In the general art of tinwork, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, the tinsmiths, the tinkers and the plumbers were the experts, this last ones without the connotation we ascribe to them today. The tinker was responsible for making boilers and cauldrons, copper alembic stills and jugs. The plumbers were skilled in tin works, produced vessels for wine, but also salt shakers, vinegars, cruets, vases and barrels, basins, candlesticks, jars, chalices, patens and spoons. The assignment of this products was not rigid and could vary from place to place, or even from craftsman to craftsman, updating over time and adapting to new needs and tastes.
The tinsmiths produced boilers, lamps, basins and pots, and they were distinguished among themselfes by those who made the thick work, like the casted works, and those who made the hammerworks. In this last ones were includedthe tinplate tinsmiths, that asserted themselves in the early 18th century with the production of lanterns, lamps, bulbs and church candlesticks, hoppers, needles, etc.
The cansor tinplates, made into thin sheets of metal imported from Northern Europe, tinned and mostly worked by hammering, have replaced many of the containers traditionally made of copper, tin, clay and wood, especially in the canning industry and in the medication packaging. With white and shiny surface, the use of this material stood out in lighting (in the manufacture of candlesticks, lamps, street lamps or lanterns), in various utensils associated with the treatment of vines (like sulphurators, sprinklers and atomizers, used for sulfur application and pest prevention) and, especially in the domestic domain, where the variety of objects produced was almost infinite, between trays, platters, teapots, milk jars, sugar bowls, cans, bags and chests, cylinders, braziers, basins, tubs, jugs, buckets, watering cans, strainers, hoppers, pitchers, etc…
Very popular in the 19th century, the tinwork mostly settled in city centers and towns, selling the products in stores, workshops or fairs. In Penafiel, this craft was already prominent enough to have a tinsmith judgesince 1780, who oversee the profession. One hundred years later, three tinkers and ten tinsmiths worked in the city. TheIndustrial Inquiryof1881 accounted twelve small tinworks. Even today we can find some tinplates elements in the architecture of the city, like in the weathercocks of the church towers, or in the old shops advertising signs, like the sponge cake from Rosinha’s shop, or the top hat of Fausto’s Hatter Shop. Other similar examples, that were taken from the facades where they were originally located, can be found in the Municipal Museum’s collection.
Although they have reinvented themselves and adapted to new demands, the tinsmiths were also affected with the arrival of new materials, such as aluminum or plastic, starting then to dedicate themselves mainly to minor repairs or works in the construction industry. In the memory of Penafiel’s community there were some shops/workshops recently closed after the death of their owners. This craftsmen didn’t achive to pass on their know how to anyone. Nowadays there is only one tinsmith in the whole county.
SOEIRO, Teresa (2015) – A latoaria em Cabeceiras de Basto. Cabeceiras de Basto: Câmara Municipal.