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Bioman

Hand Building With Different Clay Bodies

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I can see from posts on this forum that a lot of folks are wheel throwers.  So be patient with me if this is the wrong place to be asking the question; although this does seem to be about the only active pottery forum that I have run across:) 

All of my efforts to date have been with hand building using at first earthenware and lately with mid-fire clays such as WC 401 B Mix with which I have gotten some nice results. But I am getting curious about other clay bodies and want to give some a try.  Is there anything you would recommend?   Is there anything you would absolutely avoid as far as hand building goes?  As an example can a mid-fire Porcelain body such as Laguna cone 5 be used with success or is that best used for throwing? 

 

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I can see from posts on this forum that a lot of folks are wheel throwers.  So be patient with me if this is the wrong place to be asking the question; although this does seem to be about the only active pottery forum that I have run across:) 

All of my efforts to date have been with hand building using at first earthenware and lately with mid-fire clays such as WC 401 B Mix with which I have gotten some nice results. But I am getting curious about other clay bodies and want to give some a try.  Is there anything you would recommend?   Is there anything you would absolutely avoid as far as hand building goes?  As an example can a mid-fire Porcelain body such as Laguna cone 5 be used with success or is that best used for throwing? 

 

Clay Buddies on Facebook is even more active, you will get many more answers there, but it's a different atmosphere.  It's more like family on this forum.  Can't answer your question as we have different brands in the UK.

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Bioman: What are you looking for in a clay?

 

I use all Laguna clay, mostly the same B-Mix for throwing, but I've worked with eight varieties of their clay so I'd be happy to review them for you. I don't want to overwhelm with info, so I'll just give basics and you can ask for more if you want it. I have lots of photos of most of these too. They are all mid-fire unless noted otherwise.

 

Hawaiian Red - very groggy but quite pleasant to work with and very sturdy. Not prone to cracking or warping. Fires to almost a dark brown at Cone 5.

Moroccan Sand - probably my favorite. Has sand rather than grog so it's sturdy but not too grainy, and easily smoothed. Fires second time to a dark taupe.

Speckled Buff - I love this one too. It has an amazing, smooth, almost plastic feel but it's nearly as sturdy as the Hawaiian Red for any use. Have not tried slab building with it. Fires to a weird reddish, then in final firing becomes a beautiful golden tan with dark brown flecks. So pretty.

Dark Brown (forget # but can get it for you) - deep chocolate, almost black. Tends to be brittle but very pleasant to work with. Reacts strangely with some glazes and must be dried evenly.

 

These are white or cream:

P-5 Porcelain -this is a nice, smooth clay, similar to B-Mix in feel. It tends to dry unevenly and crack, and glazes have a tendency to craze on this clay, although their colors show up beautifully. My dad uses it and I'm trying to talk him into a porcelain and stoneware 50/50.

WS-5 Stoneware - this one is a bit grainy but great for slab building. It has a high water absorption rate and I only recommend for decorative items.

B-Mix you already know

 

I've also used a low fire white for hand building, but I really hated it and would not recommend it.

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Bioman: What are you looking for in a clay?

 

 

 

Appreicate your response. The engineer in me does not mind a lot of info, we tend to be info junkies :)

 

“Bioman: What are you looking for in a clay?†

Good question.  Basically hardness, little absorbtion, and low warping and cracking potential.  The Hawwain red sounds good; what do you mean by groggy? Is that a challenge in hand building or a non-issue? Never used a groggy clay that I am aware of. OK, clueless question time – Does the color of a clay have any effect with how a glaze looks when applied i.e. will dark clays darken the hue of a given glaze?

 

“P-5 Porcelain -this is a nice, smooth clay, similar to B-Mix in feel. It tends to dry unevenly and crack, and glazes have a tendency to craze on this clay, although their colors show up beautifully. My dad uses it and I'm trying to talk him into a porcelain and stoneware 50/50.†Do you know if all porcelains more prone to cracking? Is this one a Laguna porcelain?

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Biomen: this IS the best potters forum you can find in the whole world. Period! ;)

 

We would appreciate you filling out your profile, so that we know where you live. I for instance live in Switzerland and Italy and we use different clay than people in the States, in UK or elsewhere. We can help you better when we know more about you and your work. Thanks!

 

I experiment a lot with different clays. I just marbled a slightely grogged Spanish black clay with an English porcelain paper clay. Don't know the result yet, but I always make a few test pieces first before I build a bigger piece. I would say try and experiment with everything that comes to your mind. If possible in the same firing range (but not necessarily...).

 

Evelyne

 

 

PS: grogged means there is chamotte in the clay...

