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[By Our Reporter] (Evening Star, 18 December 1872)
The other morning, from instructions received, I proceeded on board the Royal Mail Steamer Gemini for a trip to Hobsonville, on a visit of inspection to Carder Bros. Pottery Works on the banks of the Waitemata. Of the trip down it is unnecessary to say much, suffice it that the steamer cast off from her moorings at 11.5 a.m.; cleared the wharf at 11.8; passed on the weather-side of the Norham Castle, tea ship, and bore up the harbour steering W.N.W. Hoisted mainsail at 11.12, and proceeded under easy steam and sail towards Riverhead. Passed Kauri Point at noon; arrived off a long low building on the southern side, with two tall smoke-stacks, which proved to be the Waitemata Potteries. Tide having run out it was impossible to fetch the wharf in the steamer, so fetched the captain, and explained matters. He immediately ordered engines to be stopped; main-yard put back, and short boat lowered. Into this I stepped, and in less time than it has taken to pen this, found myself “On the sands, On the sands.” Made tracks for the pottery.
Meeting one of the Messrs Carder, and explained nature of my errand. He at once offered to escort me over the premises and instruct me into the nature of his business. I placed myself entirely in his hands and followed him where he list. He showed me wonderful things, and from that which I saw and that which I heard from his lips I have been enabled to gather the following particulars of this most important local industry – important because the articles manufactured here are articles in daily demand. They have hitherto been imported at an expense which in consequence of their bulk and risk of breakage has raised the cost to something like cent. per cent. Upon the original invoice price, and it is to be hoped that the day is not far distant when not a crate of such goods will ever be described on the manifest of an inward ship’s cargo.
In the first place the ground covers an area of about forty acres of land, possessing a clay soil of thirty feet and upwards. The clay hole at present being operated upon is a short distance from the shed, and is being dug to a depth of twenty feet. The clay is of a
brownish colour; it is mixed on the spot according to the articles it is required to be made into. The principal work on hand at time of my visit was the manufacture of large drain pipes for sanitary purposes, which when finished are exported by the firm to all parts of New Zealand. The clay is wheeled in barrows up a short incline to the top of the pipe machine, and there deposited. The pipe machine is driven by an eight horse-power steam engine, manufactured and fixed by Messrs Masefield & Co, the engineers, and both are in a shed measuring about 34 feet by 34 feet. The pipe machine is simple, but effective, and turns the drain pipes out entire, and not as in the case with some machines which have a division half way through the pipe. The machine is calculated to turn out from 60 to 70 feet of 18-inch pipe in an hour, while 15 or 12-inch pipes more could be made in proportion. As the machine drives the newly-formed pipe from the mould it is cut off at the requisite length and conveyed away on a board to the drying shed and its place is taken by another length. The pipe is laid in the drying-shed, which is a long building or rather two sheds running parallel a distance of 170 feet, with a depth of 66 feet. At time of my visit the floors of bot5h these sheds were covered with pipes, in the process of drying. These sheds are walled round with large wooden shutters, which are raised or lowered according to the weather. The flue from the engine-house is conveyed underneath these sheds, and the hot air and smoke passing under-ground keeps the ground dry, and adds to the temperature of the place.
After sufficient exposure to the air in the drying-shed the pipes are conveyed to the kilnshed – a structure of two storeys, and measuring 60ft X 50ft, the upper storey having a perforated floor for facilitating the drying. This kiln consists of a massive domed cylinder of brickwork bound with iron and protected from the weather by an outer conical hood or casing. The dome contains openings for the exit of the smoke, which escapes into the air through a chimney in the hood. Heat is supplied by means of ten furnaces fixed round the cylinder with proper circulating flues and dampers for regulating the draught. The kiln is so constructed that the heat is equally distributed throughout. Hoffman’s kiln is a near approach to the principle on which this is built. In this kiln is now deposited 506 ft of 18inch pipes, 300 ft of 12-inch, 500 ft of 9-in, and 550 ft of 6 in., with room for about 1000 ft. of 4-in pipe, if required. The whole is bricked up and the opening daubed with clay. A
slow fire is kept burning for three days and gradually increased in intensity until the baking is completed.
