Mugmeister's take on:

"The Anatomy of a Stein"

First a few important definitions:

Ceramic is the clay.

Ceramics is the "art" of making items of clay.

A Ceramist is the artisan who creates the pottery or in our case, steins!


A Stein or a Mug?

A common dilemma, is it a stein or a mug? The Stein Collectors International or the SCI defines a stein as: any lidded drinking vessel or vessels that have a lid or show intended to support a lid. As a proud card carrying member of the SCI, I will apply that definition.

Let's take a closer look:


A fine example of an attached lid:



And here are some examples of good intent:

The pewter strap would gripped well with these notches.

Molten pewter would have flown into this hole to secure a lid.

Twice the staying power here!

This mug has no place to mount his lid. Poor little mug.



This is an uncommon rectangular dibbie, seems to be a superior method to me.

A hexagon shaped dibble was used to create this hole.

I save my favorite for last! This high quality manufacturer left no detail to chance. Presenting; The Double Dibble.

This Reinhold Merkelbach was made around 1925.


If the earthenware mug has no handle at all, it is labled a beaker

A matter of size:

Capacity identification can help us determine age. This is a course measure, but never the less it helps. Since 1890, it has been made standard practice to stamp or print the capacity just to the left of the handle. Before 1890, common place for this mark was top, front and center.

This old .4L mug was made before 1890. It even has it's name embossed in the clay.

A half litre mug clearly marked sometime after the 1890's


I goes without saying that capacity is measure in metric litre. Litre can also be spelled, liter. And is almost always marked as "L".

Here is a numeric / fractional conversion table:

.125L = 1/8L

.25L = 1/4L

.3L = 3 tenths

.4L = 4 tenths

.5L, 0.5L or 0.50L = 1/2L

1L = 1L

Let's look at the finish:


The gloss finish is just that, glossy. It is also very smooth, with a glass-like feel. This thin layer is formed on the surface of the fired ceramic piece. Glazes are a finely ground mixture of mineral and man-made powders prescribed to melt and flow at a specific temperature. Glazes are typically mixed with water, suspenders, and hardeners to make them harden on drying and produce a suitable consistency for application by painting, dipping, or spraying. Some clay blends will bond better with glazes at higher temperatures, this can be termed as "slip glazes". With gloss finishes comes crazing. Most folk view crazing as "character", I tend to agree.

Salt Glazed

Salt Glaze finishes take a little more work. Rather than adding a finish to the mug, a chemical reaction draws the finish from within the clay. While firing at a high temperature, rock salt or sodium is introduced to the kiln. In days past the salt was thrown in by hand. Today, with controlled science, sodium fumes are injected through ports in the side of the kiln. At this high temperature, the silica (sand) and alumina is drawn out of the clay. These chemicals melt together to form a matte finish. The best part of salt glazing is that by changing an ingredient, such as the size or type of the salt or the amount of sand in the clay, will change the finish of the mug. Colors can range from cream to grays and even a red tint can be produced. I especially enjoy mugs made with higher sand content, this will produce a bumpy "orange peel" affect.

A clear difference.

Questions? Comments?

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