Archive for July 16th, 2010

Making the “MacKenzie” salt shaker.

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Many people associate this little salt shaker with the Minnesota potter Warren MacKenzie. He has made a lot of them. A friend of mine traveling in rural France saw them in a traditional potter’s showroom. Who knows. Warren did not come up with the design. As the story goes he was teaching a class when one of the students came in with a salt shaker and asked Warren if he would show them how to make one. Warren asked the student where that one had come from. The student replied that his teacher had made it to which Warren replied why don’t you have the teacher show you. The student replied that the teacher wouldn’t, that it e=was a secret. Warren then suggested that this was no teacher.
I was eating lunch with Warren and Nancy some years ago at their home in Stillwater where I first saw one of the salt shakers. As I was examining it Warren gave me some pointers on making one. I’ll pass the information along.
I start with a centered ball of about one pound of clay.
I open the clay leaving the clay in the middle a bit thicker than the rest of the bottom.
I thin open the bottom of the pot all the way to the wheel head.
I pull up a little bitty cylinder in the center of the pot.
I close the cylinder off forming a cone.
The a start pulling up the outside walls
See the cute little cone down in there?
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I taper the walls in and close off the top.
With the top sealed off I shape the salt shaker into whatever shape I want. I like a slightly onion dome shape.

After the shaker is leather hard I put it in a chuck and trim the outside edge and trim out the inside of the cone. A needle tool works best for the inside. I then bore a hole in the center of the cone with a one eighth inch drill bit. That size works best according to MacKenzie. If it is smaller the salt takes too long to load. If it is larger the slat comes out too fast. In use the salt will only come out if the shaker is shaken up and down. If it is shaken side to side nothing comes out.
People always ask if they can put pepper in this pot. I tell them to use a small pepper mill.