Italian gut string Factories Process, part 1

The "fresh gut" part 

Let's get started, and of course we start from Salle, in Abruzzi (Italy).

We'll go and see how a factory was organized in the 18th century.

Yes, I said factory, not workshop. 😊

When you take out the intestine from a sheep, the first thing you need to do is to empty it someway. So the “sprisciatura”, or squeezing, was the first operation, sometime it was done from the collectors directly at the slaughter house, before carrying them to the factory (some collectors travelled by bike for hundred of km with guts in their bags...), sometimes at the factory... guess where all the poop was thrown?

After the gut was left in the water for a couple of days, to start a fermentation and become softer, it was scraped using a half cane to clean as much as possible the inside mechanically.

Note: at the beginning of this videos I always write for you also the abruzzi dialect word for the action, and not only the English one. This is because they are the words that you will find reading Griselini dizionario dei mestieri, published in Venice in 1769 as a translation of Diderot and d’alambert Encyclopedia, and using the same illustrations. In other words, the Abruzzo dialect actions became the technical therms for those passages!

After the gut is scraped, and is acceptably clean, it is left for one week to the cures of the thimble women: all the guts are in small basins, in chemicals (tempra), and two or three times a day they are passed under a copper thimble.
This is where the gut becomes strings raw material, this is where it differs from casings...
This passage required a lot of people for a lot of time, the picture from the 40s (La Bella, Long Island New York) speaks alone..

The gut, now perfectly clean, is selected by gauge, and normally cut using a horn with a blade installed.

Positioning the blade or blades differently, it can be just opened, or cut in two, or in four stripes.

So at the end of this process we have stripes of different dimension in different basins, ready to become strings.

And, of course, some broken pieces... but not waste!

Broken pieces of gut, shorter but strong, were pieced together using a crochet to obtain long stripes.

This job was done by children after the school, waiting at the factory for their mothers, and working for free...

At the end in every basin there was a very long stripe of gut, made of little pieces joined by knots, and taking four or five of them it was put on the frame, directly on the pegs of the frame, and twisted with the pegs. (The other strings are knotted to a loop of canapa or nylon string to hang them on the hook of the twisting wheel)

This peculiarity forms the characteristic loop of the old double basses strings. These big cordones obtained with this knotted guts were used for doublebasses or for the big clocks of the churches, or for drums, for arches and crossbows, or generally for transmission of mechanic movement (remember the old sewing machines?).

A product always mentioned speaking of cordones (big strings) is “for batter bambace”, to beat the cotton, literally. Anyone knows what exactly does this mean?

Please leave a comment!


baroque music, double-bass strings, early music, gut strings, gut strings history, gut strings maintenance, gut strings manufacture, viol strings, viola da gamba strings, viola strings, violin strings, violoncello strings

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