The sagger and the bottom knocker

What is a saggarmaker’s bottom knocker?

What’s My Line? was a Classic British television panel game from the 1950’s. Contestants with unusual occupations sign in, perform a mime of the job that they do, then field yes-or-no questions from four celebrities aiming to work out the contestant’s job.

The weirdest occupation on the programme is widely believed to be a “saggar maker’s bottom knocker”. Saggars are used to hold and protect pottery during kiln-firing, and by placing various substances in a saggar it is possible to produce dramatic visual effects on the finished pottery.

Producing saggars to the correct specifications required was a skilled job and needs a craftsman – the saggar maker. However, making the bases of the saggars is a less skilled job which can be left to a lesser craftsman, namely the saggar maker’s bottom knocker, who makes the bottom of the saggar by placing clay in a metal hoop and literally knocking it into shape.

The saggar:

saggers

 

saggar

 

A SAGGAR is a fireclay container, mostly oval or round but sometimes oblong.

These are used to protect pottery from marking by flames and smoke during firing in a bottle oven.

Frame filler:

The FRAME FILLER (usually a male apprentice) flattened a mass of clay and produced a rectangle which was wrapped round a drum to make the side of the saggar.

bottom_knocking

A frame-filler and a bottom-knocker at work side by side in the early 1900’s
A filled bottom ring on a shord (metal plate) sits on a lump of marl in the foreground.
Photo: Gladstone Pottery Museum

Bottom Knocker:

The BOTTOM KNOCKER (a young boy) made the base of the saggar from a lump of fireclay which he knocked into a metal ring using a wooden mallet or mawl (pronounced mow).

saggar_lads

Pottery lads in 1921 with two mawls, the tool used for bottom knocking.
Photo: Gladstone Pottery Museum

The saggar maker:

The SAGGARMAKER, is a skilled man, producing the finished saggar, using his thumb to make a near join between the side and the base.

saggar1

A saggar-maker at making the side of a saggar on a wooden former
Photo: Potworks

saggar2

A saggar-maker assembling a base and side
Photo: Memories of Stoke-on-Trent

The finished saggars:

The finished saggar was fired in the kiln and lasted for 30 to 40 firings – if they were not broken

Placing wares in saggars required special knowledge. Plates were ‘reared’ or ‘dottled’; that is carefully separated from each other by thimbles to prevent the glaze from making them fuse together in the glost firing.

saggars_gladstone

Saggars at Gladstone Works, Longton

Even after they couldn’t be used for firing the saggars were put to use………

john_st

Used saggars acting as walls at Lower John Street (c.1930)

Source: http://www.thepotteries.org

The sagger and the bottom knocker
5 (100%) 1 vote

gaukartifact