Visiting the Museum
THE OIL: HISTORY AND MECHANICAL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
Oil press with two grinders and a kneader-dispenser
The press is composed of two granite wheels rotating vertically over a horizontal based made of the same hard stone. The basin has a wide metal border with a small, shuttered opening and a chute where the paste slides down towards the kneader. It rests on three pillars over a toothed wheel of the mechanism, driven by an electric motor. The kneader, installed on side of the tub, is connected to the dispenser in the lower section. This oil press was made by the Officine Meccaniche Toscane in the 1950s, while the crusher-dispenser was manufactured by the company Fonderie Officine Camplone S.p.A. in Pescara between 1950 and 1960.
Hydraulic oil press
Production moved from screw presses to hydraulic presses or basket presses of different capacities driven by pumps. Made of metal and powered by electricity or hydraulic power, little effort was needed to achieve high pressures. These presses are composed of a base supporting a piston cylinder with an up-and-down motion when driven. These machines where generally used in a battery of three, connected to a pressure gauge, so the workers could check the pressure reached. These pressed were connected to a hydraulic pump by a “communication” tube. They had a circular base and a cylinder axle in the centre, on which the baskets were held and stacked underneath. They were also provided with special four-wheeled trolleys. This press was designed in 1963 by the Officine e Fonderie Meccaniche G. Camplone & Figli Pescara.
Early 19th century illustrations show the first metal screw presses or “strettoj” alongside, and partly replacing, the traditional wooden ones. These presses were operated by "simple lever" mechanisms (a shaft), with a "ratchet" and “multiple leverage” movement, and was composed of three or four columns. They were made of a pressing base on which the baskets rested, a nut, a bolt with the housing for the pressing plate, and a board under which the baskets were placed in a column. The “Strettojo a cerchioni Sistema OOMENS” was operated by “ratchet” movement and was built by the Stabilimento Fonderia di Ferro and the mechanic Luigi Oomens of Napoli in 1882.
Four column hydraulic press
This is an “open or free tower” press and had a base with a piston underneath moving up and down when driven, supported by a cylinder. It was composed of four columns (or traverses) connecting the base to the top structure, usually bearing the name of the manufacturer. A gauge for measuring the pressure was mounted close to the columns. The “open tower” model, marketed already in the beginning of the 20th century, was manufactured and sold for decades by companies such as Veraci of Firenze, Camplone of Pescara and other well-known oil press manufacturers.
The pump that works the press can be in one or more sections. It is made of plungers or pistons that draw and push the internal fluid. The hydraulic pump is driven by a motor that lifts the pistons; this opens the valve allowing the water from the tank to enter the pump. When the pistons lower the valve is shut and another opens, letting the water through the communication tube linking the pump to the press. The water carried to each press through the tube entered the underlying cylinder and pushed the piston to create pressure. On each pump a rotating lever stops the water from being pumped when is needed (high and low pressure) until the correct pressure levels are reached. The pump on display was built by the Company Società Veraci Officine Meccaniche e Fonderie Firenze.
Veraci centrifuge separator
A mechanical separator was first used in the early decades of the 20th century and it replaced the terracotta plate. Using this apparatus, oil was completely separated from the vegetation water. After pressing, the liquid (oil and water) was drawn into the machine so that the vegetation water could be quickly separated from the oil thus obtaining a good quality olive oil. This machine was made up of a centrifuge, a centrifuge board and an underlying motor, and was built by the Società Veraci Officine Meccaniche e Fonderie Firenze.
Camplone centrifuge separator
The Beta single separator was built by the Company Fonderie – Officine Camplone S.p.a. in Pescara around 1960. It was made up of a centrifuge driven by an electric motor at the rear left of the machine. It separated the oil from the vegetation water mechanically to obtain an excellent quality product.
Genoese-type screw press, known as a "strettojo"
The Genoese press was widely used not only in Genoa but also in Liguria and Tuscany, as well as in other northern Italian cities. It was introduced to central Italy in 1768 by Domenico Grimaldi, replacing the lever press (widely used in northern Italy) and the Calabrese-type two-screw press. The "strettojo" (almost always made of oak, or wood and metal) was operated by a single person (“by the strength of a man’s arms") who turned the press using a sturdy pole. Then, using a vertical hoist connected to a thick rope, the press (with the baskets stacked in a column) was put under further pressure. The press had a circular base on which the baskets full of olive paste were stacked. A rectangular basin was placed under this base to collect the oil as it dripped down from the pressed olive paste.
Wooden lever and screw press
This is described in great detail by Vittorio Zonca in his well-known book entitled: Novo teatro di machine et edificii, 1607. Already used in ancient times (as described by Cato and the mathematician Heron), the lever press with worm screw and counterweight, was perfected by Pliny and was for many centuries, the only type of machine used in central and northern Italy for pressing olives. This system continued to be used in many olive-growing areas (mainly where technology evolved slowly) until the end of the 19th century. They were finally replaced with the one-screw Genoese type presses, which were more functional and less cumbersome. The lever has a limestone base anchoring the screw of the press. This device lacks a stone basin (placed centrally in the large wooden beam, under the baskets filled with olive paste) to collect the oil and decant it before being collected and preserved in the glazed terracotta jars (or large pots) or in one of the old stone basins.
Two-grinder oil press
In the natural park surrounding the Museum on the Art of Oil Making there is a space dedicated to Maria Marta Boldrocchi, a collaborator of Coppini Arte Olearia, who passed in 2009. Here visitors can take a close look at a stone mill with two grinders.
This cylindrical press is composed of two granite grinders (or millstones) rotating vertically, turning and moving over a horizontal base made of the same stone as the grinders. The pressing apparatus is edged with an iron border with a shuttered opening and a chute to slide the olive paste down to the kneader, which is missing. The two grinders are arranged so that they do not travel the same route gaining a wider crushing surface and speeding up the pressing process. The basin rests on four iron pillars over a toothed wheel of the mechanism, driven by an electric motor placed alongside it (now missing). The press was built by the company Ditta Officine Meccaniche Toscane between 1940 and 1950.