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grog_%28clay%29

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I only handbuild and use laguna b mix with grog mainly.  i can either high fire it or raku and it takes terra siggilata if i want that look.  also sometimes use soldate 60.  and clay planet has this smooth sculpture clay that works well for big stuff.   also laguna los altos is pretty nice.  all these have a nice feel and are pretty sturdy,   rakuku

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Bioman:

 

Grog adds strength and stability but adds some graininess. You can very definitely feel it. Once you've used a groggy clay, you'll be like ohhhh yeah, so that's grog ... ;) Hand building is fine but it generally will have a rougher more earthy look in every way than porcelain, for example. I've found that as long as I gently smooth the grains in with a finger along edges, the grog doesn't cause too much roughness.

 

Yes, the color of the clay can affect the color of the glaze. If it's a transparent glaze, darker colors can show through. Also, depending on what's in the clay that makes its color (Hawaiian Red has iron for sure) that can react with the glaze and change the color. There's one glaze that's a solid minty aqua on the Hawaiian Red, and it fires a dappled purply-turquoise on the dark brown clay. Very fascinating in my opinion.

 

You might try the clay rakukuku recommended, the B-Mix with grog. You'll keep the qualities you like about B-Mix but then add a little toughness.

 

If you go to Laguna's site, each clay has an absorption estimate for when it's properly fired. The WS-5 absorption rate is ridiculous, like 12%. B-Mix is, I think, 2.5%.

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Bioman, you probably are familiar with Trinity Ceramics in Dallas.  They carry a lot of the Laguna clay.  I get my Speckled Buff there.   Check out Armadillo's Cinco Blanco and Cone 5 white clay also. 

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If you're interested in porcelain, you might want to have a look at paper clay. It has a very interesting texture and can be joined without any slip, just by pressing (I've never tried but I've heard it works really well). You can also make your own using scrap porcelain and adding toilet paper to it.

The only thing is, I think it's only High-fire clay, I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.

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 You can also make your own using scrap porcelain and adding toilet paper to it.

The only thing is, I think it's only High-fire clay, I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.

I might try that.  My first attempt at making paper clay resulted in a good that dried very lumpy and cracked (even though I used a blender) and never completely filled the void (it seemed to shrink a lot).  But if I am nothing else, I am stubborn so I may just give it another shot at some point.  Thanks...

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Bioman, you probably are familiar with Trinity Ceramics in Dallas.  They carry a lot of the Laguna clay.  I get my Speckled Buff there.   Check out Armadillo's Cinco Blanco and Cone 5 white clay also. 

Have not tried Trinity although I am aware of them.  I have been using American Ceramics Supplies in DFW (massive selection of glazes), the Ceramics Store in Houston (excellent selection of hand tools) and Armadillo in Austin (a good balance of glass fusing and ceramics supplies).  No shortage of suppliers in this part of the country, you simply need to be willing to drive long distances to get to them :lol:

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 the name of a supplier will usually tell you what they specialize in.  anything with the name "ceramics" in it will have lots of bottled glazes and tools for the 06 firing group.  they may or may not have clay or ingredients to make your own glazes. and you might not find a slabroller or extruder.    if you see the word "pottery" in the name,  they might carry a smaller selection of bottled glazes but you will find almost everything you need to set up a studio for turning clay into cone 6 or higher pottery or sculpture.

 

do not yell at me for over-simplifying this, it is just an observation.  

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You can hand-build with porcelain, it's a wonderful clay, but you generally want to build lighter with it.  It has a harder time drying typically than a stoneware clay with grog, for instance, and so is more prone to drying problems. Coarser clays and clays with grog have an easier time wicking water to the surface to dry. Porcelain also has a different coefficient of expansion than stoneware clays so in addition to the differences in colors you might find that glazes fit a bit differently on it.  All good stuff to experiment with and learn. 

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Porcelain also has a different coefficient of expansion than stoneware clays so in addition to the differences in colors you might find that glazes fit a bit differently on it.  

 

The P-5 as well as the Oriental Pearl casting slip makes 85% of glazes craze no matter what brand of glaze. Colors are all beyond beautiful but inside is unusable for food.  

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In Texas, the Armadillo clay tends to be inexpensive and easy to get.  For handbuilding, the Grande is hard to beat; off white, VERY groggy, but outstanding for sculpture/handbuilding and throwing large.  It is very resistant to cracking.  The coarse grog makes it less pleasant for throwing small, though I still prefer it to the ubiquitous Balcones.  Balcones is a good clay for learning throwing, and is a pretty good compromise clay, but it is a jack of all trades and master of none.  I love Dillo for throwing, especially small to moderate sized pieces.  It is very white with some speckles.  It is very smooth, and handles relatively close to B-mix in most ways, but probably cheaper where you are and I like it just a little better.  Like B-Mix or porcelain, it is much more likely to crack than the Grande.

 

These are all C10 clays.  For C6, their cheap C5 porcelain is actually pretty easy to get along with as porcelains go, though not as white as some, but for handbuilding I'd probably pick Cinco Rojo with grog.

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