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keeping relief tiles flat

updated thu 12 feb 98


Kris Baum on tue 10 feb 98

> >Malone & Dean McRaine wrote:
> >
> >> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> >> Aloha all: I have been making tile following the techniques in Giogini's
> >> book 'Handmade Tile'. I am pounding clay into a plaster mould for 6x6"
> >> tiles. My problem is that not only do they lift up off the board in a low
> >> arch as they dry they also contract in the middle of each side so that the
> >> finished tile is slightly star shaped. Any suggestions?
> >> Thanks,
> >> Dean in Kauai where we can see our breath in the morning.

I have read the replies to Dean's query with interest, as I still
struggle myself with warping tiles. However, the replies suggesting
stacking the tiles between layers of plasterboard will destroy any
relief design ...

Most of my tiles have relief decoration, so I can empathize. My
current procedure is to unmold the tile onto a plasterboard surface
and, if necessary, smack the board down on the table to flatten the
tile. I have made "sack o' bean" weights from dried beans (any kind
will do - get the cheapest) and old pantyhose legs. You want to pack
the beans tightly enough so that the leg material is stretched and
pretty full of beans but loosely enough so that, when you pick it up,
the beans can flow somewhat. This allows the beans to conform to the
profile of the relief design. Arrange the bean legs down the edges
of the tile - if the tiles are rectangular, I usually do only the
longest edges because the width of the weights goes a long way
towards weighing down the shorter edges. To save on weights, I
arrange my wet tiles on the board next to each other in rows so that
the weights can be arranged along the row and column tile

I used to let the tiles dry completely that way, but my latest
strategy (implemented only yesterday) is to take the leatherhard
tiles and arrange them on an open rack to finish drying. So far, it
seems to be working okay. Finally, I also have the warping in on the
edge phenomenon you described. It seems to give me particular
trouble when the tile has a large degree of variance in the
thickness. No matter how slowly I dry them, I could not solve this
problem, so now when they are bone dry I take a rasp and carefully
shave down the edge of the tile so that it looks straight, to the
naked eye at least. And remember that its imperfect squareness
contributes to the beauty and individuality of a handmade tile!

I hope some of these ideas help :-)
Kris Baum
Shubunkin Pottery
Gaithersburg, MD

Kris Baum on wed 11 feb 98

Sandra wrote:

> Kris--
> I don't quite understand how the beans keep from impressing themselves
> into the top of the tiles. Are you placing the bean bags on top of the
> relief tiles, or along the sides of the tiles? Also, do you place a weight
> of any kind on the bean bags? Does the size and shape of the beans
> matter? Would something more sand-like, i.e. finer grained than beans
> work as well?
> Sandy


I can't explain it, but when the tile is dry enough to come out of
the mold, it is firm enough to hold up to the beans directly on the
top of the tile. I think the fact that the beans are loosely-enough
packed to allow movement helps. Anyway, I've not had any trouble
with the beans impressing themselves on the tiles. (That might very
well happen if you were to hand-form a tiles and sponge down the
surface, etc. so that the clay was quite soft.) I do not put
anything additional on top of the bean legs.

I tried sand and rice before the beans, but they both tended to leak
out of the stockings.
Kris Baum
Shubunkin Pottery
Gaithersburg, MD