Mortars are tools used both as vessels and to pulverise substances, usually solid materials, by pounding them with a pestle. The mortar is an extremely ancient tool, considered to be one of the first rudimentary instruments used by man. In fact, there are finds of them dating back to 35,000 BC. Over time, their shape has retained the original simple characteristics. However, they exist in different sizes and materials, depending on their use. Mortars are used daily in the culinary field, but are also common in a chemical laboratory.
Shape of mortars
The mortar consists of two main elements: the vessel and the pestle. The vessel acts as a container and the materials to be crushed are placed inside. This can have various shapes, which tend to be similar. The most common models have a hemisphere or cylinder shape, but there are also squarer models with defined sides. The bottom of the container is rounded to allow the pestle to reach the entire contents of the mortar. It is also common for the upper section of the container of mortars to be fitted with a spout, to facilitate the pouring of powders from the crushed material. The pestle consists of a mallet characterised by a wider, rounded end. This allows it to crush and pound the material in the mortar by applying pressure without being damaged. The function of the pestle is to grind the material contained in the mortar.
The size of mortars varies. Generally, their standard diameter is between 6 and 20 cm, but there are also models with a diameter of 50 mm.
The size of the pestle varies.
Mortars must be strong enough to be able to grind and crush the material inside them without being damaged. They cannot be made of a brittle material, otherwise they would break from the pestle. At the same time, the mortar container cannot lose splinters when hit by the pestle, otherwise these would mix with the contents. The most common models used in a chemical laboratory are made of ceramic with an enamelled interior. Other models are made of glass, marble or stainless steel.
Mortars are mainly used to reduce a solid into a powder. This is done after crushing the solid inside the mortar. This is then pulverised by a rotary motion of the pestle. The pestle uses the rubbing of the material against the bottom and walls of the mortar to make the solid finely pulverised.