"" Writer's Wanderings: Costa Rica -- The Artisan Market

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Costa Rica -- The Artisan Market

When I saw Artisan Market on the itinerary for our tour with Pickleball Costa Rica the image of a straw market came to mind. What we found was far from it. The place we visited is call Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro. It is an oxcart factory that has been making the traditional carts with beautiful paintings for over 120 years.

The factory is the only one in the world still making these decorative carts on a regular basis. While farmers could choose to use a more modern convenience many would rather stick to tradition and use the beautiful carts for their work. The factory only produces about three full size carts a month. When you see all that goes into the making of one you can understand why.

"Henry" our guide talked about how the making of the wheel evolved from a flat piece of wood to the pie shaped wedges they now use. The old way was difficult first of all in finding a piece of wood large enough. Then the grain in the wood caused the wheel to wear unevenly creating an oval shape. Someone figured out that wood cut in pie wedges and placed around a metal bushing made a better wheel.

Once the wedges are set in place, a metal ring a centimeter smaller than the wheel circumference is heated and it expands to fit around the wheel wedges. As water is poured over it, it cools and shrinks until the wedges are held tightly in place to make a sturdy wheel.

All of this work is done by machinery that is powered by a water wheel whose source of power comes from a nearby river. Water was diverted to the wheel which used to be wood but has over the years been replaced by metal wheels. The latest is of iron.

When he started the water flowing over the wheel the crankshaft over our heads began turning. Henry picked up a piece of wood and used a table saw powered by the wheel to cut it. There were a half dozen other pieces of machinery (a band saw, a hack saw and a metal lathe) that were all powered from the same source.

Henry told us that they guarantee their wheels for 30 years but many last as long as 50 years. Of course they need a couple of paint jobs throughout those years. And the painting is quite an art.

There is a crew of painters painting the cart pieces and wheels as well as smaller pieces that are sold as souvenirs in the retail store that fronts the factory. There are also artisans that do wood carving and much of that is sold there as well.

There is a great explanation of the factory's work and probably better pictures than I have at this travel site if you'd like to take a look.

It was a fun place to visit and shop and we even got to have lunch on their outside upper deck.

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