Monday, February 2, 2015

Coal snowballs for fuel - Sir Hugh Plat's coal-balles from 1603

Coal balls or an early 'charcoal briquette' were made by pounding seacoal into a powder, combining with loam and then forming the mixture into balls..."according to the maner and making of snowballs..."

Sir Hugh Plat or Platt (1552-1611) wrote A new, cheape and delicate Fire of Coal-Balles for Fewell [fuel] wherein Seacoal is by the mixture of other combustible bodies, both sweetened and multiplied.  London: 1603---

“In the winter season after some few frosts, gather so much lome as will serve your house for one whole yeares spending (for then it will crumble and dissolve more easily in water then at other times)...

...half a peck, & happily a lesse proportion of this lome, dissolved in a little tub of water, is a sufficient quantitie for the knitting up of a bushel of seacole into balles, and your water and lome incorporated and well laboured together must be like a very thin pap.

Then take a bushel of the best seacole, which being strewed upon a stonie or paved floore, you must breake or bruise with a hammer, mallet, or… powder them under your feete.

[Mix until] the whole masse or lumpe of your coles soft enough to be wrought up into balles, between your hands, according to the maner and making of snowballs: then place them one by one, so as they touch not ech other til they be thorough drie, which will be in a few dayes.”

Plat felt that the coal dust and loam balls caused less 'smoot' and should be piled like cannon balls for an attractive fire. The effect of the smoot, smoak, smoke upon the city was discussed later that century by John Evelyn in his pamphlet, Fumifugiumor, The Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated 1772(1661)

This very early recipe for a fuel can be viewed in the facsimile copy from Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; NY: Da Capo Press, 1972

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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