Pratt Puzzle Pipe


English potters, from around 1750, used to make these Puzzle Pipes. Their purpose was both as an ornament and to show off the potter's very great skills. Whilst they could be used for smoking, they were obviously impractical, difficult to clean, and impractically fragile. The puzzle is how they were made.

This example dates from around 1800. It appears to consist of 3.3 meters (12 ft.) of pottery tubing wrapped into amazing contortions to fit a 27 cm.(11 ins.) long object . A remarkable feat when you consider that it was entirely hand made without any means of mechanical extrusion. The wet clay tubing, wrapped around damp string, had to be dry enough to hold its shape, flexible enough not to develop cracks that would leak, and strong enough to hold together while it was folded up. The failure rate must have been huge.