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Nelly

Heat gun versus propane torch

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Dear All,

 

I bought a heat gun at Canadian Tire today. The cost was $14.00. The temperature it will go up to is 450 degrees.

 

I also saw some of the small propane torches.

 

I decided upon the heat gun due to the possibility of a fire hazard.

 

Can we say there are different applications for each???

 

My intention in using the heat gun is to stiffen clay if I decide to build-up in joining two pieces together. While I have been successful in the past using a fan and hairdryer to stiffen clay I have done so in the summer. It was easy. I just turned the fan on, went away for 15 minutes or so allowing the pieces to revolve on the wheel while they dried out to a level I considered manageable for the next stage of my project.

 

Now that it is winter I would like to stiffen the clay more rapidly but do not want to leave the fan running at length. I thought this heat gun method would be quicker. While I would still be moving the wheel with the application of the heat gun, I just thought it may save me some time.

 

My guess is that a propane torch fires hotter. Thus, problems with cracking could result if you are not careful in moving this tool quickly. The same could be said for a heat gun but it has a cooler temperature and I would like to think is a bit more gentle on the clay??

 

Am I right in thinking there are different applications for the heat gun versus the torch??

 

Nelly

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Propane is a serious heat; the narrower the flame the more intense the heat. If planning to use it to dry clay, it may be good to use the flame spreader attachment and keep the flame moving do not stall or you might experience the clay cracking.

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Nelly I have never used a heat gun for clay but I have used them for stripping wood. I had 33 windows and doors to strip and rebuild and the cheaper heat gun would give out in a hurry, so I finally bought a commercial grade one for painters that I still have today, that heat gun will be a good one to try to see if you like using it. You may have to invest in a better one or you could get lucky and bought one that has a long life. Denice

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Both the heat gun and torch can be dangerous in the pottery studio. If using the heat gun on the wheel, you're using electricity near water so a cheap gun is probably not a good idea. A torch offers the obvious burn and fire dangers plus too much heat concentrated on one spot can send exploding hot clay right into the eye.

 

I use both but prefer a good heat gun (not a cheap one because of safety issues) with adjustable fan and heat and a max temp of at least 950 F. Stay away from the big red "Deluxe Heat Gun" that is very expensive and has a great fan but only has a max temp of 750. You can get a good one for under $50 but your $14 one is probably not a good choice.

 

Jim

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Nelly I have never used a heat gun for clay but I have used them for stripping wood. I had 33 windows and doors to strip and rebuild and the cheaper heat gun would give out in a hurry, so I finally bought a commercial grade one for painters that I still have today, that heat gun will be a good one to try to see if you like using it. You may have to invest in a better one or you could get lucky and bought one that has a long life. Denice

 

 

Dear Denise,

 

I generally buy higher priced brands in most things. But I did do some research before going out to the store and the lower price one of this gadget got the higher ranking?? So who knows?? I am guessing time will tell.

 

I have heard they are good for paint stripping.

 

Thank you

 

Nelly

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Both the heat gun and torch can be dangerous in the pottery studio. If using the heat gun on the wheel, you're using electricity near water so a cheap gun is probably not a good idea. A torch offers the obvious burn and fire dangers plus too much heat concentrated on one spot can send exploding hot clay right into the eye.

 

I use both but prefer a good heat gun (not a cheap one because of safety issues) with adjustable fan and heat and a max temp of at least 950 F. Stay away from the big red "Deluxe Heat Gun" that is very expensive and has a great fan but only has a max temp of 750. You can get a good one for under $50 but your $14 one is probably not a good choice.

 

Jim

 

The im

 

Dear Jim,

 

Thank you for your response. Okay, I learned something from your response as well. Both can affect the clay. The image of the hot clay blowing off and into an eye is not one that is pretty--having said that, it is a reality.

 

I like your reminder about the water. Soooo, soooo important.

 

I will check beyond this store to see if there are others locally that are higher end models that have temperatures higher.

 

I do appreciate your honesty in saying (and here I do hope I am summarizing your ideas correctly) that in reality, both are really not good for the clay.

 

Thank you,

 

Nelly

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Nelly,

You got some great advice and info safety concerns. ALways good things to think about.

Here is another...Tashiko Takeazo (sp) used the NY Times to stiffen up ehr huge thrown pieces. SHe working in an old stone building with high ceilings.

She would crumble up paper and light it, adding more and more paper slowly until the pot was stiff enough for her to add more.

She had little bits of ash flying around as she continued.

This should get a warning "Don't try this at home" message. But it is an example of what potters do as necessity calls.

 

Marcia

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I utilize both all the time in my work. Particularly when doing workshops/demonstrations when I have to show steps that normally might take a whole day or two with "normal drying".

