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Diy Ball Mill For Reclaiming Clay And Making Glaze

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Hello all,

 

I am working on a little project and thought perhaps it would be useful for others and perhaps those with more experience could let me know if I am making any lame brained assumptions. Thanks in advance.

 

My project is a do it yourself ball mill for ceramics. For those of you who have never heard of a ball mill they are very efficient at pulverizing things into a fine powder. They are often used in chemistry as well as the making of homemade black powder. The basic idea is the material to be turned into powder and a 'media' are put in a drum and rotated. The media is usually some kind of heavy ball, typically lead or stainless steel. But could really be anything heavy and harder then what you want to grind up. For more information you can read the wikipedia page on ball mills. I stumbled across this machine and it made me think of two very nice uses in the ceramics studio. The first is to crush up my scrap clay for reclaiming. I just started slip casting and have a bucket that I toss anything I don't like into. Since I am new to casting there is a lot in the bucket. :) My thought is that grinding this bone dry clay into powder would make it easy to store and weight out for reclaiming into slip again. The second use I thought of was to process my own materials for glaze, such as limestone or quartz. I am not keen on crushing up rock by hand and would instead just buy it. But if I could crush up 10 lb of limestone easily why would I buy it.

 

My idea is very simple and cheap. I will use a 5 gallon bucket for my drum. It will sit on two rails which each have two roller blade wheels on it. One rail will be a drive rail and the other will just idle. Using whatever motor I can find I will rotate the drive rail, which will turn the bucket. The second rail will just support the bucket and keep it in place. I have seen this done a lot so I am very confident. A little wooden frame and some pulleys to get the speed correct and we are up and running.

 

 

ball-mill-work.gif

 

For grinding the clay I was thinking a plastic 5 gallon bucket and an old set of billiard balls. For the stone, I think I will need some kind of metal drum and some steel ball bearings or other similar steel ball. I am hoping that I can use the same drive mechanize for many buckets. One for white clay, another for red, yet another for stone. This will avoid contamination. I don't think the clay needs to get really small to be useful, but I could always sieve it and put it into another bucket with smaller steel balls to refine it more. Same for the stone. If it works well, I might even build a frame around it and turn it into a bench seat. Then the ball mill will be hidden away and not take up useable space when I dont need it. When I want to use it I will lift of the seat and have access to my ball mill.

 

 

What do you all think?

 

Josh

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That is a neat idea, but I am also planning on building a treadle kick wheel. 1/2 hp motors are all over the place and I have a few sitting in my garage. So I like the idea of flipping a switch and letting it run while I am working in the studio. It might be a little loud, but if I build it into the bench I can muffle the sound a lot.

 

But it is nice to know that this tool is not unheard of in the ceramic world. The two studios I used to go to never used one.

 

josh

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I'd reccomend reading "The Potter's Alternative" by Harry Davis. The author talks about buidling all the equipment from scatch and had schematics. He was a potter in England and moved to Peru(i think) and set up a studio and not have any supplers had to create everthing. Little dry but has lots of good info for any equipment needed. He did this in the 1930's - 40's so most of the items are easy to find. I purchased my copy from Amazon.

 

Hope that helps,

 

Chad

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One addition that I would use on the bucket is add one or two strips of something the length of the bucket, so the material doesn't slide around it. I pick up the base of a roll mill at a salvage yard once (still have it), all I need it the bucket. One plan for it is to tumble rifle and pistol cases to clean them up. The best options for the balls is to make some out of porcelain, steel and lead can add material to you glazes that can affect them.

 

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I went to my local library and checked out 'The Potters Alternative' by Harry Davis as suggested. We have a pretty large ceramics sections despite the small size of our town. It is a great book and has a lot of detail about building your own ceramics equipment. Now I am starting to think maybe I can make some more of this equipment as well. I plan on taking a lot of photos and posting them as I build. But I have to wait until I get moved and setting in a bit.

