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Asian Style Teapot Strainers

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I've been interested in Asian style teapots for a long time. I'm thinking about Tokoname, Arita, Yixing, etc. Many of these have a built in strainer at the opening of the spout like these.






I've always admired the thinness of the clay and the uniformity and precision of the holes.


I've tried  making a similar strainer in the past but I have run into problems.

It's hard to make holes this small. I suppose the best tool may be a tube shaped hole punch like the one I use to make colanders but I don't have one that small. I've used a small drill bit but that leaves a somewhat unrefined hole. What can I make a tiny (1/8 inch or smaller ) punch out of? (I need some old ink tubes from ball point pens. I've seen brass ones.)

It's also hard to keep glaze out of the holes if you are glazing. I suppose unglazed wares solve this issue.


How are they made?

Any tips, links, suggestions about making Asian style teapot strainers would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you,


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Use a drill bit, then let the edges of the holes dry up a bit so that you can knock off the nerdles without them smearing. Then take a countersink like THIS ONE and gently ream the holes to clean up and soften the edges. Just a light twist by hand will do the job. If the clay is too soft the countersink will smear rather than cut. I use this method on colander holes, too. No need to sponge out the holes to clean them up this way.

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The ball type strainers are often made separately from the pots. Sometime slip cast... sometimes press molded.  Think of a half a ping pong ball for a general mold shape.  Usually plaster or bisque clay mold.  Sometimes porous wood.


The holes are usually cut with a tiny hollow metal tube that looks sort of like a hypodermic needle with an angle cut on the "business end".  Like the little brass tubes from hobby stores (you can make one).  Some have a spring loaded solid metal plunger inside to clear them of the clay plug.  Sometimes the pattern of holes is indicated by indents on the mold for precision and consistency, sometimes it is totally freehand and years of experience doing that one thing makes it look effortless.


A hole the size of the strainer ball unit's outer diameter is cut into the side wall of the pot.  The strainer is inserted into the hole, belly inward.  There is a little thin "flange" on the strainer at the wide end that hits the outer wall of the pot and is used to join it to the pot by melding with the pot's wall.


Two factors help this idea 'work' in Japan.  One is that skilled hand labor is incredibly and readily available........ the training in the SKILLS of pottery making is intensive.  Second is that the prices for such teapots (the good ones) support the high levels of labor.  Or conversely, the cheaper teapots are assembled or even fully made by apprentices .... who are "cheap labor".


Some of these cheaper teapots are ALSO made by slipcasting and assembly.  Which while it does require assembly after casting, it speeds things up a lot and keeps the price points low.


A lot of "production work" that looks very Japanese and is sold IN Japan is now coming from China......... where labor is WAY cheaper than in Japan.  I've seen a lot of the more production oriented small potteries in Japan close over the past 20 years when I have been there.  A lot of the larger production places have given up also.  It is a serious issue for Japanese ceramics.


On the Yixing pots (P.R. of China) you pictured there...... it is about skill pure and simple.  And the prices for the good Yixing pots are astronomical also.  And the cheap one are made from slipcast pieces that are put together by people paid almost nothing (a bottle of water in a convenience store in China is $0.16 US.).





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