Friday, May 30, 2008

Butter Keeper and the Tool

Butter Keepers really aren't hard to make. After you catch on to how they fit together and how to measure the top and bottom parts in such a way to guarantee they will fit well, you can easily throw them with confidence.

A good butter keeper should have a large flat area on the top so that when it is opened and the top, which is filled with butter, is lifted out of the base, the top will sit flat on the table and not wobble when the knife is inserted into the soft butter.

I make a measure tool similar to a Japanese tombo ( I use it at the wheel to measure the inside volumes for the water-bath bottom half and the top lid in order for them to fit together neatly.

Take two skewers (they must be pointed at one end) and tie them together using a twist tab. You can snip off the blunt ends to make them shorter and easier to use. This photo is a close-up of the knot. It must be loose enough to allow the sticks to slide up and down and from side to side easily, but also stay put. The pointed ends give a precise placement at the center of the bottom and the edge of the inside rim.

Sometimes when I get a size I particularly like, I will take a waterproof pen and mark a line on each stick to keep that measurement just in case it might slip out of adjustment.

Or you could have a master set of skewers and just glue them together to keep them rigid. A set of different sizes could be used as a "master" set and compared periodically with a "working" set.

(I'm showing how to measure the base and top with a finished butterkeeper, but you would do this with raw clay.)

Throw the base first. This will establish the size of the butter keeper. Keep in mind your clay shrinkage and that the lid, although smaller, should hold at least one link of butter compressed.

With the base still on the wheel, line up the sticks so that the vertical is perfectly centered with the center point at the inside bottom, the horizontal piece level. Adjust the horizontal stick so that the point is lined up with the inner edge of the inside rim.

Keep that measure. This will tell you the inner volume of the area that will hold the water-seal part of the butter keeper. The butter chamber in the lid must slip easily inside and not rest on the bottom or floor of the base. You need to have space for the water seal to cover the butter and keep the air out.

When you throw the top, you can eyeball the clearances by holding the skewer in the same way and guage how the measurement of the top is smaller in height and check that the width is narrower than the bottom. If you wish, you can make an "inside" tombo to use.

Another check of how well the two parts will fit together is to invert the top while it is still on the wheel and hold it over the base and look to see if it appears to fit.

Also, don't forget to allow for wiring off the top and bottom and be sure to make those parts just a tad thicker and you want the finished product.

Sidenote: How do you get skewer sticks to stand up in a butter keeper base? Muffin to the rescue!

The next two diagrams are from a hand-out I give every person who buys a butter keeper.


pat's pottery said...

Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I am going to try to make one:>)
Pat Parker's Stoneware Pottery
Web Site:

clayartist said...

Hey, Pat,

Great! Hope this works well for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions or a problem with the process. I'll be glad to help.


Michael Kline said...

Hey Jeanette, Thanks for the "tutorial". I love the idea of spreadable butter all year 'round. I'll be at the wheel tomorrow trying my hand at that form. Thanks again!

clayartist said...

Hey, Michael,

Just had a nice walk through a few pages of your blog. Looking forward to the archives.

Thanks for your comments and success on your butter keeper(s).


Jackson Gray said...

Thanks, Pat. At the last show I did someone asked about one of these. She didn't know what it was called. She asked for a butter dish - which I do make, but when I showed her what I offer, she described yours. I mostly handbuild but don't see why it couldn't be built that way.

May I have your permission to copy your instructions for use card that goes with the product?

Many thanks,

P.S. I'll list my website with the hope that it prompts me to get it current - forgive me for the antiquity of it now.