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Bahia Bass/Piassava (Attalea funifera Martius)

Bahia palm.

Bahia palm.

Bahia comes from the state of Bahia in Brazil, and was first brought to Europe in cargo boats as packing between sugar cane. The fibre was left on the dock side, and some intelligent person realised that it would make an excellent brush fibre.

The fibre is a leaf stalk fibre and is harvested from the tree and can be up to 5m long. The fibre tapers from end to end, and therefore has to be sorted and graded before cutting.

The fibre holds water well and does not rot when damp, and is very resilient to distortion. These properties make Bahia the best fibre for semi-stiff yard brooms and platform brooms. Bahia is also widely used for chimney sweeps' brushes.

Bahia is an expensive fibre, and is therefore often mixed with Palmyras and/or synthetic materials.

It is interesting to note the origins of the usage of the term “Piassava” or “Piassaba” by which Bahia is generally known. The name derives from “piacaba” in Tupi, an Amerindian language, and modified by the alternate “v” or “b” in Portuguese. The name applies to the fibre and not the palm. The term is now also used in conjunction with Sherbro from Sierra Leone.

History tells of a brush maker in Liverpool, UK, in the 1840’s named Mr Bass, who was allegedly the first person to make brushes with Bahia. The fibre had been offered to him by a salesman who had brought it from Liverpool docks. This is an interesting story, but is not thought to be from where the term “Bass” was derived.

The use of the term “Bass” almost certainly emanates from the early 1800s, and is probably a corruption of “Bast”, the material obtained by stripping the outer layer of phloem fibres from dicotyledenous plant stems. Such strips were widely used for tying the twig bundles in besom making.

Bahia Palm plantation

Bahia Palm plantation.

Havesting the Bahia branches

Havesting the Bahia branches.

Hackling the Bahia

Hackling the Bahia.

Sorting the Bahia

Sorting the Bahia.

Bundling the Bahia

Bundling the Bahia.

Bahia being loaded into container

Bahia being loaded into container.

Cut Bahia being wrapped

Cut Bahia being wrapped.

Sample bundle of Bahia

Sample bundle of Bahia.

Bahia in container ready for shipping

Bahia in container ready for shipping.