LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT:
Figueira da Foz antique market
Propped up lazily against a signpost, in a sea full of rusted tools, dog-eared paperbacks and other market miscellanea, there it was. Sun-bleached and pocked by woodworm, I had to have it. Its artistry, breathtaking. This is the story of the threshing board, otherwise known as a trillo, or tribulum.
SO WHAT IS IT, EXACTLY?
The thresher is an obsolete agricultural tool that served to separate wheat from the chaff.
Dating back thousands of years and used until as late as the 60's, there is mention of this tool in some of the oldest written documents around, including the Bible. I ended up with not one, but two threshing boards that fateful day at the market; and was told that one of them was over 300 years old.
THE CRAFT OF THE BRIQUEROS
(how it's made)
Likely introduced into the region around the 16th or 17th century, Cantalejo became a hub for the production of threshers. By the 1950s, with over half the population dedicated to the craft, there were over 400 workshops producing more than 30,000 threshing boards each year. Work began near the end of summer, with the selection of black pines, which were cut and smoothed into 6ft cylinders called tozas.
Covering the board with stone flakes was mainly the work of women, called enchifleras.
SHAPING, CHISELING & JOINING
FORMING THE STRUCTURE
Slats were then cut into the shape of a ski as wide as the toza allowed, and about 2 inches thick. After drying out in the sun for a several months, work would begin on chiseling the slots. Guided by pencil-marks so the workman wouldn't err, they used a hammer and chisel to carve out about 3000 slots. Slats were joined together using glue and dowels, and reinforced by cabezales (crosspieces) which were nailed into place.
Once the basic structure of the threshing board is ready, it is smoothed with an adze and plane. Long, thin boards were then attached to cover the gaps between the planks (though neither of mine have this addition), and a sturdy hook was added for tying on the oxen.
KNAPPING & HAMMERING
ATTACHING THE STONES
To create the lithic flakes used to cover threshing boards, the briqueros in Cantalejo used a manufacturing technique called knapping. Working with a hand-sized chunk of flint, they would use a pickaxe to chisel off lithic flakes. The raw materials preferred by these artisans was a whitish flint imported from the province of Guadalajara.
Covering the board with stone flakes was mainly the work of women called enchifleras. These women sorted the flakes (small ones in the front, medium-sized in the middle, and the largest on the sides and in the back), and hammered them in accordingly, with care not to damage the flake's sharp edge.
(culture & life)
ARTISANS & THEIR KIN
(ONE) Artisans began selling their threshing boards as soon as they were complete, beginning in April and lasting until August, often bringing their whole family with them as they peddled them around the country.
(TWO) Artisans took words from any area they visited regularly, creating a linguistic mishmash known as Gacería. It allowed the speakers to communicate freely in the presence of strangers without others understanding the content of the conversation.
(THREE) Children often enjoyed riding on the threshing board, and the farmers allowed it because their weight was useful.
The information on this page draws heavily from the Wikipedia page on the THRESHING BOARD.
Black and white images are primarily pulled from two sources: IMÁGENES DE UN MUNDO RURAL 1955-1980, by Cristóbal Gómez Benito y Emilio Luque Pulgar
and: the November 5, 1929 issue of Estampa Magazine via this BLOG.
The exceptions to this are: the third image of a MAN WITH HIS OXEN AND CHILDREN ON A TRIBULUM.
The fifth image of a WOMAN POUNDING STONE FLAKES INTO A THRESHING BOARD by José-Manuel Benito Álvarez.
And the second last black and white stretch image of CHILDREN BEING PULLED ON TRIBULUM.
The first image and colour images are my own.