20 November 2016

Oloința Valea Mică – Zlatna oil press, Alba County, 19th century

Within a self-sufficient economy, common to the Middle Ages, a traditional household would ordinarily produce every good necessary for day to day life. In these circumstances, oil was obtained using methods perfected over time, starting from manually operated fulling mills to water mills and screw presses.

Performance levels particularly rose when artisans of the day solved a major mechanical issue: converting circular motion to translational movement by introducing the camshaft.

Constructed with bucket or paddle elements, the water wheel has a long history of being integral in the grain grinding process. In this new technological context, the wheel is set up on an axle which lifts the stamp battery, the blades of the saws, the hammers of the fulling mill or the mallets used in smithies.

Artisans from Valea Mică – Zlatna, Alba County, were introduced to this modern technology as well, which led to the construction of an up-to-date oil press. This building was acquired by the Village Museum in 1967 and is displayed in a shed that demonstrates a strong archaic character: six wooden pillars are surrounded by a low stone wall propping a straw hip roof.

Built in the 19th century, the installation comprises two basic wood devices: the actual press, devised to crush the seeds, and the collection basket. Fashioned with a metal stove, the adjacent furnace was used for baking the flour.

Held in an upright position with the aid of a horizontally fixed axle and tied up to a wooden pole, a mobile stone wheel was housed under the same roof. This notable installation would serve as an apple and pear – usually of the wild variety – crusher. The juice thus obtained would be turned to vinegar through fermentation. In other regions, this mechanism was also used for grinding oleaginous seeds.