 

Thanks again for the suggestion.

 

Josh

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I have a 9" OD pulley for the belt for a good slow rotating speed. The rubber sections on the rollers grab the jar and there are no slipping problems. The weight of the motor

controls the tension on the belt nicely.

Marcia

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Hello all,

 

I am working on a little project and thought perhaps it would be useful for others and perhaps those with more experience could let me know if I am making any lame brained assumptions. Thanks in advance.

 

My project is a do it yourself ball mill for ceramics. For those of you who have never heard of a ball mill they are very efficient at pulverizing things into a fine powder. They are often used in chemistry as well as the making of homemade black powder. The basic idea is the material to be turned into powder and a 'media' are put in a drum and rotated. The media is usually some kind of heavy ball, typically lead or stainless steel. But could really be anything heavy and harder then what you want to grind up. For more information you can read the wikipedia page on ball mills. I stumbled across this machine and it made me think of two very nice uses in the ceramics studio. The first is to crush up my scrap clay for reclaiming. I just started slip casting and have a bucket that I toss anything I don't like into. Since I am new to casting there is a lot in the bucket. :) My thought is that grinding this bone dry clay into powder would make it easy to store and weight out for reclaiming into slip again. The second use I thought of was to process my own materials for glaze, such as limestone or quartz. I am not keen on crushing up rock by hand and would instead just buy it. But if I could crush up 10 lb of limestone easily why would I buy it.

 

My idea is very simple and cheap. I will use a 5 gallon bucket for my drum. It will sit on two rails which each have two roller blade wheels on it. One rail will be a drive rail and the other will just idle. Using whatever motor I can find I will rotate the drive rail, which will turn the bucket. The second rail will just support the bucket and keep it in place. I have seen this done a lot so I am very confident. A little wooden frame and some pulleys to get the speed correct and we are up and running.

 

 

ball-mill-work.gif

 

For grinding the clay I was thinking a plastic 5 gallon bucket and an old set of billiard balls. For the stone, I think I will need some kind of metal drum and some steel ball bearings or other similar steel ball. I am hoping that I can use the same drive mechanize for many buckets. One for white clay, another for red, yet another for stone. This will avoid contamination. I don't think the clay needs to get really small to be useful, but I could always sieve it and put it into another bucket with smaller steel balls to refine it more. Same for the stone. If it works well, I might even build a frame around it and turn it into a bench seat. Then the ball mill will be hidden away and not take up useable space when I dont need it. When I want to use it I will lift of the seat and have access to my ball mill.

 

 

What do you all think?

 

Josh

 

I think it would be simpler to just slake the clay. Just MHO. Why to you need to ball mill it? It would not be individual types of clay needed to be weighed because it has already been mixed if you are recycling scrap. For crushing limestone and quartz, wouldn't a hammer mill be the more appropriate tool for the job? I understand the desire to be self-sufficient, but time and your energy are also of the essence.

Marcia

 

Marcia

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Hello all,

 

I am working on a little project and thought perhaps it would be useful for others and perhaps those with more experience could let me know if I am making any lame brained assumptions. Thanks in advance.

 

My project is a do it yourself ball mill for ceramics. For those of you who have never heard of a ball mill they are very efficient at pulverizing things into a fine powder. They are often used in chemistry as well as the making of homemade black powder. The basic idea is the material to be turned into powder and a 'media' are put in a drum and rotated. The media is usually some kind of heavy ball, typically lead or stainless steel. But could really be anything heavy and harder then what you want to grind up. For more information you can read the wikipedia page on ball mills. I stumbled across this machine and it made me think of two very nice uses in the ceramics studio. The first is to crush up my scrap clay for reclaiming. I just started slip casting and have a bucket that I toss anything I don't like into. Since I am new to casting there is a lot in the bucket. :) My thought is that grinding this bone dry clay into powder would make it easy to store and weight out for reclaiming into slip again. The second use I thought of was to process my own materials for glaze, such as limestone or quartz. I am not keen on crushing up rock by hand and would instead just buy it. But if I could crush up 10 lb of limestone easily why would I buy it.

