TOUR A STEIN FACTORY:
THE CRAFTSMEN AND PROCESS OF MAKING STEINS
In the Spring of 2001, buyers for SteinCollectors.com toured German factories and captured the images below. We hope you find the craftsmen and process as fascinating as we did as steins were created on this tour.
The stein body design is the starting point for stoneware, earthenware and porcelain steins. Made from a rubber-like material, this “master” sculpture becomes the template for all steins of this design. It is then covered with white plaster to create a mold that will capture every minute detail. A unique master stein, just finished, is seen at left.
The white stein mold created from the master is then placed in a spinning container. As the mold spins, a craftsman quickly pushes the clay against the sides of the mold, working the clay from every angle.
The clay is delivered through the device just above the white mold seen in the image at left. When we visited the factory, we were surprised to see how fast the mold was spinning while the worker pushed and formed an individual stein into the mold.
Each stein carries unique characteristics, even though it is cast from a limited edition (LE) or unlimited mold. Beginning with the way clay is pressed by hand to the final painting and pewter lid, slight variations from one stein to another are an expected “norm” and a mark of distinction to look for as you collect steins.
Firm, or “green” dry clay emerges from the molds. Each stein is cleaned individually and receives a potter’s marks. Marks often designate factory, body style and LE number (if applicable).
When you purchase a LE stein, look for the number on the stein base as well as the certificate of authenticity.
Green clay is taken to a large storage room and must continue to dry before it can be fired for the first time.
After the first firing, steins are either hand painted or airbrushed. At left, we see an artist painting red glaze from her palette. To her left is a stack of completed steins and at her right are those awaiting coloration. Hand painted steins are among the most treasured. Sellers note how many different colors are seen as this indicates value. Again, slight variations in each stein are expected, even regarded a point of its individual charm. No two steins are exactly the same!
Decals are placed on a smooth surface of steins designed to display full-color printed imagery. Here we see a decal placed on a stein as the worker carefully smoothes out any bubbles or wrinkles. LE decal steins will only have a finite number of decals printed and are often seen with porcelain stein bodies.
After hand painting, airbrushing or decals have been applied (or a combination of decorating options), the steins are carefully stacked and moved into large kilns for the final firing. Stoneware steins are seen in this illustration. Porcelain is fired at a much higher temperature and produces an opalescent, glasslike stein body.
Steins are cooled and sorted as they are prepared to receive the finishing touch, the pewter lid. If a lid is attached incorrectly, all the work to this point is lost. Pewter lids are machine-pressed from hand-sculpted molds but attaching the pewter lid, especially the strap and hinge, requires a high degree of skill.
This master craftsman is highly regarded. With plastic clay, he quickly sculpts molds--one at a time--for each strap to attach to a thumblift on porcelain steins. Machine processing might chip or break this refined clay. He then skillfully pours hot melted pewter into the mold as an assistant carefully removes molds and cleans the surface as the pewter cools.
A machine process can be used on stoneware steins, but this, too, requires skill. This craftsman is pouring hot pewter into a machine mold from a long spoon. Hot pewter (seen in circular vat, center bottom of picture) must be handled with care, and quickly. With his gloved hand, he removes excess pewter and tests the hinge on each thumblift.
Search for a Stein: