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Making a Wooden Sieve - John Hamilton

In 1946, William Monks, Secretary of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, brought to the attention of the National Museum of Ireland, the existence of a skilled sieve maker still actively engaged in his craft in Kitchenstown, Naul, County Dublin.

The name of this craftsman was John Hamilton. In the summer of 1948, A.T. Lucas, along with Kevin Danaher of the Irish Folklore Commission, visited Mr. Hamilton at his residence, where they thoroughly documented and filmed the entire process of sieve making as performed by the talented craftsman.

Mr. Hamilton was a Naul native who grew up on the family farm. This is where he was taught the craft of sieve-making from an Irish traveller known as “The Twigger” who periodically visited Naul to make and sell the sieves.

For many years John made the sieves in his spare time of which he had little and sold the sieves in the nearby town of Balbriggan.

Why were sieves used?

Poor Irish properties in the 18th and 19th century lacked barns and outhouses, resulting in the need for sieves to remove dirt and grit that remained after threshing with the flail outdoors. These sieves had various mesh sizes and were used in a strong draft or on a windy day to separate grain and chaff. The wind blew the lighter chaff aside, while the heavier grain fell onto a sheet on the ground. The cleanest grain was on the windward side, but some still required an extra winnowing through a fine sieve to remove weed-seeds and chaff.

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