My First Filter – Pfp 2


Local Hot Spot

Who knew that Juneau Alaska and Managua Nicaragua had so much in common. They both share astounding natural monuments with easy access to the city’s population and tourists industries. The capital city where Sarah Palin used to hang her moose carcasses has the Mendenhall Ice fields, a drive-in glacier that creeps upon the city inches per year. And Managua has the Masaya Volcano, a sulfurous gas belching collapsing crater only 15 minutes from el Centro. Just in case there is any sudden spewing of magma, lava and 1000 degree gasses, there is a warning notice is painted on each parking space:

Volcano Parking

Our second and third days raced by. The Sandinistas are no longer the sole power here, but they run a great deal of the country. We had a complete lecture about the history of the political changes that have occurred over the last forty years. We learned the names of all 22 political candidates in the 198?whatever election, the deciding vote issue in the “something to do with land reform” but “it was really about nationalization of oil” crisis.  And the short lives of political opponents to anyone who is either in power or against  or in favor the US policies toward Nicaragua. The lecture was delivered with with extraordinary detail and enthusiasm by a firebrand/ political junkie. The lecture was nearly five hours long, surely a tribute, but not record-breaker in the world of revolutionary rhetoric.

Revolutionary History Lesson

We learned about the nine monkeys the ran the government, the Daniel Ortega playbook of staying in office past the legal term limits and the many, many ups and down of the revolution. The tales of the contras, are of course, shameful.


The organization Potters for Peace has a duel mission to unite potters and to propagate the water filter program around the world. Robert, our leader gave us all of the academic background and studies to prove that these filters work. They do. They eliminate 99.98 percent of bacterial pathogens in water. There are now instructions on how to clean the filters to preserve their highly effective rating. I won’t bore by reciting all the amazing work that they have done in forty or fifty countries. Go to their website.


manual extruders used to make water filters

Today we visited the filter factory in San Marcos, clearly the gold standard of these facilities. We each made our own ceramic filter through the following process:

There is a hollow aluminum mold shaped like a bucket , and a slightly smaller solid version suspended above it. A giant arm, not unlike a nautilus bench press, reaches to the ground from above the bucket. The lower bucket filled with 15 pounds of clay is smashed into place. Then the giant arm lowers the solid bucket into the hollow bucket, forcing the clay up the sides, with the help of a hand cranked common car jack.


Trimming my first filter

The buckets are then separated, the resulting clay pot is trimmed and then removed and placed on a drying rack before firing. During the rainy season, these pots can take up to two weeks to dry. Once they are ready for the kiln, the pots are stacked fifty at a time into specially designed wood-burning brick kilns.

My First Filter is born of clay

Each Filter is numbered and inspected.  This one was my best

Due my extraordinary success at pressing out a pot, I was selected as recording secretary for the quality control part this operation. The pots are fired, fifty or so and arranged in a circle around what appears to be a cement indoor lappool/ horse trough.

“Inspector for a Day” Gray

Each pot is set in a plastic bucket. Water is poured into the filter and after an hour the resulting filtered water is measured and recorded. Oh, did I forget to mention that each pot is stamped with a serial number indicating which factory, batch and firing it came from?

So I quickly re-learned my counting Spanish and successfully recorded all of the results for this test.

Eight filters failed. They assured me not to take it personally.

The eight would be re-fired, re-tested and probably only two would be recycled as flower pots.


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