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For as long as I've been working with clay, I've had a great big blind spot about wedging. Regardless of whether I wedge using the spiral or ram's head method, I often end up with muddy bubble wrap rather than nicely compacted, even textured stoneware goodness.  I don't know if I'm just not doing it enough (I tend to stop well before 50 kneads per direction) or if I'm putting too much or too little pressure on the clay when wedging or if there's another magic secret to this process that has eluded me so far.  

I'm also wondering if I really need to wedge clay if I'm pulling it straight out of a brand new bag of clay. 

Any insight y'all might be willing to share would be super helpful.

Thank you,
-Kristina 

 

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Personally I don't think you need to wedge at all. I haven't wedged any clay in 3 years. Cut from the bag of clay, pound it into a ball, trying not to add pockets of air. I diligently cone wedge each ball at least 3 times not what size the ball of clay. 

Perhaps wedging is held over from when potters mixed their own clay bodies and did not have de-airing pugmills. 

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I only wedge large amounts of clay ( 15 lbs or more).  everything else is "wedged" on the wheel. And i make my own clay And i dont have a deairing pugmill. I did not learn this way. I have just adapted to doing it this way.

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15 minutes ago, dhPotter said:

Personally I don't think you need to wedge at all. I haven't wedged any clay in 3 years. Cut from the bag of clay, pound it into a ball, trying not to add pockets of air. I diligently cone wedge each ball at least 3 times not what size the ball of clay. 

Perhaps wedging is held over from when potters mixed their own clay bodies and did not have de-airing pugmills. 

If I don't wedge my clay it isn't smooth to throw with, some parts catch on my hands and I have to sit there and cone up and down several times just to even it out.  Much faster for me to cut a block in half and wedge it before weighing than to sit there and wedge every ball on the wheel.  I think wedging is more a personal preference than a necessity

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Kristina this is the kind of question that will get you many answers, none of which is wrong. 

Are you a baker? Bake a lot?

Wedging is not just about hands on clay mixing. its also about height of wedging area, your own body stance, AND unlearning other methods of kneading. 

I would try without wedging and see how you do. I’ve tried to not wedge, but when i touch the clay i feel its wrong not to wedge. It’s a head thing that i cant get out of.  I think its because i really love the process of touching clay and deal with the rest to finish the product so I take every opportunity to touch clay. 

Plus i’ve been brought up by old school potters who talk so much about wedging ‘waking’ up the clay. Their words live within me that i cant shake of. 

Edited by preeta

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You can "wake up" clay by dropping it several times onto a hard surface.  I rarely wedge unless it's re-cycled clay, straight off the plaster bat.  If I feel new clay needs wedging, I usually cut and slam.  Easier on the hands and shoulders, and the squats to pick it up off the floor are a good workout.

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Last night I decided to try some porcelain that I bought to test.  In the bag, hard as a rock, thought it had dried out it was so hard.  After wedging it wasnt even able to hold the shape of a ball.  Pretty disappointed, I won't be buying this crap again.  But yeah, I was amazed how it went from barely able to slam it into a ball to basically a puddle of goop in maybe 30 spirals.

As you can imagine, I was able to throw pretty much nothing with it, as soon as I got thinner than a quarter inch it would just fall into a puddle and I wasnt even using water.

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14 minutes ago, Bill Kielb said:

Weird! I throw  porcelain all the time and love the workability.. maybe try some fresh stuff. 

Apparently it's an issue with this porcelain. SPS dove. There's a thread here about it even.   I have two other porcelains to try, so will try those too.  I might just extrude this stuff into sponge holders or throw some spoon rests with the rest, thank God I only got one box.

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If you have clay fresh from the manufacturer, and it has not sat up for too long, then you really shouldn't have to wedge.

However, if you are like I am, where my clay may set over two winters, outside, freezing and thawing in the Fall and Spring, and frozen solid in the Winter, then you really do have to wedge. I don't care if you "wake up the clay" by throwing it onto the concrete floor several times on each side, or if you wedge on the wheel. The clay that has frozen has to be wedged, as the water has been frozen out as ice when it freezes, and then it remains on the outside of the clay after thawing. I just wedged up 300# the last two days by bread slice and slam, using a wiggle wire and water spray bottle, then used spiral wedging to finish in 8-10# blocks, then divided into @ 1# tight slapped balls for mug throwing and other small objects. I will still master the clay on the wheel, then throw the pieces, but for me the wedging is extremely important to bring the clay back. Now I need a few more days in the shop to clear the bags all over the floor.

 

best,

Pres

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