 

My idea is very simple and cheap. I will use a 5 gallon bucket for my drum. It will sit on two rails which each have two roller blade wheels on it. One rail will be a drive rail and the other will just idle. Using whatever motor I can find I will rotate the drive rail, which will turn the bucket. The second rail will just support the bucket and keep it in place. I have seen this done a lot so I am very confident. A little wooden frame and some pulleys to get the speed correct and we are up and running.

 

 

ball-mill-work.gif

 

For grinding the clay I was thinking a plastic 5 gallon bucket and an old set of billiard balls. For the stone, I think I will need some kind of metal drum and some steel ball bearings or other similar steel ball. I am hoping that I can use the same drive mechanize for many buckets. One for white clay, another for red, yet another for stone. This will avoid contamination. I don't think the clay needs to get really small to be useful, but I could always sieve it and put it into another bucket with smaller steel balls to refine it more. Same for the stone. If it works well, I might even build a frame around it and turn it into a bench seat. Then the ball mill will be hidden away and not take up useable space when I dont need it. When I want to use it I will lift of the seat and have access to my ball mill.

 

 

What do you all think?

 

Josh

 

I think it would be simpler to just slake the clay. Just MHO. Why to you need to ball mill it? It would not be individual types of clay needed to be weighed because it has already been mixed if you are recycling scrap. For crushing limestone and quartz, wouldn't a hammer mill be the more appropriate tool for the job? I understand the desire to be self-sufficient, but time and your energy are also of the essence.

Marcia

 

Marcia

 

 

I agree with your need comment here. Making is supported by so many other activities that the potter should try to find the most cost efficient/environmentally friendly method of working. A ball mill seems excessive to me. By the way what do you use yours for?

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Hello all,

 

I am working on a little project and thought perhaps it would be useful for others and perhaps those with more experience could let me know if I am making any lame brained assumptions. Thanks in advance.

 

My project is a do it yourself ball mill for ceramics. For those of you who have never heard of a ball mill they are very efficient at pulverizing things into a fine powder. They are often used in chemistry as well as the making of homemade black powder. The basic idea is the material to be turned into powder and a 'media' are put in a drum and rotated. The media is usually some kind of heavy ball, typically lead or stainless steel. But could really be anything heavy and harder then what you want to grind up. For more information you can read the wikipedia page on ball mills. I stumbled across this machine and it made me think of two very nice uses in the ceramics studio. The first is to crush up my scrap clay for reclaiming. I just started slip casting and have a bucket that I toss anything I don't like into. Since I am new to casting there is a lot in the bucket. :) My thought is that grinding this bone dry clay into powder would make it easy to store and weight out for reclaiming into slip again. The second use I thought of was to process my own materials for glaze, such as limestone or quartz. I am not keen on crushing up rock by hand and would instead just buy it. But if I could crush up 10 lb of limestone easily why would I buy it.

 

My idea is very simple and cheap. I will use a 5 gallon bucket for my drum. It will sit on two rails which each have two roller blade wheels on it. One rail will be a drive rail and the other will just idle. Using whatever motor I can find I will rotate the drive rail, which will turn the bucket. The second rail will just support the bucket and keep it in place. I have seen this done a lot so I am very confident. A little wooden frame and some pulleys to get the speed correct and we are up and running.

 

 

ball-mill-work.gif

 

For grinding the clay I was thinking a plastic 5 gallon bucket and an old set of billiard balls. For the stone, I think I will need some kind of metal drum and some steel ball bearings or other similar steel ball. I am hoping that I can use the same drive mechanize for many buckets. One for white clay, another for red, yet another for stone. This will avoid contamination. I don't think the clay needs to get really small to be useful, but I could always sieve it and put it into another bucket with smaller steel balls to refine it more. Same for the stone. If it works well, I might even build a frame around it and turn it into a bench seat. Then the ball mill will be hidden away and not take up useable space when I dont need it. When I want to use it I will lift of the seat and have access to my ball mill.

