Well sinkers constructed wells. Usually, well sinking was not their main occupation. Most of them were generally occupied in construction works, since wells were built only in the summer and there was a limited demand due to the high cost of their construction. Master craftsmen undertaking to build wells used to have four or five assistants who gradually learnt the work from them and they could later become masters themselves.

Wells were usually built near ravines that indicate the presence of water, while well sinkers took also into account the presence of other wells in the region. The diameter and the depth of the well depended mainly on the cost afforded by the owner. Of course, the bigger the well, the higher was the cost. At first, they dug with pick and shovel a shallow round pit of a diameter of two to tree metres at a selected spot. Then, two workers entered the pit and started digging in depth. They estimated that the thickness of the circumference of the well, made of gravel, would cover about fifty centimetres, so they left the respective space in the centre to fit the water bucket and the windlass.

After digging about ten metres in depth, they mounted a small windlass (winch), where crates and a sack (as a counterweight) were attached with ropes, to lift the excavated earth and stones. Two workers were into the pit, digging and loading the winch with earth and stones, and the other two pulled up and emptied the crates. In case they found large stones while digging, they had to “smash” them. This was made by using dynamite, gradually blowing up (since it was too dangerous) parts of the stone. This procedure lasted until they found “moisture”, meaning water. Usually, this happened in ten to fifteen metres depth. Otherwise, they stopped.

As soon as they found water, they started building the well from the bottom and upwards. Two persons were into the well and with the help of the small winch took stones and placed them vertically to the surface of the pit and covered them with gravel. The entire construction seemed like a dry stone wall, so that the water drained into it, without being absorbed by the inside walls. As soon as the well was built upward and approximately at one metre high, or as they said, it “gained height”, they made “small foot planks”, that is, constructions like small wooden “steps”, on which they stepped to keep on building upwards.

During the digging and the building, when the pit was relatively deep the workers used a ladder to go up and down, whereas when it was deep enough they used the small winch: they placed it (after greasing it) on two pieces of wood like a fork, where a rope with a hook was attached, on which the worker was tied to move upwards or downwards. Nowadays, well sinkers are few, since wells are no longer necessary for the water supply, and most of the times are built for decorative reasons.

Sources used

  • Interview with Theodosis Moustidis [well sinker], in Chios, 11/07/2005