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Sugar cane cutting knife


Sugar cane cutting knife

Object information

Physical description

A sugar cane cutting knife. It has a hardwood handle, a full tang or shank (the back portion of the blade) and a deep blade with a hook at its tip. One edge of the wooden handle is lantern shaped and the other edge is straight. The blade lies in an incision in the wooden handle and is attached to the handle by four metal rivets. There is a white discoloration at the one end of the blade body. The metal has rust marks.

Statement of significance

The Kaaren Sephton collection consists of two sugar cane cutting knives, used by the donor's father Tom Lester, while he was a labourer and manager on several sugar cane farms at Mia Mia, near Mackay, in the Pioneer Valley. The knives have different blades and handle lengths indicating that one knife was used a 'cutter', and the other as a 'topper', during the last decades of cutting cane by hand before the industry was fully mechanised. The knives are worn, with scratches and marks from use and age, but are both complete and have not been painted or restored.

The Pioneer Valley was settled by Europeans during the 1860s, and the town of Mackay became the district centre for thriving pastoral and agricultural industries. Large sugar plantations and mills were established, and workers arrived from throughout Europe, China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands to service the industry. A fall in prices, labour and racial debates lead to industry-wide changes during the late nineteenth century, which continued with mechanisation and economic rationalisation during the twentieth century. Today Mackay Sugar Ltd, an amalgamation of earlier cooperative associations, is Australia's second largest sugar milling company, with an average production of 800,000 tonnes of raw sugar annually for both the domestic market and export distribution.

Object information

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