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recycle clay without pug mill

updated sat 29 jan 05


Brad Sondahl on fri 28 jan 05

I'm a professional potter who recycles all my trimmings without a pug
mill, and it doesn't take much time, or effort. I don't use plaster to
dry the clay on (I've always avoided plaster for wedging tables and
drying beds due to the lime popping propensity of chips). The only thing
it does take is keeping an eye on the drying clay. Right now I've got
about 25 lbs of clay lumps that are too dry to do anything with, because
this is the slack time and I often forget to go in my workshop for 4 or
5 days at a time.

Step one. Let the clay scraps dry bone dry. I put them in roasting pans
on top of my kiln when it fires to make sure they're bone dry. Bone dry
makes the little clay platelets all ready to slurp up water without
hanging on to their buddies for dear life (making unwedgeable lumps).
Smash any big lumps with a hammer to get the thickness to an inch or less.
Step two. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with scraps and cover with water. Let
it sit for a while. Poke it with a stick to get the air bubbles out.
Step three. Pour off the excess water at the top when it's settled
(usually into another recycling bucket). Leave it sit around the studio
in the bucket until it's dry enough to pull out in globs and set on a
wood board, either in globs, or in a long tube shape.
Step four. Monitor it until it's no longer sticky to the touch, and
starting to get firm enough to wedge. When you can wedge it without it
sticking to the wedging table, cut underneath it with a wire, and cut it
into wedgeable pugs if necessary. You may still have to leave it
sitting out for a day or so to get the desired throwing quality. If you
do, wedge it daily, and put away any that are ready.
Step five. Wedge it about as much as you would any other clay, and put
it in bags.

I use it for planters mostly since it still tends to have more bubbles,
bumps, and weird stuff in it, tending to make for little flaws.

I recycle all my scraps using about four 5 gallon buckets. It's a
constant process-don't put it off until you have "a mountain of scraps."
Think of it as part of your weekly routine.
Brad Sondahl

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