Purchasing STAM: Part 4

Klaf & klaf-making

This series of blog posts can be downloaded as a free ebook.1

For a brief overview of the complete series, including links to all the posts, see Purchasing STAM: Index & Summary.

Klaf

The previous two posts discussed the people behind the writing and checking processes. This post and the next one in this series will focus on the materials used in STAM and the craftsmen who make them.

Once upon a time, the sofrim made their own klaf.2 Although there are still a few sofrim who do that today (I personally know only one), currently nearly all the klaf on the market is made in a factory setting. The different klaf factories come in all sizes, from small, family-operated businesses to industrial-sized outfits with many employees.

Given the scale and scope of the production of klaf, it is recommended that the factory has the supervision of a reputable hechsher.3 Unfortunately, many klaf factories operate without a hechsher. If knowledgable buyers start insisting on klaf with a hechsher it would go a long way towards convincing the recalcitrant factories to bring in reliable third-party supervision.

There are two possible processes for making klaf; it is either made entirely by hand or mostly by machine with limited human help. Although at one time the handmade klaf was of a much lower quality, in recent years the klaf makers have refined their processing and the quality level is about the same as machine made klaf. Handmade klaf still has some unique properties that the sofer may need to get used to, but overall the experience is similar enough to writing on machine made klaf. Most sofrim who claim that they are unable to write on handmade klaf probably haven’t tried it recently.

Handmade klaf has many additional hidurim over machine made, and there are even poskim who feel that the machine made klaf is only kosher bidi’eved. The price of handmade klaf can be much higher (as much as double, depending on the particular factory and what hidurim they include), but there are factories that produce high-quality handmade klaf at almost the same price as machine made klaf. If at all possible, it is certainly preferable to buy STAM written on handmade klaf. Most sofrim don’t offer it as an option except on their high-end products, but the market would likely accommodate an increase in demand.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, which will focus on tefilin and address the batim and retzu’os.

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  1. The blog posts have been revised to reflect edits and corrections made when preparing the ebook edition.

  2. For a brief introduction to klaf, see STAM bits: Klaf and More About Klaf. To learn why not to judge klaf based solely on color, see White Klaf

  3. Klaf production is similar in many ways to industrial food production and should be supervised with the same care.