Anyone who lives in Mayaro may know Boyo, from Inner Mafeking as “the man who makes cutlass.”
Boyo Rajcoomar is 80 years old and has been making and selling ‘cutlasses for more than 30 years. This hobby once assisted his family to make ends meet. In the days before electricity could be afforded, Boyo skillfully manipulated hand-held tools to design his masterpiece. He relies on many electrical devices to pattern his craft.
Boyo worked as a labourer cutting grass along the roadside where the sole requirement was a swiper, a tool he had to teach himself to make. Being the eldest of fourteen children, he took many of his family’s responsibilities on his shoulders. Daily, he would leave on his bicycle in the darkness to get to work, complete his task and eagerly return to his little workshop.
There he laboured to cut the blades with a hacksaw and sharpen both sides with a file and stone. It was then heated at a certain spot on the kitchen stove and bent at a preferred angle. The handles were personally selected and then cut from the wild coffee trees, but this was only done after the full moon.
“The wood wouldn’t be affected by termites after a full moon.” said Boyo.
The dried lumber was then shaped using a machete, jack plain and spokeshave. The prepared blade was inserted into a tight groove at one end and secured with coils of wire wound by hand.
The process became easier when his brother built a house along the main road where electricity was accessible. Boyo would stop after work to sharpen the stack of blades on tow behind his bicycle on an old electric grinder.
His sons often accompanied him to the nearby forested area to gather the handles which were also transported by the faithful bicycle. Eventually Boyo acquired a vice-grip which held the blade in place to be cut. It was not until his retirement that he bought a second-hand electric grinder, which was soon followed by an electric saw.
Presently, Boyo uses a lathe and chisel set to spin the handles into shape. Surprisingly, his symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease seem to disappear as he holds the blades steady against the electric grinder. He meticulously times the heating of the blades on his wrist watch and expertly bends each one using a device he made.
Boyo has produced and sold many cutlasses to his colleagues, villagers and visitors. He makes cutlasses for both the left-handed or right-handed workman. Many female customers have their cutlass custom-made to a comfortable height.
Boyo also specializes in making machetes, ‘dabblers’, swizzle sticks, decorative candle sticks and paper-towel holders which are exhibited throughout his home. He shows great enthusiasm when creating each piece and proudly displays his craftmanship.
He revealed that the best part of life as a widower and working for himself is being able to nap anytime.