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The Quaich - Traditional Scottish Craft

The quaich is a traditional Scottish shallow, two-handed drinking cup or bowl. The word quaich comes from the Gaelic for cup.

Most quaichs have two handles or lugs, although they can have three or four.

Traditionally used to offer a guest a welcome or farewell drink, usually whisky, or for passing round a group, quaichs are now often given as commemoration gifts or prizes.

Small wooden quaichs can be slung from kilt belts with a leather thong attached through one of the lugs.

The earliest quaichs were made of wood, turned on a lathe out of a solid block, or carved in stone or horn.

Later quaichs were made like small barrels, with triangular staves of wood joined together at their points and held together with willow bands. The staves meet in the centre of the quaich at a small, round plug. Typically a stave-built quaich has ten, twelve or fourteen staves.

Wooden quaichs were often made more decorative by alternating the staves in different types of wood or by feathering them together by cutting notches into adjoining staves.

They are also often embellished with silver, covering the lugs or the rim of the bowl, or silver-bound around the outside of the staves. Many have a disc of engraved metal in the centre of the bowl, to conceal where the staves join.

By the seventeenth century quaichs were being made of silver, often engraved with lines and bands to imitate the joints and hoops of wooden quaichs.

The origin of the quaich is debated. Some believe they have evolved from English mazers, medieval drinking vessels, although these tend to be deeper and larger.

Commercially made quaichs are available in gift shops across Scotland and are of variable quality. But many artists and makers produce beautifully handmade quaichs, from simple wooden quaichs turned on lathes to ceramic quaichs and elaborate, ornate silver quaichs inscribed with mottos or engraved with Celtic knot designs.

Find out more about the quaich:

Watch this video to see maker, Robin Wood, turning a wooden quaich on a lathe.

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