 

I find that the manner in which the two tools dry the clay tends to differ substantially.

 

The heat gun, (and blow driers) because of the large volume of airflow across the clay piece, tends to dry out the surface of the clay more than the interior. This can be useful, particulary when you want surface cracking to happen when you expand from the interior of the form.

 

The propane torch (rapidly) heats the clay throughout, and causes moisture to migrate from the interior of the clay wall outward toward the surface as well as drying the surface. I find it is a far more even drying of the work.

 

Like every tool, you need to work with it for a while to learn how to really utilize it effectively.

 

Jut about every tool can be dangerous. A simple pin tool can stab you. A thin metal rib when used in throwing can suddenly turn into a revolving slicing knife blade if it jams into the clay. A little care with the torch or the heat gun and they can be used pretty safely.

 

best,

 

.....................john

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Building on Marcia's comments........

 

Potters in Japan and Korea historically and currently regularly use a brasier (metal or ceramic) full of burning charcoal that they lower into the interiors of large tataki (paddle building) for ms thaey are making to stiffen the lower levels of the large forms. This idea is not new at all.

 

best,

 

 

..................john

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Nelly,

You got some great advice and info safety concerns. ALways good things to think about.

Here is another...Tashiko Takeazo (sp) used the NY Times to stiffen up ehr huge thrown pieces. SHe working in an old stone building with high ceilings.

She would crumble up paper and light it, adding more and more paper slowly until the pot was stiff enough for her to add more.

She had little bits of ash flying around as she continued.

This should get a warning "Don't try this at home" message. But it is an example of what potters do as necessity calls.

 

Marcia

 

 

 

Dear Marcia,

 

Now that is very, very cool. It does make sense as well. You gently warm the pot up until it can take higher temperatures--all without the fancy gadgetry we have today.

 

Thank you for this great story.

 

I will remember it but won't try it! ;)

 

Nelly

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I utilize both all the time in my work. Particularly when doing workshops/demonstrations when I have to show steps that normally might take a whole day or two with "normal drying".

 

I find that the manner in which the two tools dry the clay tends to differ substantially.

 

The heat gun, (and blow driers) because of the large volume of airflow across the clay piece, tends to dry out the surface of the clay more than the interior. This can be useful, particulary when you want surface cracking to happen when you expand from the interior of the form.

 

The propane torch (rapidly) heats the clay throughout, and causes moisture to migrate from the interior of the clay wall outward toward the surface as well as drying the surface. I find it is a far more even drying of the work.

 

Like every tool, you need to work with it for a while to learn how to really utilize it effectively.

 

Jut about every tool can be dangerous. A simple pin tool can stab you. A thin metal rib when used in throwing can suddenly turn into a revolving slicing knife blade if it jams into the clay. A little care with the torch or the heat gun and they can be used pretty safely.

 

best,

 

.....................john

 

 

Dear John,

 

I knew you'd know this question John. Given that I am not after the sodium silicate cracking but rather simple adhesion of two say short cylinders I went for the cheap but highest rated gun.

 

I like how you are able to say it penetrates the clay more deeply making a more even drying of the vessel. Important information. That is exactly the techno stuff I wanted to know.

 

Right now, I think I will stick with this heat gun and advance to the torch maybe next summer. Call it graduated learning.

 

And yes, you are absolutely right. Any tool can be hazard.

 

Grinding machines sitting on tables not locked down or screwed into place are one of my pet peeves.

 

Thank you so much,

 

Nelly

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Hi Nelly,

 

I didn't mean to give the impression I think torches or heat guns are bad for the clay. I use BOTH and I can't imagine throwing without my heat gun. I almost never set anything aside to dry. I dry a mug with the heat gun while on the wheel then put a handle on it before getting up from the wheel. I dry a bowl enough to be flipped over and trimmed. When making large bowls or tall bottles, it important to be able to "freeze" the clay with a heat gun just when I've pulled it a little beyond where it would collapse without freezing it with the heat gun. If anyone wants to take away my heat gun they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

 

I often make fun of people here who are too safety-conscious so, the only reason I mentioned safety concerns in response to your post was that you have a cheap heat gun. Now, maybe for 14 bucks you lucked out and got a great gun, but there are guns that are so cheaply made that they are not only a waste of money but are unsafe, short out, shock the user, catch on fire, etc. You don't want that to happen anytime, but especially when you're working with water. Also, to have one that works as well or better than a torch it has to heat up to 950F.

