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What is a medieval fuller?

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There are two meanings of the word "fuller" applicable to medieval times:
  • A fuller cleaned wool to prepare it to being made into cloth. The fuller first pounded the cloth with sticks or walked on it while wet to cleanse it and whiten the fibers. The walking on the cloth gave fullers their other name of "Walker" The job was not pleasant as the ammonia used in the process came from the urine present in the fluid. Additional materials in the wash included Fullers earth (ammonium silicate). The fulling process also thickened the cloth by felting the fibers (tangling them up) and made the material somewhat waterproof. The foul smelling washing liquid was removed before the cloth was stretched and dried.
  • Alternately the fuller was a groove in a horseshoe or sword. This allowed the weapon to be lighter (use less steel) without decreasing its strength.
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