Technology of the past

 

The first tearing machine (Dutch PILE) was created in the Netherlands around 1670, and it was used to tear and macerate cotton and linen rags to produce printing paper. It was later called HOLLANDER BEATER. A modern version of this machine is still used today for the water tearing of carbonised wool. This process makes frayed materials softer, less prone to fibre breakage and free from impurities.

The metal blades of cylinder and plate were sharpened in the Hollander Beater itself, in order to have them perfectly fit together, over their full length. The machine was loaded with a mixture of water and fine sand and the rotating cylinder was gradually lowered on the plate, and it kept on rotating until a constant and homogeneous sound, without bangs, was heard.
The tank was later loaded with rags, and clear water was added from a special tap, while the cylinder was put in motion by a mechanical pulley. The blade cylinder put in motion the whole mass of rags, which came in contact with continuously renewed water. The water loaded with impurities was removed passing through the link of washing drums.
Heavier and insoluble impurities like sand, pebbles, needles, etcetera settled on the bottom of the machine and concentrated in grooves covered with drilled sheet metals which were lifted and emptied at regular time intervals.
Obviously, during the washing the blade cylinder remained lifted in order to promote the mass circulation, and avoiding rags to be damaged. When washing drums expelled clean water, the process was over. The whole process normally lasted around two hours. At this point, the emission of water was stopped and fraying began. This consisted in gradually lowering the cylinder, so that the blades could get closer and closer to the plate, almost brushing against it. Rags, attracted by the rotational motion of the cylinder, passed through the blades, which teared and rubbed them. Doing so, rags gradually lost every trace of fabric and mutated into a filamentous and frayed pulp. Metal blades didn’t have to be sharp because they didn’t have to cut rugs, but only unravel them - therefore, their upper edge didn’t present any cutting part.

 

 

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