 

Jim

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Hi Nelly,

 

I didn't mean to give the impression I think torches or heat guns are bad for the clay. I use BOTH and I can't imagine throwing without my heat gun. I almost never set anything aside to dry. I dry a mug with the heat gun while on the wheel then put a handle on it before getting up from the wheel. I dry a bowl enough to be flipped over and trimmed. When making large bowls or tall bottles, it important to be able to "freeze" the clay with a heat gun just when I've pulled it a little beyond where it would collapse without freezing it with the heat gun. If anyone wants to take away my heat gun they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

 

I often make fun of people here who are too safety-conscious so, the only reason I mentioned safety concerns in response to your post was that you have a cheap heat gun. Now, maybe for 14 bucks you lucked out and got a great gun, but there are guns that are so cheaply made that they are not only a waste of money but are unsafe, short out, shock the user, catch on fire, etc. You don't want that to happen anytime, but especially when you're working with water.

 

Jim

 

 

Dear Jim,

 

Please know your points were all well taken. Know that I used my new gun this afternoon. I threw a big piece on what I would call the thinner side. I heard your voice as I removed my water pail to another location. I plugged it in my grounding surge bar (you know the one you use with a computer), started it on low and climbed slowly. It developed what John suggested earlier "a skin." This is exactly what I wanted. I then went back a few hours later and put on some slips on this slowly formed skin layer.

 

So yeah, know I did hear you. And I do think your advice is important. I did not misread you. I knew you meant it with a sense of caution.

 

In order to read about this topic I went into the file section of the forum and saw that it had not been discussed. I do hope I did the right search. I think given that we see lots of people use them in demonstrations, I am not sure the average person really thinks about it in their home studio. Like me, they just go and buy one and hit the clay. I thought, maybe I should just investigate this to anticipate what could happen with this application.

 

So again, do know Jim, I heard your voice and moved my water when I started my gun today. ;)

 

Nelly

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This is advice that comes from working around jewelers, and using both heat guns and torches: Keep it moving and even. Fluid back and fourth movements, evenly heating whatever you're heating.

 

Ignoring the protests of my ceramics professor, I've started using porcelain. It's wonderful to work with, and the heat gun makes it even better. I've kept pots that I knew were goners because of the heat gun.

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This is advice that comes from working around jewelers, and using both heat guns and torches: Keep it moving and even. Fluid back and fourth movements, evenly heating whatever you're heating.

 

Ignoring the protests of my ceramics professor, I've started using porcelain. It's wonderful to work with, and the heat gun makes it even better. I've kept pots that I knew were goners because of the heat gun.

 

 

Thank you Avaviel for your response. I have not worked in porcelain for a long time. I do however, recall it can be tricky. So I can appreciate how you would appreciate the use of the gun in this circumstance with pots that as you said were potential "goners." I find that too and I am working right now, this week with stone ware. I am trying to throw the biggest bowls possible. My last had a mouth that was about 18 inches across. So the heat gun worked in keeping it solid and upright before I applied the slip. The slip then went on smoothly after it sat up for a few hours absorbing the heat from the gun. Now, I will dry it slowly under wrap. We will see how it all works out but so far it is a more rapid way of approaching large forms from collapsing then the old fan method.

 

Nelly

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We have both a heatgun and a hairdryer at the studio. Strangely, I prefer the hairdryer for my clay work. I am impatient, and normally use the dryer to shrink and harden work so I can remove them from the molds. But the heatgun is best when I need to spray glaze onto an item that has been glazed too thin (and been glaze fired). Spraygun in one hand, heatgun in other, work on banding wheel spinning = quick application of glaze on a previously glazed area.

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Not that I have followed this advice , but you can increase the safety of using an electric heat gun at the wheel by utilizing either a GFCI receptacle or a stand alone GFCI protective device. When I am using the heat gun at the wheel, it is not so much the danger of dropping it into water as the moisture on my hands while gripping the handle that makes me wonder about the safety of that act. Perhaps that coating of clay on the handle is a good insulator?

 

I occasionally use a propane torch (used it a lot before getting the heat gun) and sometimes had issues with oxygen starvation while drying the interior side, ala Stephen Hill. I find the heat gun vastly superior to the torch on the inside of a pot as it nevers goes out from using up the available oxygen in the interior. If you can find a way to prop it up and blowing into the slowly rotating pot on the wheel with a fan blowing on the outside, you can dry a pot while doing some other activity.

 

The propoane torch is very portable making it good to take to work outside the studio, or where electrical outlets are few.

 

John

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I'd think that any heat gun no matter the price (in the USA at least) has to conform to safety standards so unless you are swimming with it the danger of shock should be pretty low if even non-existant.

 

The price should only effect the durability/lengetivity. You are just as likely to get shocked if you drop an expensive one in the same bucket of water.

 

----

I've only used a hairdryer in the studio myself and it tends to work fine. Have used it to dry/stack several pieces so far.