 

 

What do you all think?

 

Josh

 

I think it would be simpler to just slake the clay. Just MHO. Why to you need to ball mill it? It would not be individual types of clay needed to be weighed because it has already been mixed if you are recycling scrap. For crushing limestone and quartz, wouldn't a hammer mill be the more appropriate tool for the job? I understand the desire to be self-sufficient, but time and your energy are also of the essence.

Marcia

 

Marcia

 

 

I agree with your need comment here. Making is supported by so many other activities that the potter should try to find the most cost efficient/environmentally friendly method of working. A ball mill seems excessive to me. By the way what do you use yours for?

 

 

Pres,

If you are asking me, I use to make terra sig with it. I now use Charlie Riggs method and no Ball Mill is needed. I can make it anywhere ...particularly workshops when you never know what equipment is available. =Marcia

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Thanks for your replies. It is so interesting to see how others think about a subject.

 

Marcia - Thanks for the idea about the hinge. Many of the tools in my woodworking shop use this method, but I had not considered it for this project. I agree that slaking the clay would work just fine, however it would be easier for me to weigh out various amounts of dry powdered clay. It would also make it easier to store because it would be more compact. My main desire for using the ball mill on clay is for slip making. I would hope that being able to measure the dry clay accurately will help me make consistently good slip. Also, I am guessing that starting with powdered clay will reduce the number of chunks in my clay needing to be sieved out.

 

Pres - Surely I don't need a ball mill, or any other fancy tool. But I am an engineer and I enjoy the process of designing and building. Pottery is a hobby that lets me build things with my hands and bring life into the clay, but what I love is the creation. Building the equipment for my pottery studio gives me the same joy. Also, a ball mill is hardly complicated to make. I suspect that most people have the parts lying around and could make one in an afternoon. Youtube is proof of this. For me get an idea in my head and then let it bounce around for a few weeks. I think about it on and off each day, I spend some time reading on the internet, talking with fellow tinkers and start to keep my eyes open for various parts. Then if after a few weeks or years I decide now is the time to build it I do.

 

One of the reasons I like building my own equipment is because I learn so much in the process of making it. I learn how the ball mill works, what makes it work better or worse. I think so many people just buy a tool and never even read the manual. I can't blame them, the manuals are usually so bland. Because I am engineer I enjoy learning how and why it works. Additionally, the ideas I get from researching and building a project may help me to solve some problem at work. I guess it just boils down to I love to build things.

 

One final thought about the ball mill. I have a few other projects and interests that a ball mill would be a handy thing to have. It is a glorified rock tumbler, can be useful for making smooth glass or sea glass, people who make black powder use them often, and making my own glazes as well. I could have a different jar for each project and just use the base to drive them. I guess that is why I was interested.

 

 

 

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Thanks for your replies. It is so interesting to see how others think about a subject.

 

Marcia - Thanks for the idea about the hinge. Many of the tools in my woodworking shop use this method, but I had not considered it for this project. I agree that slaking the clay would work just fine, however it would be easier for me to weigh out various amounts of dry powdered clay. It would also make it easier to store because it would be more compact. My main desire for using the ball mill on clay is for slip making. I would hope that being able to measure the dry clay accurately will help me make consistently good slip. Also, I am guessing that starting with powdered clay will reduce the number of chunks in my clay needing to be sieved out.

 

Pres - Surely I don't need a ball mill, or any other fancy tool. But I am an engineer and I enjoy the process of designing and building. Pottery is a hobby that lets me build things with my hands and bring life into the clay, but what I love is the creation. Building the equipment for my pottery studio gives me the same joy. Also, a ball mill is hardly complicated to make. I suspect that most people have the parts lying around and could make one in an afternoon. Youtube is proof of this. For me get an idea in my head and then let it bounce around for a few weeks. I think about it on and off each day, I spend some time reading on the internet, talking with fellow tinkers and start to keep my eyes open for various parts. Then if after a few weeks or years I decide now is the time to build it I do.

