water inside the pipe. I have not seen any more leaking so the plants may be slowly soaking in water.

DAY 3 (new photos added!)
- The flax still smells good... like wet vegetation.
- I decided to change the water from one of the pipes. I saved the water to use to water the garden and filled up the pipe with clean water. Let's see if there is a difference between changing the water at least once during the first retting and leaving the same water.
- The plants feel a bit softer. Only the lower part, closer to the root, still breaks/snaps like when it was still dry.

DAY 4 (new photos added!)
- The water in both containers still smells good and no mold has developed.
- I decided to get the flax out of the pipes and to put it to dry to prevent from over-retting it.
- I was able to wrap the flax stems around my finger which show how much softer the plant got after the retting process.
- After I took the flax out of the pipes, and drained the pipes, I spread the flax over a pallet to let it dry.
- The flax stayed out drying outdoors on the pallet for two days.

DAY 6 (new photos added!)
- We processed some of the flax and the fibres came out quite nicely.

NOTES & CONCLUSIONS

1. I really think that using the pvc pipes for retting is a great idea. It makes it possible for individuals with a small amount of space to do the process at home, a studio, etc. Plus they are very portable.
2. Separating the flax by the thickness of the stem prior to retting may be a good idea so to keep retting even.
3. Contrary to reports by some, the flax nor the water smelled bad at any point during the retting.

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I will be adding updates to this instructable through out the process. Do click on the photos so you can check out larger versions.

For information about the flax project in Vancouver, check out this website: http://urbanweaverstudio.blogspot.ca/search/label/flax
thomas96666 months ago

This is a great idea, I don't think I'll ever grow enough to warrant making these though
Keep up the good work

Kiteman1 year ago
Oh, that's a good idea!

What do you intend to do with the flax afterwards?

I'll be following your results with interest, as I wonder whether sealing the tubes might change the results (retting is usually done in open or loosely-lidded containers).
razorwinged (author)  Kiteman1 year ago
Hi! Thanks for your comments. Do please follow this link to read more about the flax project in Vancouver: http://urbanweaverstudio.blogspot.ca/search/label/flax

Basically, it is a "seed to shirt" project. The flax will be processed to get the fibres which later on will be spun, and used for textiles and other projects.

As you, I have not seen nor heard of retting being done in sealed pipes so this is really a trial by error sort of test. Another person get the first retting done in a large bin in four days. I am in day two now and not much have happened besides the water getting darker. I was thinking today about the aerobic vs anaerobic environment and which is more ideal for retting.

I will continue adding notes to the instructable every day as well as photos.