#128 Germany’s last millstone mason

Millstone Memorial

Millstone Memorial in Haygood Mill, Pickens County, South Carolina - thanks to Don O'Brien, via Flickr Creative Commons

Most Germans don’t give much thought to millstones these days. Wolfgang Strakosch does. The 58-year-old artisan from the Bavarian village of Zusamaltheim is the last millstone mason in the country.

He hews millstones from the same basalt used for that purpose for more than 2000 years. He understands how to cut the porous rock to open its sharp edges for grinding flour. He knows exactly how to carve the grooves in the grinding faces so the surface won’t need maintenance for many years.

As hunger for organic grains and flours increases, Strakosch is in constant demand. Customers believe stone-ground flour retains the vitamins and enzymes lost through more mechanized processes. So the artisan bends over the 2,000-pound stones, giving them just the right roughness before carving grooves at a precise, 45-degree angle.

He worked in a mill before learning the trade he practices now. Intrigued by the stones, he went in search of someone to teach him how to carve them. The last two millstone master craftsmen taught him the skill that was in their minds and bodies.

With no texts to pass on and no schools for millstone masons, the craft could die with him. Fortunately, there is hope for the next generation. A 27-year-old stonemason, Andre Rössner, does not want the trade to disappear. If his interest becomes his passion, the wheels will continue to grind flour.

[Thanks to Derek Fournier for sending me the link.]
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