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#41192 - 05/28/05 02:24 AM Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2155
Loc: Bucks County PA
My wife is a potter. As in she makes pots of many kinds. when I told her of this thread and the suggestion that you could create and fire a pot and then use it both as a water container and as a boilng container made her laugh out loud.

First of all, not all clay is capable of being fired, and if it is, that does not make it water-tight. Burnishing (rubbing) is one technique to make a clay pot that is not water-tight into one that is. We're talking about DAYS of rubbing, not minutes or hours.

Next is the thermal coefficient of the clay. Not many clays you find in nature can withstand the thermal shock that comes from fire on side and water on the other.

Lastly is the amount of time to fire. I've done a wood firing, it's a multi-hour process and it takes a HUGE amount of heat to really fire well.

#41193 - 05/28/05 03:18 AM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
When Brian made his initial post, I was inclined to repeat a suggestion offered in past posts. Brian lives in Texas. Before the Tejanos, before even the Conquistadores, the Comanches, Catos, Kiowas & Pawnee somehow managed to live there. They didn't have bottled water <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> I wonder how THEY did it?

Edited by Chris Kavanaugh (05/28/05 03:19 AM)

#41194 - 05/28/05 04:24 AM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
Lee123 Offline

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 31
Loc: NW NY
There is an article on Native American Cooking Tools that mentions early clay cooking pots, ( not how to water proof them)
and boiling in hides hung near fires here:: www.journalofantiques.com/Aug02/hearthaug02.htm

I believe the Ojibwe cooked in a pots made of birch bark. As long as the flame doesn't touch the pot, liquids can be boiled in birch bark.

#41195 - 05/30/05 10:26 AM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
The Anasazi were making pots in the 1300's, but I suspect that a lot of their water carrying was done in gourds, and in baskets smeared with pitch. I believe they used the hot-rock method for a lot of their boiling. And I doubt that they ever set a clay pot on a fire to heat anything.

Bark containers can heat water as long as the flame doesn't touch the container ABOVE the water line. Below the water line the water itself, even if boiling, doesn't allow the container to get hot enough to burn. I would assume that this could hold true with gourds as well as birch bark.

I also suspect that the the Native Americans didn't do a great amount of boiling, and probably never boiled water just for drinking, since even the pioneers of the 1800s didn't realize that cholera & other diseases were usually passed around through contaminated water sources.


#41196 - 05/30/05 04:46 PM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
American indian basketry was, and is the finest in the world. With proper materials and skill they were self sealing when wet, if not allready watertight. There is a collection at L.A.s Southwest Museum ranging from showpieces so tiny they require magnifying glasses to view up to baskets the size of jacuzzis- and used as same! Water supplies were a lot cleaner back then, and I suspect people's internal cultures more in tune with their world. Indians did indeed do a great deal of boiling food. What they also did, was THINK and PREPARE. There is an erroneous myth of THE NOBLE SAVAGE who could be dropped in Death Valley and have a wickiup, rabbit skin robe and dinner cooking by sundown. Those people carried gear just like us, though a porcupine quill embroidered pouch looks better than a Altoid tin <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Along with gourds, other world options include ostrich eggs, large bamboo canteens, large leaves , leather bags( Bota Bags) and my personal favourite- a traditional chianti bottle with the braided wrapper suspended from a belt.

#41197 - 05/31/05 01:45 AM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult wat
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2155
Loc: Bucks County PA
I didn't say it was IMPOSSIBLE - far from it - it's just a task that takes - at best -a full day with the right materials and the right treatment of the materials. You can make a pot that will hold water and you can make a pot that can withstand fire. But these are very often two different needs, with two different techniques. My point is that you can't reasonably expect to make, fire and use a clay pot with natural materials in the 8 hour scenariod described. It's physics - the clay takes time to fire, to change chemically to become something that will work. Further, to build a pot that won't explode in the firing, you really need to "wedge" the clay for a while to get all the air bubbles out. This can take about an hour even with store-bought clay, it takes longer if your clay is full of rocks, weeds and insects.

#41198 - 05/31/05 03:53 PM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult wat
Ron Offline

Registered: 02/04/05
Posts: 171
Loc: Georgia, USA
I think the magic word is SKILL.
Early native Americans caught fish without steel hooks; hunted with bow and arrows made with wood, feathers and flint points; and cooked their fish and game over fires made without matches.
They started out as children learning those skills. Asking me to make Pre-Columbian pottery would be like asking one of those early Americans to drive my car. We could both learn, but it would take some instruction and/or a lot of trial and error.

#41199 - 05/31/05 09:57 PM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
Sadly, they also didn't have to worry about giardia or Cryptosporidia when they drank the water. <img src="/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

#41200 - 06/01/05 09:59 PM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult wat
Brangdon Offline

Registered: 12/12/04
Posts: 1204
Loc: Nottingham, UK
Skill and knowledge - knowing what clay to use and where to find it. I get the impression they would sometimes travel long distances to find the right natural materials - I don't know whether that's because they just wanted the best, or because most locations don't have anything usuable at all. If the latter and they were dropped into the wrong forest, they might be as stuffed as the rest of us.
Quality is addictive.

#41201 - 06/03/05 03:03 AM Re: Clay Pots Are hard To Make (From Difficult water..
brian Offline

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 1468
Loc: Texas
Hmm, well tell her not to laugh to loud because I did it this week. I went over this a little in the thread that started the discussion to begin with. I will explain in detail soon once my pics are ready for posting.
Learn to improvise everything.

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