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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications / Le « Coticule » de Vielsalm et Lierneux (Belgique) : une pierre à aiguiser au passé mondial

Eric Goemaere and Pierre-Yves Declercq (2012)

Le « Coticule » de Vielsalm et Lierneux (Belgique) : une pierre à aiguiser au passé mondial

Annales de la Société Géologique du Nord, 19(2):117-132.

The coticule is an Ordovician aged metamorphic rock only present in the southern part of the Stavelot Massif on the towns of Vielsam and Lierneux. It comes in centimeter thick layers consisting in micrometric crystals of spessartite, microphyllites of micas, infra micrometer quartz. Its exceptional sharpening properties of the metal (razor sharp thin, sharp broad, sharp curve) gave its reputation of a natural abrasive stone and a global distribution (barber, circumciser, surgeon, butcher, carpenter, cabinetmaker, arborist, gardener, winemaker, tanner, coachbuilder ...). Exploited and shaped since the 16th century, the coticule was exported as a whetstone (aka razor stone), the "bouts belges" and to special forms. It was operated by craftsmen, primarily from the surface in open pits, in trenches and then by underground galleries, following the evolution of mining techniques of lighting and drainage. The material was sawn, made in standard sizes and polished by the quarry workers and then in small workshops. The high number of models, the various manufacturing steps entirely manual, the low yield (2-5%), competition from synthetic stones, and the disappearance of part of the customer after the Second World War sounded the death knell of this unique activity. Located in Lierneux, a quarry still operates today the coticule and most of its production is exported to the United States of America. The old mining galleries are today the winter refuge of bats populations. They are considered as cavities of scientific interest. Finally, the Museum of the coticule in Salmchâteau (Vielsalm) presents this manufacturing industry with a global destiny.
Peer Review, International Redaction Board
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