Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Until the 1960’s, Maurizio worked as a “Fornacino” and Guido as a “Carbonaio”. With new technology and quicker production times, they saw their jobs disappear.

Maurizio produced terra-cotta bricks with the traditional Etruscan/Roman method, mixing clay and galestro rock after pulverizing it with a sort of mill. This flour was then soaked in a large terra-cotta basin.

The day after, it was kneaded by hand and put into the various forms one wanted to produce; walls for bricks, floor tiles, or even thinner, for roof rafters and tiles. The material was then placed in an area specifically prepared to allow it to dry.

The most difficult were the curved tiles which tended to sag. (Modern technology extracts the air from the mix; the pieces that come out of the machine are held up by the air). As the material slowly dried, they were protected while waiting for the day of baking.

Lime production was a very physical job. There was usually a cave which contained large benches of white rock made of calcium carbonate. This was extracted by hand with the aid of black powder mines which broke the bench into pieces if the mine was well compressed. Otherwise… puff!

To prepare a mine, one didn’t have compressors or rotating drills, but only an iron bat and a large chisel which the quarryman held, slightly rotating it between one hit and another that a different quarryman gave with the bat. If the two weren’t well coordinated, there was the risk of getting hit on an arm or a hand.

To extract the powdery material that was produced, there was a type of spoon with a large handle. The powder that was produced was put aside and used to arm mines. In order to make a hole half a meter deep with a diameter of 5 centimeters, sometimes it took half a day or longer.

Once the hole was made, they began to create the fuse. First came the firing mechanism, made up of a type of cord with a core of gunpowder. The margin of safety was calculated beyond the depth of the hole (this could have been the double length of the hole). The cord was knotted and marked with a knife until the gunpowder core.

The knot was then inserted into the hole, behind the chunks of black powder which were compressed immediately with a tool that had a copper ending. I don’t know how much the explosives dose was. This operation was risky if the powder caught on fire. The hole was continually pressed with paper and the dust from the shelved stone until reaching the top.

Once the operation was complete, they made sure there weren’t people around. After yelling “Fire! Fire!”, the most expert of the workers lit the fuse and moved away.

Roberto Borghi