Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
dabuttery

Want To Make An Absorbent Drink Coaster

Recommended Posts

Hello all.

As part of an effort to launch a small home-based business, I'm in the process of designing and building a themed drink coaster. I've identified specific needs for the base of this coaster and I'm considering using ceramic to meet those needs. As I have no experience working with ceramics or clay, I was hoping to describe what I want to accomplish and solicit your advice.

Each coaster will consist of two primary components- a thin concrete upper portion and a (potentially) thin ceramic base, with a piece of cork glued under the ceramic for tabletop protection. I've been working on the concrete part of this for several weeks and have about got that where I want it, so now I'm considering the base. I considered cork for the entire base but it's not really as sturdy as I want, and could potentially come apart in chunks, and wood is going to react poorly to repeated exposure to dripping condensation from mugs/cans/bottles, etc.

The outline of the ceramic would mimic (and be larger than) the outline of the concrete piece; think of the outline of letters that form a word, so it won't be a simple square or circle.

In addition, there would be a recessed area in the ceramic for the concrete top to set into. This 'nesting' will help support a somewhat brittle concrete shape. The thick outer portion of the ceramic would be 1/4" thick and the recessed inner area would be ~ 1/8" thick.

I want a material for the base that will be rigid, absorbent, dark gray / black (to provide contrast to the light color of the concrete) and something I can work with in my basement without requiring space for a bunch of new equipment. The pieces would be kiln-fired by some local vendor.

I'm supposing this would be similar to creating a flat tile, so it seems like it should work. Some of the questions on my mind are:

What would be the advantages / disadvantages to using pressed clay vs slip poured into an open mold?

What are the steps to making an absorbent ceramic? Is it just leaving out the glaze / firing process at the end? Is there a particular type of clay thay would work best for this?

What's the best way to get the desired dark color?

The recessed area in the finished ceramic piece needs to be exactly the same shape as the concrete piece that sets into it, so how do I factor in clay shrinkage to get to that point?

Any information you can offer to assist me in my endeavor is greatly appreciated!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This sounds very interesting, but unfortunately, trying to walk you through all the variables for making the ceramic portion of your project cannot be done here on a forum. It's just not that simple. You either need to take some classes to learn how to do this, or work with a ceramics vendor who can handle that part of the project for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dabuttery,

 

Sounds like an interesting concept.

 

While seemingly simple, this ceramic element here is likely more complex than you think.  Particualy if you do not have a ceramics background. For example, I am assuming that to have a glass sitting on it that the ceramic element must be VERY flat.  A rocking glass... even slightly,....... will likely put off most customers.  Ditto on afixing the ceramic to the concrete.  Flat sounds simple........ until you realize how difficult that is to consistently produce inexpensively, to tight tolerances, and in volume runs.

 

What you want is a porous claybody.  Earthenware sounds like the way to go.  Low fired body... maybe in the Orton cone 04 range.  You can start with a white clay body (like a ball clay / talc formulation) and add body stains to get the color you want. (Note that on the talc body... you want to be VERY careful about the source of the talc for that....... much talc contains asbestos contamination).

 

Best bet is more industrial processes for forming..... plastic ram pressing or even dry pressing.  Maybe slip casting or better yet, pressure injection slip casting.  Hand slab techniques or press molding likely will be questionable in results....... too many seconds/wasters.  You are looking at a significant investment in equipment if you try to do this yourself the way you are describing.

 

Find an experienced local ceramist to assist and or handle the manufacturing work of the component. Check with local ceramics education institutions or with the local state craft guild for leads. What you REALLY want is soneone with a more industrial consulting or production background.  Maybe contact ACerS here (look for the Admin guy who posts here called "Sherman") and ask them for a possible more industrial reference in your area.

 

Also.... by openly posting this idea here for "the world" to see...... you are likely going to be seeing copies of the idea propping up really quickly.  Many craftspeople have a hard enough time at the moment with having a well developed product idea getting copied and reproduced (usually offshore) when they sttart showing it at venues.  The better the idea... tha faster it shows up at price points that you simply cannot compete with.  Even if you hold a patent on the idea... you have to have the wherewithall to DEFEND that patent (or design copyright).

 

So a piece of business advice also...... if you have another good idea like this...... if you need to research it... keep the particulars vague enough that you don't give the idea away.  If you need an "expert" in a certain field to assis, get a NDA with them (Non Discosure Agreement) and let them help you directly with the technical aspects.

 

Good luck.

