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The quality of the clay, it’s purity and it’s mineral composition are all elements that affect the final product. The choice of the quarry and where the clay is extracted are important and sensitive operations. Bernasconi Furnace uses only the clay from their quarry, near the site of production, choosing with close attention the purest product possible.
The extracted clay from the quarry looks uneven and is laminated and purified before use. At this point its consistency is fine and soft. Water is then added and the mixture is ready for the bricks to be handmade. At this stage the clay is stored in silos, where it rests and shelters from the weather. This gives it its highest quality.
The clay is rolled and seasoned indoors. With the addition of water it becomes a malleable dough, ready to make bricks for floors, coatings, masonry etc. The roof of the furnace is equipped with a rainwater storage system and it is this same water, held in tanks, that is added to the clay. The raw materials for handmade terracotta are rainwater and clay. Simple elements that give life to original materials.
The real stage of production. The mixture of water and clay (homogeneous and malleable) is put on a counter, where the brick is then shaped by hand. The moulding or ‘forming of clay’ is in cold, wooden moulds. These are built by the company. They are in all shapes and sizes, depending on the requested measurements of the final bricks. This is a totally manual operation. Each brick is made one by one and placed on the ground, to dry. This is when each man leaves his mark, giving life to a handmade material, where all pieces are the same but each is different in it’s own way. The beauty and charm of a handmade product.
Bernasconi furnace uses a natural drying method: the brick is air dried on appropriate flooring.
At this stage the mixture of water and clay takes consistency stabilizing definitively the geometric configuration. The bricks “dry” have the necessary mechanical strength that allows them to be stacked and sent for baking.
Finishing means the processing and additional operations required to give a particular aspect to the surface of the brick (more or less rough). Sanding and smoothing of the brick is done manually before the brick is sent for baking. Ars Vetus and polished finishes are done after baking. Rough/Raw has no finishing work.
This is the most fascinating and the last stage of production. It’s one of the most important. The preparation of the bricks inside the traditional wood oven and the baking process decide the quality of the product. For almost 60 hours the oven is manually fed day and night with firewood, from the nearby sawmills. The bricks are baked to a temperature of approximately 1000°c. They are at this temperature for almost 20 hours and it’s at this temperature they undergo a chemical and physical transformation, giving the brick its natural durability and technical characteristics.