RogerBW's Blog

Crowley wuz ere 14 December 2020

(Guest post from Chris.)

Shortly before I moved into this house, I decided that my pint Pyrex measuring jug was so constantly in use that I might as well have another for when the first was in the Sisyphean washing-up pile, and went out to the nearest kitchens shop (it was called Kitchens) and bought myself a second pint jug. I assumed, in my folly, that since it had the same function and was made by the same company it would be the same.

It does indeed have the same capacity, and the same calibrations up the side, though they are in red not blue and are much more difficult to read even when what you are measuring is milk, which you'd think would be closer in colour to blue than to red — I don't at all understand why this should be, but it is so, and if someone has a good reason to offer I'd be interested to hear it: I am not as far as I know colour-blind in any other context. It is the same jug in most respects.

But it has one very important difference, and for the life of me I cannot think why it has taken me ten years to notice it. Well, to notice the reason for it; I had noticed and deplored the effects occasionally, and tended to use the old one for various particular tasks, because the new one is very bad at pouring. The hot liquid, or milk, or whatever else it may be, dribbles down the edge of the jug instead of going into the saucepan or bowl you are trying to put it into, and it gets all over the work-surface and your trousers and the floor, which is a serious nuisance if it is the juice from under a chicken and some of it is chicken fat.

The red-marked one is OK for measuring liquids, either by fractions of a pint and fluid ounces or by multiples of a millilitre, but no use for then transferring that amount of liquid to anywhere else. Indeed, it actively negates the point of measuring in the first place, by altering the amount as you pour.

About two weeks ago I realised why this was happening, and I have been cursing myself ever since for all the wasted woman-hours spent wiping up after the new jug.

For reasons known best to themselves, Pyrex decided at some point to "improve" their design, and altered the spout. I don't know why they chose to change to red lettering, though that makes the thing slightly less useful; but is it really so much cheaper to have a flat bit to pour over instead of one which is slightly pulled down from the horizontal at a single point to make a spout that is poured through? I know that they must have had the tool set up to do it properly: they had been making the functional design for at least sixty years to my knowledge, since my mother's jug of the same kind was bought some time in the forties. So apart from possibly saving some minute fraction of a cent per jug, what was the POINT of a new design which no longer does the job, and turns the thing they sell from a useful tool into a source of niggling dissatisfaction? I can't believe it was because it was made in France: the French are more likely than the British to be picky about cooking implements. I am forced to fall back on it being simple stupidity, the result of people who don't ever do a job trying to make the tools for that job. It's either that or malice, which seems a bit futile unless they really were got at by Crowley.

Left: modern style. Right: old style.

A second-hand Pyrex pint jug with blue lettering and a working spout arrived in the post this morning, and I now have a red-marked jug that I don't need. If anyone wants a pint jug that doesn't pour properly they can have it, free to an abusive home because it doesn't deserve a good one. It might make a reasonable container for growing hyacinths using glass marbles and water so that you can see the roots, or I suppose one could take it to the pub and annoy them by asking for a proper pint-to-line in it. Other suggestions welcome.


  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 12:14pm on 14 December 2020

    Thank you but I have a cheap plastic jug that works just fine and measures in both Imperial and metric.

    I will doubtless keep it until it becomes unusable (the last one became worn out on the inside and difficult to clean) because it won't fall to the floor and shatter the way so many ceramic things have in the past and will in the future.

    And I can't see your pictures...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:40pm on 14 December 2020

    Try reloading, eh?

  3. Posted by John P at 12:18am on 15 December 2020

    I remember this being mentioned during a digression from the syllabus in A-Level physics. But it was a long, long time ago so I can't remember the exact details (TBF, sometimes I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday).

    Anyway, it's mainly to do with breaking the surface tension. So it depends if you are pouring water, blood, chocolate, toxic sludge, concrete etc. & the speed at which it is poured.

    I guess you probably don't want to know, but on the off chance that you do, there are explanations:

    https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/08/Lewis_ConvertedCombinesFiles.pdf and https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/dribble-no-more-physics-can-help-combat-that-pesky-teapot-effect/

    Cheers

  4. Posted by Chris at 10:56am on 15 December 2020

    Interesting! Thanks.

    Ivor Lewis saying "It is essential to have a sharp lip that does not droop and shoulders that restrict the breadth of the stream of liquid" seems to me to get to the heart of the matter. The shoulders are the first missing element; they would both restrict the width of flow, and direct the flow away from the side of the jug. The second is an actual lip, so that the tendency of gravity to pull the liquid downwards will take it away from, not down, the side of the jug.

    I think having any spout at all is probably preferable to having no spout whatsoever, which latter is the case with the useless Pyrex. The comparison is not really between a good and a bad teapot spout; any teapot spout, no matter how dribbly, will at least keep the liquid being poured inside the radius of the spout, whereas pouring over a flat edge doesn't. The surface tension is going to be broken in each case as the liquid goes over the edge, but if it is broken over a three-inch rather than a quarter-inch section, there is more scope for liquid to go all over the place. And if it is broken in such a way as to give no reason for the liquid not to do so, that's going to go down the side of the jug rather than not, because it will tend to stay against what it is touching already.

    (My mother, on the occasion of needing a new teapot, took a bottle of water with her to Heelas and before buying anything tested how well each pot she liked the look of poured, which is how we ended up with Wedgwood.)

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