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still working on what a ceramic vendor is?Must be the same a a concrete vendor

Mark

Aren't these machines you put in a quarter, pull a knob, and a mug falls into a tray below?

 

Figuring size and proportions for shrinkage of clay is something a ceramicist can do. We have a process we use where we adjust the final size using a simple algebraic equation to give us the wet clay dimensions. We build to the wet clay dimensions and let evaporation and firing bring the form to the design / final specifications. But, shrinkage rates can vary from one batch of clay to another, so some of the processes John mentioned would yield a more reliable result to tighter tolerances. Plus I believe you can spec acceptance criteria into batches and reject those pieces which fall outside of norms.

 

I heard of a place in DC that does fabrication for proof of concept projects. They're called The Fab Lab, they're suppose to have some cool capabilities. They may be able to build you a prototype. Regardless, John's advice about NDA's is very important, and I would suggest you start by securing your idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  I have a "book of Ideas." The book is a bound thesis booklet.  The pages can not be added or removed.  I date each page as I make an entry and sign each entry at its end. When I have an idea for a new project, I write it in the book, sign and date the entry. This is an ideal way of documenting when you got the idea as compared to someone else getting the idea.  

 

2.  Always get a non disclosure agreement before telling anyone about the project.  

 

3.  If you choose to patent the idea, typically you have to have proof of concept prototype.  Once you file for a patent, you only have a few years to bring your item to the market.   There are firms and vultures who do nothing but review patents that are about to expire.  If they find a good idea and find that the patent holder has not brought the idea to the marketplace, they just wait until the patent is up and they start producing your idea immediately.

 

4.  Sign agreements with anyone with whom you will work.  Make them sign that the idea is yous and they will not take that idea to another company or producer.

 

5.  You need to know that after all you can do to protect yourself, you can still get taken.

 

I have lost $15  million dollars on a project that was documented as mine, NDA were signed, and no compete clauses were signed.  An LLC was formed to protect.  However the lead engineer started his own LLC and shared the idea with Medtronics.  Medtronics is huge, employs hundred of lawyers and had deep enough pockets to buy the engineer's loyalty (for $15 million plus 1% royalty fees), my idea and product.  My small LLC did not have the capital to fight this battle.  They won.

 

Good Luck

 

Jed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your replies.

 

The patent application system in this country changed a few years ago, to a first-to-file basis instead of the first-to-invent basis. When I figure out exactly how to construct this and get a working prototype then I intend to file, and that should help keep a lid on most of the local theft. What I don't think I can control is overseas manufacture of knockoffs, or counterfeit copies. I expect crappy replicas to eventually pop up, so if I create a best-quality product from the get go then I can use that in my marketing efforts. I'm familiar with NDA documents, but hesitate to insist on that in my first post on a new (to me) forum for fear of coming off like an arrogant a** and dousing any chance of cooperation from its members.

 

My idea of gluing a concrete shape onto a ceramic base is an attempt to create a sort of mixed-media drink coaster; it's just something different I want to try.

 

A few new questions:

 

I've discovered that additives are available for making colored slip. Has anyone had success turning out a dark-colored piece after bisque firing?

 

Is a bisque fired piece typically as strong as a finished glazed piece, or is it brittle at that stage?

 

I checked out Fab Lab DC online, but it doesn't appear they offer ceramics prototyping. If any of you do know of someone who does that, please let me know.

 

Not having much luck finding classes in my area other than paint your own piece or pottery on a wheel, neither of which is particularly applicable to what I'm doing, so I'll call a few supply shops and find out what they can share with me.

 

Thanks for your time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are in Colorado.  Contact Jonathan Kaplan in Denver (I think).  He's no longer doing industrial contract molds and manufacturing... he's running a clay gallery and making his own work... but he knows his stuff and likely has contacts in the right circles. 

 

I am having a senior moment and can;t remember the gllwery name right now..... more later.

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The wheel throwing classes will teach you a great deal about clay and the whole process of making ceramic work. While throwing on the wheel may not be directly applicable to your coaster project, the knowledge you gain will help you a great deal. You're not going to find classes on industrial ceramics....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Concerned that an absorbent ceramic is going to fail to do the job of protecting grama's Hepplewhite table ! If it is absorbent, if wet enough it will leak through and ruin the table ... sorta defeats the purpose of a coaster

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This past summer while visiting family in Texas I bought some coasters made from Texas limestone.  Very cool.  Absorb moisture, have 1/4 inch thick felt pads on bottom that keep the coaster off the table.  Had cool looking fossils visible on the surface. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×