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Our artefact Pug Mill

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Before clay can be made into pots, it must be processed into a homogenous mixture containing the correct proportion of water.  This is the function of the pug mill. This pug mill was brought from England by Anthony Morris in 1977, and was used until it was seriously damaged the fire of 1984.

A pug mill consists of a rotating shaft fitted with paddles, housed in a tapered barrel.  The paddles chop and knead the clay/water mixture, while simultaneously pushing it along the barrel towards a die at the exit.  The reducing diameter of the barrel serves to compress and consolidate the clay until it emerges from the die as a continuous column that can be wire – cut into blocks.  In this particular machine, the die is offset with respect to the axis of the barrel.  This allows the provision of a bearing to support the shaft at the exit end.

The machine has no maker’s plate, and has obviously been much modified during its lifetime.  The exposed cast iron gear wheels and flat belt drive suggest a nineteenth century date of manufacture, but the bearings are lubricated with a pressurized grease gun – a method developed in the 1920’s. The frame that supports the gear train also looks like a later addition.  The barrel casting has undergone major repairs.

By Mike Rose

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