 

We also have a heat gun but I'd have to go unplug it, bring it back... The hair dryer is right behind me on the wall.

One concern with the heat gun, I guess someone in the past set one down on the plastic wheel basin and melted it. More likely to happen with heat gun or torch. Also more likely to burn yourself.

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I'd think that any heat gun no matter the price (in the USA at least) has to conform to safety standards so unless you are swimming with it the danger of shock should be pretty low if even non-existant.

 

The price should only effect the durability/lengetivity. You are just as likely to get shocked if you drop an expensive one in the same bucket of water.

 

----

I've only used a hairdryer in the studio myself and it tends to work fine. Have used it to dry/stack several pieces so far.

 

We also have a heat gun but I'd have to go unplug it, bring it back... The hair dryer is right behind me on the wall.

One concern with the heat gun, I guess someone in the past set one down on the plastic wheel basin and melted it. More likely to happen with heat gun or torch. Also more likely to burn yourself.

 

 

Dear Rebel Rocker,

 

Now that is scary...burning a hole in the plastic wheel basin?? I can see it happening though...someone lost in thought or not paying attention. This too will serve as a good reminder for me regarding the safe handling of the gun. The last thing I want is any fires, burnt bowls or shocking while using this gadgetry.

 

But I have to admit, after using the gun for the last few days, it does make my throwing skills look ammmmmmazing. I can reach heights I only dreamed of before.

 

Thank you one and all for your replies.

 

Nellie

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Nelly,

You got some great advice and info safety concerns. ALways good things to think about.

Here is another...Tashiko Takeazo (sp) used the NY Times to stiffen up ehr huge thrown pieces. SHe working in an old stone building with high ceilings.

She would crumble up paper and light it, adding more and more paper slowly until the pot was stiff enough for her to add more.

She had little bits of ash flying around as she continued.

This should get a warning "Don't try this at home" message. But it is an example of what potters do as necessity calls.

 

Marcia

 

 

Soooo...with bits of burning paper inside the vessel, how did she stick her hands inside to build up the walls? Or did she wait for the paper to burn out before continuing?

 

Not to digress, but I'm curious about the logistics of such a technique -- and it's purely academic, since I'd NEVER try that in my wood-all-around studio!!!

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Nelly,

You got some great advice and info safety concerns. ALways good things to think about.

Here is another...Tashiko Takeazo (sp) used the NY Times to stiffen up ehr huge thrown pieces. SHe working in an old stone building with high ceilings.

She would crumble up paper and light it, adding more and more paper slowly until the pot was stiff enough for her to add more.

She had little bits of ash flying around as she continued.

This should get a warning "Don't try this at home" message. But it is an example of what potters do as necessity calls.

 

Marcia

 

 

Soooo...with bits of burning paper inside the vessel, how did she stick her hands inside to build up the walls? Or did she wait for the paper to burn out before continuing?

 

Not to digress, but I'm curious about the logistics of such a technique -- and it's purely academic, since I'd NEVER try that in my wood-all-around studio!!!

 

 

 

Dear All,

 

I recall doing something that while not entirely similar it does present the same type of idea. I was in a head sculpting course in Mendocino. It was a guuuureat class. We made marionettes and head sculptures. We did some raku firing for the marionettes and did some terra sig. on the heads. I remember after the heads were bisque fired we each put our sculpture in metal garbage cans, added some gas or ligher fluid and fed it paper. It was, I am guessing, sort of like a smoke fire technique. If you have pryomaniac tendencies this is definitely the way to go.

 

It is similar to the description Marcia gave in that we fed these buckets pieces of paper but it was on the outside of the vessel. Pieces of cartoon strips and colored magazines were used to fuel the fire with the hopes that some of the color would transfer to the heads created. In this instance, all we had to do was wait for the heads to cool after the fire extinguished completely before removing from the bucket. Sorry to digress...but it is a great memory.

 

Nelly

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Newspaper is fed into the fire until the potter judges that the residual heat energy is sufficient to dry the form as needed. The the fire is allowed to burn out. Work can continue when the clay is cool enough to touch.

 

Years and years ago I saw her do this inside a high celinged commercial space... and set off the fire alarm system from the smoke. ;)src="http://ceramicartsdaily.org/community/public/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif">

 

best,

 

.............................john

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I use both a hair dryer and a torch at work. The hair dryer is mounted on a microphone stand and can be adjusted. I use it for larger pieces and I use the torch for smaller pieces and when my lids don't quite fit (who said that!). I'll use the hair dryer when I can do some other work (like waxing) and shift it as needed to cover the piece. I tend to prefer the torch, thanks John! now I know why!

 

Joel.

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