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History of Uhl Pottery Company

by O. I. (Mockey) Lett

(2) PREPARATION OF CLAY FOR MANUFACTURE

THE CLAY FROM THE MINE HAD TO BE STORED IN AN OPEN BIN TO ALLOW IT TO WEATHER. IN OTHER WORDS – THE CLAY FROM THE MINE WAS IN LARGE AND HARD CHUNKS AND COULD NOT BE USED UNTIL THE WEATHER HAD CAUSED THE CLAY TO SOFTEN AND BREAK DOWN INTO SMALLER, WORKABLE PIECES. I DO NOT RECALL HOW LONG THIS WOULD TAKE BUT I AM CERTAIN THAT IT WAS SEVERAL WEEKS. THE CLAY WAS THEN WHEELED INTO THE PLANT AND ELEVATED INTO TWO LARGE BLUNGER MILLS WHERE IT WAS MIXED WITH STEAM AND WATER UNTIL ABOUT THE CONSISTENCY OF CREAM. THIS WAS THEN FED THROUGH A 60 MESH REVOLVING SCREEN TO REMOVE ALL FOREIGN MATTER SUCH AS SAND, PEBBLES, BITS OF COAL, ETC. THAT WERE COARSER THAN 1/60 OF AN INCH. THE SCREENED LIQUID THEN WENT TO A LARGE CISTERN BELOW THE FLOOR. FROM THE CISTERN IT WAS THEN PUMPED INTO A FILTER PRESS. THIS FILTER PRESS CONSISTED OF SOME 85 CHAMBERS EACH OF WHICH WAS LINED WITH A CANVAS FILTER CLOTH. THE CLAY WAS FORCED THROUGH THE FILTER CLOTH INTO THE CHAMBER AND THE WATER WAS FORCED OUT LEAVING A ROUND CAKE OF CLAY ABOUT 1-1/2 TO 2” THICK AND 3 FT. IN DIAMETER. THESE CAKES WERE THROWN INTO A BIN NEXT TO THE PUG MILLS. FROM THIS BIN THE CLAY WAS FED INTO THE PUG MILLS WHERE WATER WAS ADDED TO MAKE THE CLAY OF THE PROPER CONSISTENCY FOR EITHER THE BIT WARE MACHINE OR FOR THE JIGGER WHEELS. THE CLAY FOR THE BIG WARE MACHINE HAD TO BE STIFFER THAN FOR THE JIGGERS. ALSO, ANY CLAY TO BE USED FOR HAND-TURNING WAS ALSO STIFFER. IN FACT THE CLAY FOR THE JIGGERS WAS ALMOST SEMI-LIQUID AND WOULD OOZE THROUGH YOUR FINGERS.

(3) MOULD ROOM

ONE OF THE LARGEST INVESTMENTS OF ANY STONE WARE PLANT IS IN MOULDS. ALL ITEMS MANUFACTURED, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE LARGE JARS FROM 6 GAL., REGARDLESS OF SIZE OR SHAPE MUST HAVE A MOULD. UHL POTTERY HAD THEIR OWN MOULD MAKING DEPARTMENT WHERE ALL MOULDS AND PATTERN WERE MADE. THE FIRST STEP IN MAKING A MOULD WAS THE MAKING OF A MODEL. USUALLY THE MODEL WAS MADE FROM PLASTER OF PARIS. THE PLASTER WAS POURED ONTO A REVOLVING WHEEL IN THE APPROXIMATE DIMENSIONS OF THE MODEL. IT WAS THEN LATHED AND CARVED INTO THE DESIRED SHAPE AND SIZE. THEN A MOULD WAS POURED AROUND THE MODEL AND THIS ORIGINAL MOULD WAS THEN MADE TO FIT ONE OF THE RINGS ON THE JIGGER WHEELS. FROM THIS MOULD WAS MADE THE BLOCK AND CASE FROM WHICH ALL, SUBSEQUENT MOULDS WOULD BE MADE. FOR SOME OF THE MORE POPULAR ITEMS WE HAD SEVERAL BLOCKS AND CASES SO THAT MOULDS COULD BE MADE IN A HURRY. OUR OPERATION REQUIRED OUR HAVING MANY MOULDS AS MOST OF THEM COULD ONLY BE FILLED ONCE PER DAY. THE NUMBER OF MOULDS FOR EACH ITEM DEPENDED UPON THE QUANTITY BEING SOLD. THE MAKING OF MODELS, MOULDS AND BLOCKS AND CASES REQUIRED GREAT SKILL AND WE WERE FORTUNATE TO HAVE TWO GOOD MECHANICS OR MODEL MAKERS IN OUR SUP’T PERRY DAY AND MOULD MAKER CLINT FELTNER. AT TIMES, WHEN WE WANTED SOMETHING DIFFERENT MADE WE WOULD GET HELP FROM NORMAN CLEWLOW WHO WORKED IN THE MOULD ROOM OF CROWN POTTERY COMPANY OF EVANSVILLE, INDIANA. NORMAN MADE THE MODELS FOR OUR ICE WATER JAR WITH POLAR SCENE OUTSIDE, OUR C-9 BIRDBATH AND SEVERAL OTHER GARDEN ITEMS. ONE THING I FAILED TO MENTION WAS THAT OUR CLAY WOULD SHRINK AFTER BEING IN THE MOULDS 1” IN 8”, THIS OF COURSE HAD TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION IN MAKING ALL MODELS AND MOULDS. SINCE WE HAD TO HAVE SO MANY MOULDS WE PURCHASED PLASTER OF PARIS IN CARLOADS AND STORED IT ABOVE THE MOULD ROOM. ALSO THE STORING OF MOULDS NOT IN USE WAS QUITE A PROBLEM. WE HAD THE THIRD FLOOR OF THE MAIN PLANT FULL OF MOULDS AS WELL AS SEVERAL ROOMS ON THE WEST SIDE OF OUR WAREHOUSE. WE ALSO HAD ONE ROOM IN THE CORNER OF THE WAREHOUSE FOR STORAGE OF BLOCKS AND CASES.

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