Day 3 of the 6 day shift cycle. Shift 12:00 midday till 8:00pm
Tiles made: Faiteaux Rouge about 5500
Dry Tiles unstacked: Rives Chartreuse Terron about same
This is a Faiteau:
They're not made in a press, instead, the clay is squeezed out of the mill like toothpaste or play-dough. It is already in the right profile and wires cut it to the right length. The tedious part is that if they tiles are dried in the position you see in the picture, then they will deform later when they are fired in the kiln. So, as they come out the mill they have to be turned over and placed on the little wooden platforms that run on the conveyor belt.
Then, after they have dried for 16 hours or so, the have to be turned over again, so that they can get sprayed with any colour that is required.
So each tile is turned, by hand, twice. Then stacked in eights (by hand) onto a chain that takes them to the other side of the factory where the kiln is. Then they are taken off the chain (again by hand) and put into the fireproof wagons that will take them through the kiln.
That's a lot of human intervention.
So my job is to stand at the end of the play-dough conveyor and pick up and turn the tiles. The speed they arrive is controlled by the amount of clay fed into the play-dough mill. I have a pedal that I press to advance the little wooden chassis each time I pick up and turn a tile. I split the shift with Francis (a.k.a. Tatis a.k.a. Super Mario. he'll be covered in on of the character descriptions soon) So I've picked and turned about two and half to three thousand times today.
And I have to be careful placing them onto the chassis because the tiles are still wet (or "green") and will mark or deform if I plonk them down too hard.
The other half of the shift I spend at the chain stacking the already dry Rives (edge tiles). These are the tiles we made yesterday. They are now dry and will go to the kiln. Coming out of the drying rooms, they are machine distributed onto a conveyor which takes them under the spray pistols for the required colour. These Rives get stacked in twelves, interlocking back to back.
Francis and I switch jobs every two hours because lifting and turning the Faiteaux is quite hard work, two hours at a stretch.
I also ended up with the shitty job of cleaning the Tremies (clay hoppers) at the end of the shift. While I was out there the fat Marseillais asks me:
"Quelle heure il- est?"
but he says it fast with his Marseilles accent and I haven't a clue what he's saying. It sounds like "Kellurillay?"
So the conversation continues-
"Je suis desolé - mais je ne comprends pas"
"Wat tayme eez eet?"
"Merde! c'est moins le quart"
Exchanges like that make me feel a complete idiot