Used to pacify the bees by generating smoke, which makes the bees sleepy and not attack as much, makes the hives are more easily accessable. Traditionally it seems a common material for putting in the smoker is dried cow dung (which is nasty, and after i tried it once, will not persist with, when MANY other things surfice, and smell plesanter)
Having seen a number of pictures (footnote 1) of this basic smoker, and having spoken to Mike Reddy, (footnote 2) about smokers, I have realized this roman smoker.
I picked terracotta as i have seen it in use in many other pottery items used to contain fire (for example - footnote 3), and I had some at hand.
To start I cut a number of flat rectangular slabs, and noticing that the shape of this chafing dish is a ‘basic shoe’ I cut a bottom piece oval and then fitted another piece over my hand, wet all the surfaces that contacted and trimmed. I shaped to bind all the joining surfaces, and then punched holes in the top using a pencil.
The back ‘heel’ was a 3rd piece that again got fitted, wet down and joined.
I widened the hole in anticipation of having to get hot coals in and out of the device, added a ‘curl’ onto the back (although confidence is low on it’s usablity) and left to sun dry.
2 The Kentwell Hall beekeeper, in email conversation 2/1/5, “ .. the smoker is in fact Roman, and there is no proof that Tudor beekeepers used one of similar design. I thought I would get away with it, as it looked rather like a shoe of the period, mixed with a religious incense burner. It does have a folded back, very sturdy, handle, as you described. I had it made at Kentwell Hall by one of the authentic potters; it was from dug clay, fired in a contenporary kiln of the period, and is a pride of work. When she - a lovely women, whose name I forget, to my shame - asked me what I wanted, I put my foot on the table and said "This, with holes and a handle!", but also showed her the picture from Alston. It is excellent with a few coals from a wood fire, as a portable fire maker; swinging it to and fro to keep the embers hot, you can start a fire anywhere within 20 minutes walk! I usually put in some hot embers - not too many - then stuff the thing with dried local leaves - less smell to the smoke - and slip it under the edge of the skep and GENTLY blow; blowing too hard can put sparks in the hive, which has the opposite effect! Burned bees are not happy!”
all the bits required