PA2008_069.jpg Thermette (about 1970s). Harco Sales Ltd. Collection of Puke Ariki (PA2008.069).

John Hart of Manawatū invented the thermette, a fiendishly quick way to boil water in 1929. But it really proved its worth in Egypt’s Western Desert during World War Two when Kiwi soldiers relied on it for their brew ups.

To boil water a fire is lit under the thermette, using paper, straw, twigs or rubbish. Heat from the fire is then captured within the cone shaped internal walls, which in turn heat the large surface area of the water which is held in an external sleeve. This method is amazingly efficient, allowing 12 cups of water to be boiled in just five minutes.

After the war thermettes became standard issue at picnics and smoko’s all round the country and new versions are still being sold today. This battered and soot encrusted steel model, made in Auckland in the 1970s, was acquired for the Puke Ariki Heritage Collection in 2008. 

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