The primary raw material in this craft is wood. The wood used is from the trees such as Sheesham, Babool, Kadam, Ker and Ber, which are also reputed for their health benefits. Oil is also used for rendering the crafted pieces splinter free and smooth.
Apart from the wooden shavings removed during finishing each piece, there is no waste generated. The artisan keeps collecting the wooden scrap and use the scrap wood as firewood for domestic purposes.
Tools & Technology
The tools used in Kangsi are made by the craftsmen themselves according to the requirements and the designs they follow. The wood is taken from the trees using axes and small hacksaws are used to make blocks out of it. These hacksaws and fine chisels help make the minute teeth of the comb.
Many types of files are used to polish the wood and smoothen it into a flat workable base. The finishing file is double layered, with one of the layers having sharply serrated edges and the second layer serving as a moving measure to mark the length of the comb while the teeth are being sawed. A special file is used to smoothen the teeth. The local names of these tools are Basula, Kasthi, Chugga etc.
It is interesting to observe that these combs have bristles on the either side of the stem. The thin bristles on one side are used to comb the hair of the head and the thick bristles on the other side are used to comb the beard. This makes the wooden comb an indispensible accessory amongst the local tribe which mainly includes the Sikh and the Rajput folk from the surrounding areas. The hairbrushes have transcended from the idea of being a common object of utilitarian virtue to a thoughtful gift for young brides, from a husband to wife amongst others.
The hardwood is cleaned, cut and given the outer shape using the file. The edge where the teeth are going to be sawed in is filed to form an inward slope. The slab is then clutched using the feet. A small piece of wood is placed under the slab to add to the support. No stencils or tracing drawings are made for the designs. The designs are made entirely in free hand.
The small hacksaws create the fine teeth on the comb. This process is a fine form of art. The teeth are made equidistantly. Great care is taken to make these, since they are fine and are liable to break easily while sawing. A comb with malformed or broken bristles is of no value and the entire piece has to be discarded.