Museo della carta e della filigrana

Home The selection of rags

The selection of rags

The selection of ragsA fully functional Fabrianese “gualchiera” fulling-mill has been reconstructed inside the Paper & Watermark Museum. Reinstating the same techniques used by the famous “Master Paper-makers” that deeply influenced the perfectioning and distribution of paper in the western world. It is possible to follow the entire work cycle within the museum’s walls : from the arrival of and stockpiling of cloths “at the beginning of the cycle” to the shipment of finished paper bales for Italian and European consumers, via the Fano and Talamone shipping ports. The raw material essential to the production of paper is the “rag cloth”, that reaches Fabriano from nearby centres, packed in bales tied with hemp cord. The “stracciarola” (rag worker) sees to the first cleaning of the rags by “shaking” and “sorting” to remove foreign bodies and dirt and then “scraping” the cloth with an appropriate knife instrument, detaching buckles and unpicking any sewing seams. The worker classifies the rags according to quality, “selection”, and then throws the rags in one of the three sections of the sub-divided chest : “good”, “big” and “ribbed”. The discarded pieces are placed aside to be used for the production of paper wrapping paper. The grime that has not been removed by the “shaking” or the “scraping” of the cloth is eliminated or reduced via the “maceration” operation. The rag cloths are then generously soaked with water and then piled in a corner of the “maceration room” or the “putrefaction area”, and are periodically moved and soaked with water. The organic substance that makes up the grime and the non cellulose part ferment developing malodorous gas and heat. The eventual addition of bleach serves to better regulate the maceration. Prior to undergoing the pounding by the multiple hammer mill, the rag cloths that are normally large pieces of cloth, are reduced to small rectangles. This operation is carried out by a “cutter” vertically placed in front of the cloth chest. The transformation of the rag cloth into “paper paste” or “pisto”, which is the reduction of the “textile” to “elementary fibre”, is obtained by the Fabriano paper makers using the “hydraulic multiple hammer mill”. The multiple hammer mill is made up of the following:

1. a squared strong oak trunk, in which the internal part is separated into three or six tubs or vats which contain the rag cloth;

2. a paddle water wheel, dragged along from the bottom;

3. a “lifter” pole (pin, cammes) closely connected to the wheel;

4. hammer-heads : cut down pieces of oak wood approximately 1 m high, with squared sections of about 15 cm on each side; whose function is to pound the rag cloth contained in the tubs. The hammer-heads or the lower base are also equipped with fixed screws. The base of the tub is covered by a steel or bronze plate;

5. front and back skewbacks: ensure the hammer movements via the appropriate “trusses”;

6. a rag cloth washing device inside the tub;

7. the framework: a strong wooden structure that ensures stability to the whole machine and supports the water wheel and the connection to the lifter beam;

8. tub beams, hammers and trusses made more solid via strong metal hoops and joints using bent back nails.