Jiggering | Pottery industry Jobs



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Machine for making plates, saucers and other flatware.


Flatware (plates, saucers etc) is made by forming a pancake of clay known as a bat on a revolving disc, which is then thrown onto a plaster mould. The mould shapes the front of the plate and a metal tool is lowered to form the back.



This method was called at the time flat pressing. Hand jiggers consisted of two iron frames with a spindle in each - the driving spindle with its iron belt pulley approximately 20 inches in diameter and the driven spindle with a small wooden pulley. The power was supplied by the muscles of a small boy turning a large vertical wheel and was transmitted to the mechanism via an endless rope.

A clay bat was batted out by hand and polished with a knife. This is put onto a mould fitted into a 'head' to be held firmly while it revolved. The mould which could be embossed, formed the appearance of the plate and the back was shaped by a hand held profile of fired clay. The pitcher profiles were made by the potters themselves. A badly made tool would drag on the clay

Bone china flatware always has a foot rim. Why - because it is usually enamelled and needs to be supported during the firings. The foot-rim permits the flatware to stand on pins without unsightly marks and the glaze is cleaned off the rim to stop it sticking in the glost and enamel firings.

The clay bat is made either by batting it out, or on a batting out machine, or spreader as used today. The plate mould was placed in the head by the mould runner, usually a young boy. The maker lifted the bat using his left hand and peeled it towards him while his open right hand was placed flatly behind the bat to support it. He raised the bat and then threw it onto the mould smooth face downwards: the centre of the bat needs to touch first so that air is not trapped.

The jigger head was revolved slowly while the maker with the ball of his right hand pressed the clay from the centre towards the edge to consolidate it. Any overhanging surplus clay was cut of with a wire. The pitcher profile was now applied, held by the right hand while the left covered the knob to provide pressure. Just before removing the tool the maker would steepen the angle to clear any slurry and leave a smooth surface.

In the case of bone china it was usual to 'back' the plate after it had dried for ten minutes. That is slurrying the article with a sponge, and reapplying the profile, this was to create a crisp finish which could not be achieved the first time because the clay was too soft, and also to leave it very smooth. Any scalloping or piercing was done when leather hard.

The final process in china was to lightly sponge the face of the plate. For earthenware the surface was 'towed' -Tow is the stalks of flax beaten to separate the long individual fibres to form a coarse wool used to smooth the surface.

Drying took place in heated rooms with shelves. Before heating with steam pipes was introduced, the warmth was supplied by a stove pot fired with coal.



jigger manufactured by:
Service Engineers Ltd
Burslem, Staffs

Steam powered jiggers (and jolleys - for producing hollow ware) were known of in the 1840s but there was much worker resistance to their introduction. The first mechanical jigger replacing hand power was the Porteus, driven by long lengths of shafting and belts. The potters were charged a weekly rent equivalent to the wages they had paid the boy who powered it before. In 1863 Francis Wedgwood had a plate making machine presented by a continental potter. The machine was so popular that within 15 years most of the large companies used it.

In 1867, William Boulton (of Burslem) patented a continuous-rope driven jigger. This was much more reliable than the steam jigger and cost half as much. To work to capacity the jiggerer needed three boy attendants, and 600-1000 moulds.

One attendant cut a piece of clay and put onto a revolving surface where it was batted out by a spreader tool. Another attendant fixed a plate mould to the machine head. The jiggerer took the clay bat and threw it onto the plate mould held in the revolving jigger head. He pulled down the machine arm with the profile tool fixed form the back. The face of the plate was formed by the mould itself. The mouldrunner took two made plates to the drying stove and brought empty moulds back. The third boy would back the plate, fettling and finishing it, making sure it was smooth all over.

In the 1880s Boulton produced a machine which could produce 12 plates at a time and ended the need to 'bat out' the clay which had been the heaviest part of the plate makers task. Machinery has continuously improved so that it is possible to have a fully automated plate making machine, using a revolving roller profile which both spreads the clay and gives the shape.

A jigger for the production of flatware
A jigger for the production of flatware 
at Burgess & Leigh
on Burgess & Leigh


1840 Report:-

In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in the mines and  manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited the area of Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence.


this is one of his interviews of a boy who turned for a 'jigger' >>> 

Mr. WM. POINTON'S Earthenware Factory, Burslem.
No. 182: Josiah Mostyn, aged 11
I turn jigger for William Wilcox; used to run moulds. Come to work at six, and leave at eight or half past. William Wilcox does not always come Mondays; I stop at home then. I cannot read; I cannot write. I went to day school when I was little; I go to Sunday school now, at the National. I get 2s. a week, and am always in regular work.

"These premises are small ; rooms small and close, dirty, ill ventilated ; a stagnant pond in the middle of yard."


Examples of "jiggers" from the 1881 census for the Potteries area:-


1881 census:
Dwelling: 23 Park Street
Census Place: Stoke Upon Trent, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Robert HILL  M 42 M Head Hanley, Stafford Potter
Harriet HILL  M 38 F  Wife Hanley, Stafford Housekeeper
Robert J. HILL  12 M  Nephew Fenton, Stafford Potters Jiggerturner

1881 census:
Dwelling: 47 Upper Commercial St
Census Place: Burslem, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Henry CARTLIDGE  M 41 M  Head Burslem, Stafford Potters Presser
Elizabeth CARTLIDGE  M 31 F  Wife Adderly, Shropshire  
William T. CARTLIDGE 11 M Son Burslem, Stafford Potters Jigger Turner (Half Time)


1881 census:
Dwelling: Howard St
Census Place: Trentham, Stafford, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Joseph DENNIS  U 18 M Head Dresden, Stafford Potters Jiggerer
Arthur GREEN  M 25 M Bro In Law Dresden, Stafford Potters Jiggerer