 

One of the reasons I like building my own equipment is because I learn so much in the process of making it. I learn how the ball mill works, what makes it work better or worse. I think so many people just buy a tool and never even read the manual. I can't blame them, the manuals are usually so bland. Because I am engineer I enjoy learning how and why it works. Additionally, the ideas I get from researching and building a project may help me to solve some problem at work. I guess it just boils down to I love to build things.

 

One final thought about the ball mill. I have a few other projects and interests that a ball mill would be a handy thing to have. It is a glorified rock tumbler, can be useful for making smooth glass or sea glass, people who make black powder use them often, and making my own glazes as well. I could have a different jar for each project and just use the base to drive them. I guess that is why I was interested.

 

 

 

 

I love making tools and carts for my studio, so I understand completely. I guess at my age, I look at time and energy as valuable commodities that need to balance into the picture. I did make a bunch of dollies for the studio putting glazes, clay storage, chemicals, benches all on wheels. Making things to accommodate

our work habits is probably what makes us tick in this regard.

Best wishes,

Marcia

 

 

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Oh, I just made one and used it for the first time. I was making a barium glaze and it was too granular so 30 minutes in my nifty ball mill and it was smooth as silk. The glaze is in the kiln now as I write so I will report back on how it worked. First of all, just slake the clay. I made porcelain balls by extruding a long coil then rolling little segments of the coil. I fired them to cone 10 and saved myself a bundle since I could not find porcelain grinding material here in Portugal. A year ago I found an antique german made 4 liter ball mill. I replaced the rubber seals. My caseiro, the housekeeppers husband, made the rollers and wooden frame and attached a 1/4 inch drill as a motor. It has a tendency to move a bit too fast but my hand would slow it down when the "sloshing sound quit" I am looking for another motor that will dependably go no more than 60RPM which is the recommended speed. And yes, it is fun to make tools. Especially here where it is so tough or impossible to find things for ceramics.

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Thanks for your replies. It is so interesting to see how others think about a subject.

 

Marcia - Thanks for the idea about the hinge. Many of the tools in my woodworking shop use this method, but I had not considered it for this project. I agree that slaking the clay would work just fine, however it would be easier for me to weigh out various amounts of dry powdered clay. It would also make it easier to store because it would be more compact. My main desire for using the ball mill on clay is for slip making. I would hope that being able to measure the dry clay accurately will help me make consistently good slip. Also, I am guessing that starting with powdered clay will reduce the number of chunks in my clay needing to be sieved out.

 

Pres - Surely I don't need a ball mill, or any other fancy tool. But I am an engineer and I enjoy the process of designing and building. Pottery is a hobby that lets me build things with my hands and bring life into the clay, but what I love is the creation. Building the equipment for my pottery studio gives me the same joy. Also, a ball mill is hardly complicated to make. I suspect that most people have the parts lying around and could make one in an afternoon. Youtube is proof of this. For me get an idea in my head and then let it bounce around for a few weeks. I think about it on and off each day, I spend some time reading on the internet, talking with fellow tinkers and start to keep my eyes open for various parts. Then if after a few weeks or years I decide now is the time to build it I do.

 

One of the reasons I like building my own equipment is because I learn so much in the process of making it. I learn how the ball mill works, what makes it work better or worse. I think so many people just buy a tool and never even read the manual. I can't blame them, the manuals are usually so bland. Because I am engineer I enjoy learning how and why it works. Additionally, the ideas I get from researching and building a project may help me to solve some problem at work. I guess it just boils down to I love to build things.

