The tanners used to work in some caves in Via Casalnuovo (outskirts of the Sasso Caveoso) in order to contain the disavantage due to the smell given off by the tanned skins.

The skins were flayed and then evenly sprinkled (on the inner side) of salt and ash, in order to avoid their putrefaction. Afterwards the skins were folded and piled up for seven or eight days in large clay containers.
Since this procedure made fats melt the decomposition process slowed down.

The skins were then washed in large barrels or stone vats.
In order to avoid the skins hardening they were scrubbed with tufa pieces with pumice stones on purpose-made smooth curved stones.

When the fleece had to be removed, the skins were treated with salt and ash (containing potassium carbonate) or with tannin, an acid substance that can be found in the bark of the oaks and chestnuts. Afterwards the skins were soaked in stone vats, so that the residual fur dropped off.

To avoid the skin shrinking, the tanners stretched it on special frames. Each skin were ironed with heavy stone wheels  in order to soften it.

Cattle skins were used for harnesses, saddles, soles and barber’s stropes.

The soft and fine lamb skins were used for parchment, particular types of sieves, musical instruments (tambourines, cupa-cupa)…

The skins were also used by the shepherds to make saddle-bags and waistcoats or knees cushions for milking.

Further back in time when there weren’t materials and utensils for the tanning the skins were buried in piles of dung: in such way, the acid substances contained in the excrement blocked the putrefaction of the skin’s inner lining that was employed to make a type of glue.

The conciapiatti (cunza piott) was an itinerant artisan experienced in mending umbrellas and sewing up again the broken terracotta objects.

He announced his arrival with a sing-song similar to a complaint and he started his work once the women surrounded him with their broken crockery.

He perforated the crocks with a rudimentary rope-drill then he sewed them with iron wire.

The whole seam was finally covered with cement so that the containers became watertight. When the cement didn’t exist he prepared a mix of ash, crushed eggshells and water.

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Sorry, this entry is only available in Italian. Le pratiche del riciclo e del riuso, prepotentemente tornate alla nostra attenzione negli ultimi anni, erano alla base delle attività domestiche e produttive del passato. Oggi sono giustificate dal problema enorme dello smaltimento dei rifiuti, mentre in tempi ormai lontani avevano motivazioni di tipo economico, in quanto […]