Clay Recycling Tips

Clay recycling is probably one of the most daunting tasks every ceramic artist has to face. However, it is actually necessary. Because it is important that no drop of clay is wasted so that we can use it for later. Saves you a lot of cash too if you do so, unless if you have a pug mill to begin with.

Collecting & Storing Clay

  • A heavy-duty container is needed since clay scrap and trimmings are heavy. Find a wheel mechanism where you can put your container so you can maneuver it around your studio. Place a framed screen on top of the container. This is important since the framed screen breaks down the scrap clay into pieces, making it usable for later.
  • When you’re done making your masterpiece, dump your throwing slop and any kinds of scrap into the container. Use a metal dustpan and your hands to collect scrap clay on the floor if you want to use them too.
  • Once the container reaches the top, decant the water. As long as there is water over the layer of clay in the recycle bucket, the clay scraps will break down into tiny pieces and will become thoroughly saturated. If there are lumps or dry material in the slop, the resulting reclaim will have hard and soft spots. The water will do its job without the need of mixing the clay in the bucket.

Reclaiming/Recycling Clay

  • The scrap clay you’ve collected needs to be dried out first before reprocessing it for later use. Listed below is a step-by-step instruction on how to do it.
  • Spread a thin layer of at least 2-inches or so of scrap onto an absorbent surface.
  • Plaster bats, wedging tables and large plaster slabs are good choices for this. “HardiBacker” Board is a material that works well for this. It is a heavy cement board that is not as effective as plaster but is strong enough to absorb moisture from the clay.
  • Flip the clay slab over from time to time and continue to do this until it is right for wedging.
  • Store drying bats on a vertical rack or ware cart to save space. A fan can also help dry wet clay quickly. This will accelerate the drying, so turn the clay frequently.
  • There is also an alternative method where you can use a rudimentary filter press system that’s made from cotton pillowcases. What you need to do is fill the sacks with clay slop and hang them over a bucket or just simply hang them outside. The water drips out from the sack and evaporates from the surface.

A Guide On Mixing Pottery Glaze

To apply a glaze to a bisque ware more easily and quickly, simply mix a glaze powder with water. It’s that simple! However, we are going to tear that down into more detail. This includes: measuring water, mixing the glaze powder with water, the sieving process, adjusting its viscosity and density, and more.

Before we start, it’s important to follow the instructions that came with the glaze set especially if it’s a premixed powder one. There are two types of glazes that you can purchase: Dry glaze and premixed. The former is specially formulated for dipping and pouring, while the latter is formulated for brushing.

Let’s assume that the instructions said that you have to mix the dry glaze with water. In case you’re not using a whole batch of premixed powder, make sure that it is mixed well before taking a part of the powder to mix with water. It’s also suggested that you should keep the glaze suspended in water for a few moments to improve its brushability.

Mixing Glaze Safely

  • Powdered glaze is the most dangerous form of glaze since it creates dust that can be inhaled easily. Glazes contain toxic chemicals so once inhaled, the last thing you’ll see is waking up in a hospital. So to avoid such situation, it’s important to wear a face mask or a respirator while handling glaze. Also, use rubber latex gloves and don’t put your fingers, eyes, nose, and mouth near the glaze while mixing it. Safety goggles are advisable too for extra protection.

Materials to Use

  • Here are the materials you will be needing when mixing glaze:
  • Empty buckets
  • Water
  • Glaze Powder
  • Handheld drill
  • Drywell mixer/paddle
  • Sieve that has the appropriate mesh for your glaze
  • Respirator/face mask
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Paintbrush
  • Spatula/Rib
  • Rags/Sponges

Instructions on Mixing Glaze

  • Each glaze has its own way of mixing. What we’re going to show you below is the basic way of mixing it. But feel free to try and experiment things as long as you know what you’re doing.

  • Measure the Proper Amount of Water for Your Glaze – measure water inside a clean container that’s at least 25% more than your glaze’s volume. This applies for dry glaze since premixed glaze already tells you on the instructions how much water to use. Keep in mind that every glaze is different and the amount of water to be used may vary.

  • Add Glaze Powder to Water – There are two ways to apply this step. Either you add the powder glaze to the water or water to the glaze powder. You can add a little amount of water each time until you get the right amount of it. You can pour the glaze into the water with no stirring needed.

  • Mixing the Glaze Powder and Water – Thoroughly mix well the glaze to avoid problems when applying it later on. Use a stick, toilet brush, or a whisk to mix the glaze. You can also use a handheld drill and attach a turbo mixer, or a simple paddle to mix the glaze. Should you need to mix smaller batches? Use a kitchen blender for easier convenience.

  • Pour the Glaze into a Sieve – Even though you already mixed it well, there will be small lumps on the glaze that aren’t completely mixed with water. The solution to this is to use a sieve to eliminate such lumps. Sieves come in different mesh sizes and it’s important to choose one that suits your glaze. However, some glaze instructions will tell you not to sieve the glaze. It’s up to you if you want to follow it or not.

  • Checking its Density and Viscosity – Glaze needs to be on its right density and thickness. Because if it is too thick or too thin, you will have problems applying it later on. Some people use other types of liquid as a base to measure the thickness of a glaze. For example, cream, heavy milk, whole milk may be used as a comparison for glaze thickness. If you have a glaze hydrometer, you can use that to measure its density too.

  • Adjusting its Density/Viscosity – Adding water is a must if you think that the glaze is too thick or thin. Add little amount of water from time to time until you get the right formula. If the glaze is too thin, let it sit overnight and scoop some of the water that rises up. You can alternatively add more dry powder if you had one.

  • Let it Sit for a While – After mixing, let the glaze sit for a while before you put it into use. Leaving them for a moment makes the particles in the powder to soak up the proper amount of water. Do a final check on the viscosity or density of the glaze to make sure it doesn’t get thick overnight.

  • Mix and Apply – Lastly, stir/mix the glaze before applying it to bisque ware. Constantly mix the glaze throughout the process. Monitor the density and thickness of the glaze from time to time because bisque tends to suck up extra water as they are dipped. Now that you’re done, store the glaze in an airtight container and make sure to label it so your friends or family won’t mistake for water or something.  Jot down notes about its density and thickness every after use so you will get consistent results the next time.