When the ware is removed from the kiln its characters are found to have undergone a remarkable change. Instead of a soft, dull, friable, or plastic material there is a hard, brittle, resonant, light-coloured porous body. In the common kinds of stoneware, such as drain-pipes, gingerbeer bottles, etc., the glazing is by an ingenious device effected simultaneously with the baking. It is done in this wise: when the ware has attained a very high temperature in the kiln, a quantity of chloride of sodium is thrown in; this is volatized and decomposed in the presence of moisture, and by contact with the heated surfaces of the clay hydrochloric acid is dis-engaged, and the ware becomes covered with the silicate of soda, which, combining with the silicate of alumina of the ware, forms a fusible double alkaline silicate, or glaze on the surface. The object of this glaze is to render the articles impermeable by water. In addition to the large kiln there is a smaller one for burning fancy goods. The time occupied in making drain-pipes is varied, according to the weather, so strong do they become by the process that a six inch pipe will stand a pressure of 200 lb. to the inch, a test exceeding that applied to boilers. The pipes are now finished, and are stacked in the yard alongside the wharf to await shipment.
Having partially described the method of making the drain-pipes it might be as well to mention a few of the articles turned out by the Waitemata potteries, many of which were under the process of drying during my visit. Chemical utensils and vessels, which are adapted to sustain, uninjured the action of different powerful agents, syphons, receivers, bends, worms, for chemical distilleries, bread pans, cream pots, butter jars (both tall and squat), champagne porter bottles, “old shape” bottles, gingerbeer bottles, poultry fountains, filters, jugs, demijohns, jars, spirit bottles, pickle pots, tripe jars, garden and sundry pots, chimney pots, blacking bottles, ink bottles, telegraph insulators, butter and wine coolers, fancy cut bricks for windows and cornices, agricultural drain tiles in endless shapes and variety. Amongst the fancy goods were some ornamental stands, that were composed of the following articles, all fitting compactly into one another: -- First, a nut dish, which inverted formed a stand for a tobacco pot, the damper being so shaped as
also to serve for an ink bottle. The lid of the tobacco pot is also useful for a tobacco dish; a goblet fits on top of this; then a snuff-box, and a candlestick, and extinguisher, the whole, consisting of nine pieces, forms a very pretty ornament, and is skillfully contrived.
I had the pleasure of seeing several articles of pottery were manufactured by means of the potter’s wheel. The process is as follows: - The clay used by the thrower is placed upon a bench, and is cut in two with a brass or copper wire. He then lifts up the piece cut off, and with great force violently slaps it down on the mass; this is frequently repeated. The thrower now seated before his lathe dashes one of the balls of clay which he has formed upon the rotating board, and with the fingers which are frequently dipped in water, raises the lump into a conical form, presses down the mass to get rid of air bubbles, and with one hand, a finger and thumb in the mass, gives shape to the intended article. He is then furnished with a piece of steel which accurately represents the curve of the vessel, with this he smoothes the uneven surface, and gives it shape. During this operation the assistant turns the wheel with varying rates of speed so that the centrifuge force may act differently in different conditions of the growing vessel. When the article is finished it is removed by passing a copper wire beneath, and is set aside. As it would not be possible for the thrower to produce articles sufficiently thin they are reduced in size by being placed on the chucks of a lathe and turned to shape by means of cutting tools, the material flying off in long broad shavings just as if it were wood. When it has thus been properly thinned and brought to shape the vessel is smoothed and solidified by the pressure of a broad tool upon its surface. Handles, spouts &c., are formed separately, and are attached to the articles by means of slips. Flowers, leaves, &c., are formed partly in moulds and partly by hand, and are stuck on separately. The article is lastly trimmed with a knife, and cleaned with a damp sponge, and is ready for the kiln. By this means, in a very short space of time, a beer bottle, a teapot and lid, an ink bottle, a jug, a jar, a water bottle or monkey, were all made with a skill that showed the thrower to be a thorough adept at his art.
It is impossible to describe minutely in one article the whole of the arrangements for carrying on the pottery business in these works at Hobsonville, suffice it to say that the
quality of the clay is excellent; while the quantity on the spot, which has been well selected, is sufficient to last for years, and it is to be hoped the proprietors will meet with the success their venture deserves. They have only been established on this side since January last, but occupied premises farther inland for some years, where they carried on a portion of the business. They now intend building a row of cottages for their workmen; as the accommodation at present is deficient they will also erect houses for themselves in the immediate neighbourhood, overlooking the works. There is no doubt, ere many years, a town will spring up in the locality. Capt. Casey’s steamer passes to and fro every day, and Messrs Carder Brothers invite the public to pay a visit of inspection to their works. The wharf erected by them is about 300 ft. in length, but is found inadequate to the traffic, it is therefore contemplated to extend it to about another 100 ft, so that it may be approachable at nearly every stage of the tide. A single tram runs down the wharf, which will be increased to a double one.
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