Ergonomics of classic teapot designs

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absence
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Mon Jun 24, 2024 5:15 am

Many classic teapot designs have a knob for the lid handle:
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Even with my slender fingers, I find it difficult to get a firm grip, at least the one on the particular pot I have. If some liquid bubbles out and makes it slippery, holding it becomes even more difficult, especially when it's hot after longer steeps toward the end of a session. After many a close call, I inevitably chipped the bottom part of the lid (it's still usable), which gave me pause to ponder the ergonomics of the design. In contrast, the lid of my Japanese teapot has a more T-shaped handle that's easier to grip.

What are your thoughts?
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Bok
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Mon Jun 24, 2024 10:43 am

There are many ways to hold a pot and each pot requires some adjustment to your individual ergonomics.
Andrew S
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Tue Jun 25, 2024 12:10 am

I almost always put my middle finger up against the lid's rim as I'm picking the lid up.

And, over the course of some years, my fingers have learnt that it's better to sustain a light burn than to drop something.

Andrew
absence
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Tue Jun 25, 2024 8:04 am

Andrew S wrote:
Tue Jun 25, 2024 12:10 am
I almost always put my middle finger up against the lid's rim as I'm picking the lid up.

And, over the course of some years, my fingers have learnt that it's better to sustain a light burn than to drop something.
I probably subconsciously use a lighter grip while sustaining the burn, which works well until the lid handle is unexpectedly slippery. Burning another finger by supporting the rim isn't something I would've thought of, but it makes sense! I'll give it a try.
Bok wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2024 10:43 am
There are many ways to hold a pot and each pot requires some adjustment to your individual ergonomics.
I had the romantic idea that the classic designs were honed and perfected over the centuries, in pursuit of the optimal vessel for brewing tea, but I realise that I don't even know if something like "form follows function" is a virtue in Chinese tradition, or if adapting yourself to a shape that trades off some practicality for elegance is held in higher regard. Which adjustments would you suggest for knob-shaped lid handles?
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LeoFox
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Tue Jun 25, 2024 8:19 am

This is not a problem ive had. It has not been challenging to handle these types of lid knobs for me. What has been challenging are ones that are very small and close to the lid - for very small pots (less than 60 ml). Some of those small pots have longer oval like shapes which make it easier - but when tiny and squat- harder. Of course to deal with that i just use edge of fingers to hold around edge of lid. Also i dont hold the lid for long periods of time.
GaoShan
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Tue Jun 25, 2024 4:55 pm

I agree, most teapot knobs aren't a problem for me unless they're very small and close to the lid. I have only one teapot where this is the case (my small ROC UFO Zhuni), and based on how chipped the lid skirt is, I wouldn't be surprised if others also found it hard to grasp. (However, part of the teapot brim is also chipped, so I'm not entirely sure how the pot got so damaged.)

Also, Andrew is right that getting minor burns on the fingers is preferable to dropping nice teaware.
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mbanu
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Thu Jun 27, 2024 6:20 am

Part of this is based on who decides what the classics are. One pot has won over the internet, and that is the pot you have pictured. However, there were many other types of pots in the past.

Sometimes ergonomics change when the use changes.

Xishi pots were originally meant for drinking out of rather than for making gongfu tea. They were like gaiwans with straws, really, and the reversed handle made that easier.

In the 19th century, the most popular pots were shaped more like lightbulbs (思亭?) -- if the knob was designed for this type of pot, of course it would handle differently when it moved to another pot style.

If you need a practical work-around, might tying the lid to the handle help?
absence
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Thu Jun 27, 2024 7:56 pm

mbanu wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2024 6:20 am
Xishi pots were originally meant for drinking out of rather than for making gongfu tea.
I had no idea! Do you know if other classic designs, like shuiping 水平, dragon egg 龙胆, or others, have similarly unexpected backgrounds? Knob-shaped lid handles seem popular for most of them, but I can imagine that they're easier to grip when the lid is pointier, like on the pear/lightbulb design you mention. It's something to keep in mind for future pots.
mbanu wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2024 6:20 am
If you need a practical work-around, might tying the lid to the handle help?
Wouldn't a dropped lid just smash into the pot instead?
Andrew S
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Thu Jun 27, 2024 8:48 pm

@absence: this was mentioned here, but I'm not sure if any consensus was reached: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1420

I have no knowledge myself, but I had always just assumed that the pots which were made for drinking from the spout were the ones shaped like this (which is not a shape that's very common anymore):





I don't know if that was one of the reasons for the XiShi shape, though (and of course, XiShi teapots also have their own 'history' / legend, much like the fable about Marie Antoinette and the champagne coupe...).

Hopefully someone knowledgeable can add or subtract from what I've said.

And as to your original point about the ergonomics of teapot knobs, my personal view is that a small, round lid knob is simply the best shape for brewing from a small teapot using one hand, as well as being simple to make, and rather elegant on a small pot. Brewing from a 40mL teapot yesterday reinforced that notion in my mind.

That said, like the others, I've never really had any problems with the design (although if you're picking the knob up with three fingers, that seems far more dangerous to me than picking it up just with two, or with two fingers plus one holding the edge).

Andrew
absence
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Fri Jun 28, 2024 5:41 am

Andrew S wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2024 8:48 pm
although if you're picking the knob up with three fingers, that seems far more dangerous to me than picking it up just with two, or with two fingers plus one holding the edge
That might be it. When not supporting the rim, three fingers on the knob feels more stable than two, but now that I think about it, the grip is probably looser due to no two fingers pushing directly towards each other.
Janice
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Sat Jun 29, 2024 5:19 pm

I have an yixing pot with a round knob. I use the knob to hold the lid in place when pouring, but I hold the sides of the lid when moving it on or off the pot. It’s a 75 ml pot and this approach might not work as well with a larger pot.

There are little yancha crumbs scattered on the cloth - that’s what I use this pot for.


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