 

One final thought about the ball mill. I have a few other projects and interests that a ball mill would be a handy thing to have. It is a glorified rock tumbler, can be useful for making smooth glass or sea glass, people who make black powder use them often, and making my own glazes as well. I could have a different jar for each project and just use the base to drive them. I guess that is why I was interested.

 

 

 

 

 

As a teacher I made so many tools for my studio over the years, mostly hand tools and dies. However I designed and built some tables and desks, display cabinets, and banding wheels. Much of my work was done on shop tools when they got rid of the shops in the school. I really liked having a drill press, band saw, and belt sander for making ribbon end tools, wooden ribs, cutting wires, and wire harps, slab cutters and extruder dies.

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Guest HerbNorris

"The Potter's Alternative" would be hard to beat for ideas and techniques, I think. I found the book so fascinating that I bought my own copy, even though my "liberry" has it. I have yet to actually MAKE anything in the book, but that's something else...

 

As far as reclaiming clay, there is really no need to powderize it, as long as it is completely dry, it will all slake down and then wedge up just fine, or mix into slip. There will be no chunks to sieve, unless you have not let it all dry totally.

There are certainly advantages to having the clay powder though, for accurate slip formulation, so a ball mill would be pretty cool; and anyway, you like to make things, and it would be handy, so what the hell, go for it.

 

Pictures would be nice to see when you finish it!

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Oh, I just made one and used it for the first time. I was making a barium glaze and it was too granular so 30 minutes in my nifty ball mill and it was smooth as silk. The glaze is in the kiln now as I write so I will report back on how it worked. First of all, just slake the clay. I made porcelain balls by extruding a long coil then rolling little segments of the coil. I fired them to cone 10 and saved myself a bundle since I could not find porcelain grinding material here in Portugal. A year ago I found an antique german made 4 liter ball mill. I replaced the rubber seals. My caseiro, the housekeeppers husband, made the rollers and wooden frame and attached a 1/4 inch drill as a motor. It has a tendency to move a bit too fast but my hand would slow it down when the "sloshing sound quit" I am looking for another motor that will dependably go no more than 60RPM which is the recommended speed. And yes, it is fun to make tools. Especially here where it is so tough or impossible to find things for ceramics.

 

 

Get a larger pulley and run a belt from the drill motor after you apply a v groove pulley to that shaft. That will reduce the speed.

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I have a 9" OD pulley for the belt for a good slow rotating speed. The rubber sections on the rollers grab the jar and there are no slipping problems. The weight of the motor

controls the tension on the belt nicely.

Marcia

 

 

Marcia, I have a question about the jar on your ball mill, not being that familiar with ball mills. Was the jar a repurposing of something else (looks a lot like a propane bottle), or is it a jar made for the purpose?

 

John Lowes

http:\\wynhillpottery.weebly.com

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I have a 9" OD pulley for the belt for a good slow rotating speed. The rubber sections on the rollers grab the jar and there are no slipping problems. The weight of the motor

controls the tension on the belt nicely.

Marcia

 

Marcia, I have a question about the jar on your ball mill, not being that familiar with ball mills. Was the jar a repurposing of something else (looks a lot like a propane bottle), or is it a jar made for the purpose?

 

John Lowes

http:\\wynhillpottery.weebly.com

It is a porcelain ball mill jar.

Marcia

 

 

 

 

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Josh, I am very interested to hear how you make out with your ball mill. I also have been planning to make one. I dig my own clay and have been using the slaking method. It does work, but, during a residency i did recently, I had access to a ball mill. I found you just cant beat it for making dry material for glazes and slips. Accurate tests also were much easier with the dry screened materials.

 

I too, have been considering using buckets, but what I can't wrap my head around is the fact that the lid is bigger than the rest of the bucket. Maybe a person could use rubber belts that are thick enough to compensate? Finding the right containers will really make this project easier. I love the idea of tucking it under a bench for space and sound reasons and would love to hear if you pull this off successfully.

 

L.

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