Khám pháMekongTHỜI SỰ

The craft of sharpening bamboo chopsticks in Cam mountain

An GiangMr. Nguyen Van Cuoi, in An Hao commune, Tinh Bien district, sharpened his chopsticks with iron shavings instead of knives, from morning to afternoon he got 700 pairs, earning more than one million dong.

In the early morning of May, Cam mountain is more than 700 m high, considered the roof of the West, welcoming the first rains of the season. Mr. Cuoi took a sip of hot tea, looked in his tool bag for a planer (like a carpenter’s plank) as big as his hand, and started the working day. The 40-year-old man took 15 minutes to sharpen the blade and then went to the porch – where a wooden stick more than a meter long was available, with two chopsticks carved on it.

Mr. Nguyen Van Cuoi can pick up 800 pairs of chopsticks every day at most.  Photo: Ngoc Tai

Mr. Nguyen Van Cuoi can pick up 800 pairs of chopsticks every day at most. Image: Ngoc Tai

He took the bamboo stick from the bucket and put it at his feet. They are split into squares the size of a finger, 20 cm long. With one hand he stroked the bamboo stick, the other hand twirled the chopsticks, his eyes scrutinized. Each plank is pushed forward, a thin bamboo fiber comes out, and it curls like a curl of hair. The fiber is thin or thick, long or short depending on the sharpener using force, aligning so that the chopsticks are round. In addition, workers often trim the bamboo core, keeping the outer skin because they are hard and firm.

Brushing the big head first, Mr. Cuoi turned the bamboo stick to the opposite side and sharpened the small end to use to pick up food. “If you want to make a beautiful chopstick, you have to sharpen your hand evenly, the tip of the chopstick gets smaller towards the end. If it becomes a convex and concave place, it’s both ugly and difficult to grasp,” he explained. Before putting it into the bucket to soak alum, the craftsman looks at the chopsticks again, if it is bent, he will put it into a small hole in the wooden bar, and gently adjust it. Each chopstick took him about 30 seconds to sharpen.

According to people in the profession, each pair of chopsticks shows the meticulous, skillful combination of the aesthetic eyes of the sharpener. Not everyone can sharpen a bunch of chopsticks, but any pair of chopsticks put together makes a pair. Usually this work is done by the elders in the house.

Forbidden mountain bamboo chopsticks are made from strong-toned bamboo, soaked in alum for a year before sharpening.  Photo: Ngoc Tai

After being soaked in alum, bamboo chopsticks are dried in the sun. Image: Ngoc Tai

Compared to sharpening with a knife or a spear (similar to a knife but with a sharp point), sharpening chopsticks with iron shavings gives even, fast fibers, and is not afraid of cutting hands. As a result, the labor productivity of a man who has been in the profession for 15 years, increased 2-3 times compared to before. After working for a full day, only taking a lunch break, eating rice for about an hour, Mr. Cuoi gathered 700-800 pairs of chopsticks, after deducting the cost of bamboo and alum, a profit of nearly 1.5 million dong.

Nearly a kilometer away, Pham Thi Anh has been with the chopstick sharpening profession for nearly 20 years, still using the same mark as before. At the age of 71, her eyes were no longer bright, and Mrs. Anh said she was no longer good at sharpening. The chopsticks are slightly angled, she bundles them separately and sells them at “friendly prices”. Thanks to chopsticks sharpening, she can raise her children to study. In old age, she has a stable income. Now she earns about 200,000 VND a day.

The people of Cam Mountain originally picked up chopsticks to use in their homes. After that, this area developed tourism, welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests, they brought chopsticks to sell, sold out wherever they were, gradually the craft village of chopsticks was formed. Chopsticks made from bamboo varieties on the top of Thien Cam Son, planted over 4-5 years old. Each stick costs 60,000-70,000 VND, can get 500 pairs of chopsticks. Bamboo growers often receive the part cut into pieces and chopped at the price of 500,000 VND per day (1,000 pairs).

Ms. Pham Thi Anh sells chopsticks to guests visiting Cam Mountain.  Photo: Ngoc Tai

Ms. Pham Thi Anh sells chopsticks to guests visiting Cam Mountain. Image: Ngoc Tai

To combat termites, before picking, bamboo should be soaked with alum for at least one year at the rate of 10 kg of split alum, if alum chopsticks produce a bad smell. In addition to the sharpening stage, the tip of the chopsticks is engraved with a hexagonal shape to distinguish it from the other end, then dried in 2-3 sunlight until the chopsticks make a crunchy sound when they collide with each other.

Bamboo chopsticks have many prices. Red chopsticks made from bamboo catch a lot of sunlight, so it’s hard, dark in color, priced at 3,000 VND a pair. Bamboo out of the sun makes white chopsticks, softer, so the price is 2,000-2,400 VND. The selling price also depends on the sharpener, the person who is skillful with the round chopsticks is beautiful, pleasing to the eyes of the buyer, and can sell for a better price than the unscrambler.

“Whether it’s fast or slow, clever or crumbly, everyone in the profession suffers from back pain because of sitting all day,” said Pham Thi Anh, smiling.

According to An Hao Commune People’s Committee, the craft of sharpening bamboo chopsticks is the livelihood of dozens of households on Cam mountain. Most of the households work when they are idle, but there are families like Mrs. Anh and Mr. Cuoi who work all year round. Thanks to tourism, bamboo chopsticks are quite attractive. Bamboo growers in the mountains also have a good income.

The craft of sharpening bamboo chopsticks on the 'roof of the West'

Chopsticks sharpeners at a tourist spot on Cam mountain. Image: Ngoc Tai

Ngoc Tai

You are reading the article The craft of sharpening bamboo chopsticks in Cam mountain
at – Source: – Read the original article here

Back to top button