Finish Forming Tools
A neighbour the other day asked me to look at a cool bottle she had in her house. It was a Ricketts' bottle, made in the three-piece mould that transformed the bottle making industry starting in the 1820s. Olive Jones, in 1982, wrote an article called "The Contribution of the Ricketts' Mold To the Manufacture of the English 'Wine' Bottle, 1820-1850." It had been found on a beach in Europe somewhere.
Before Ricketts' mould, bottle makers had been using a "dip mould." This was a mould that would have been shaped like a large cup - and that helped make bottles a more standard size. The body of the bottle was made in the dip mould, but the rest of the bottle was shaped by hand. The shoulder, neck, and finish of the bottles were, therefore, not very uniform and often had a bulge where the top of the dip mould ended.
Henry Ricketts, in 1821, patented the first mould that shaped not only the body of the bottle, but also the shoulder and neck. It added two parts that were hinged to the top of a dip mould. The mould created very distinctive mould seams - one running around the circumference of the bottle just below the shoulder and two going up opposite sides of the shoulder and neck. Patents at that time (before the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852) were a complicated and expensive endeavour. So Ricketts might have been using this type of mould for some time before actually patenting it. However, the best date we have for the bottle is 1821.
So when I looked at my neighbour's bottle, I knew exactly what type of mould it was made in. I also noticed that the finish was made with a finishing tool. I don't remember all the dates for every patent off the top of my head, so I looked up Jones' article. And then I tried to find information on the use of the finishing tool.
My go-to place is always the SHA bottle research page. Unfortunately, I landed on the place, apparently, and found one section that stated that the earliest tooled finishes were likely in the 1870s or before.
I also looked at the publication "Baffle Marks and Pontil Scars" which states that: "the changeover from applied finishes to tooled finishes appears to have been in the 1880s, with a large majority of bottles produced after 1890 exhibiting this finishing method" (p.38). They also state tat hand-tooled finishes are pretty much non-existent on bottles from the 1910-early 1920s period.
This all seemed late to me. So I did a little more digging on the google patent search page. The earliest US patent I could find was No. 13,402 by A. Stone in August, 1855. Within the patent Stone stated that he had invented "certain new and useful improvements" on finish forming tools. This indicates that finish making tools had been in use before 1855 because these were improvements on tools that were commonly used.
A The Wine History Project states that the tools were first used in the 1830s in England and in the 1850s in the US - no sources are provided, but they may have been looking at the patents - or another source that looked at them.
Of course, today I looked again and the SHA page has different information further down that states 1855 or earlier - looking at the same patent I found. They also show a finishing tool from 1842. So there has been some sort of tool for forming a symmetrical finish on a bottle since at least 1842.
But this is just in the United States. The British Patent Office does not have their early patents online yet. I assume that there will be earlier patents from that side of the Atlantic Ocean since the Wine History Project stated the 1830s. Anybody want to fund my trip to London??