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How Do You Run Clay Through Your Slab Roller?


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#1 Isculpt

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 10:28 PM

I build my sculptures from slabs and I love my Bailey slab roller.  I'm having a problem getting a large slab without a seam running lengthwise down the middle, and I'm wondering how others do it. I cut a 25 lb block of clay into 1.5" slabs, and then lay out 4 of them in a square and roll them through the Bailey (twice) to get the final 3/8" slabs.  I try to push them together before they go through the slab roller the first time, but I still end up with a weak join running lengthwise down the middle.  I've tried using a mallet to pound the 4 pieces together, but it doesn't seem to make a difference.  I guess if I turned the slab 90 degrees before I ran it through the second time, it would help to smush that seam together, but how do you lift the slab off the canvas and turn it after its first run-through without it tearing apart down that seam??  And for that matter, if you're not supposed to handle the slab without the support of the canvas, how in the world do people turn it 90 degrees before the second pass?

 

Jayne



#2 jrgpots

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 11:32 PM

Can you envelope(sandwich) the clay with a piece of free canvas that would go inside the slab roller's canvas. You could then rotate this envelope 90° after each pass of the slab roller?

Jed

#3 Mark369

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 07:06 AM

Try over lapping them before rolling.


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#4 Wyndham

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 09:20 AM

The other way to make a  larger non seamed slab is to cut your slab thicker and  use a mallet to pre flatten the clay to slab thickness.

A rubber mallet from home depot is about $10.

Cut your clay lengthwise about 3-4 in thick cover the exposed clay with a empty plastic clay bag and beat on it till it's the thickness you want. The other way is to  drop it repeatedly on the floor(have a canvas down first) alternating one side then the other, until it thins out.

Works well for us,

Wyndham



#5 Mark C.

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 10:11 AM

I cut my pugs lengthwise(usually at the 45 corner to corner way) beat one end to a taper and run it thru my power bailey with no seams

I'm not sure why you are cutting so many small pieces?

Mark


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#6 Karen B

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 01:20 PM

As others have said, I use one piece of clay to start with. I just pick it up by the edges with both hands to turn after first roll through. It is thick enough to hold it's shape. Never had any problems from this.

 

I have a Bailey also, and i usually start out with a rather thick slab and work my way down to the thinness I need.



#7 oldlady

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 02:40 PM

part of your answer depends on how thick you want your final slab to be.  I work with slabs all the time, most of them are LESS than 1/4 inch so I can fit them into patterns or shapes.  they are worked soft, not leather hard.

 

my 24 inch bailey works very well, I make slabs that are about 24 inches wide and 30 inches long. my bagged clay is in a rectangle about shoe box size when I get it.  I know Standard Ceramics packages theirs in a cube.  you just have to start with enough clay.

 

I can cut a piece about 1 1/2 inches thick, about twice the thickness of a shoebox lid,  and it will make a large slab.   it helps to have printers blankets instead of just canvas.  bailey's canvas is long, 8 feet and it is the one that goes through the rollers.  if you will get another canvas and put it on the floor, fling the cut clay onto it in a stretching slap to lengthen it, turn it over and do it again.  after 3 or so stretches the clay is about the length that will fit across the table width.  then roll it out with the long side parallel to the rollers. 

 

to remove it, peel the canvas off the top of the clay, replace that side of the canvas and grab the farther edge of the canvas (getting both the top and bottom) in both hands.  then flip and slap the entire thing down so the side you peeled will be on the bottom.  peel the canvas off the top and use the clay to make something beautiful.  you will not stretch the finished slab if you hold it by the canvas.

 

if your clay is very wet, the canvas may stick to the slab when you peel it.  use the side of a yardstick to hold down the wet clay as you peel off the top piece.  a video of this procedure would show how simple this is.

 

if it is not big enough, use more clay the next time.  as already suggested, a pounding with a heavy enough paddle will work.  I find that too hard on my wrists, so I started flinging the clay onto the floor.  adding clay to an already rolled out slab is very chancy.  hope this helps.


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#8 Mark C.

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 04:53 PM

I'm making a dozen to 15 slab fish today that I drape over paper to get them roundy looking.

I only run the clay thru once (no cloth texure on top) I am have never had many issues from this -slaps are a fat 1/4 to 3/8 thick-up to 16 inches long.-I tend to use 1/2 and 1/2 or (all porcelain for small ones)

These fish have cut outs and add ons like wire attachments on back.

My baily has two wheels that compress the clay at once.

Mark


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#9 Isculpt

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 11:31 PM

Wow, that's a wide range of ideas for ways to handle this challenge.  I'm gonna try several to find the one that easiest/best for me.  I don't quite understand the diagonal cut that Mark mentions, but I'd like to.....

 

In answer to Mark's question about why I'm cutting the block into thin slabs, I had a problem last year (and posted about it here) wherein my 30" wide roller table (two cabinets joined together, 72" long overall) began to wriggle apart just enough that the canvas was getting sucked down into the crack between them when I tried to roll canvas and clay through the roller.  I took it all apart and reassembled the two cabinets with much stronger joins between them.

 

Since then I've had no trouble with the tables being pushed apart from the pressure of the slab roller, but I'm afraid that if I send too big a chunk of clay though, it might force the cabinet bases apart again. In the image attached, I'm showing the 25-lb block of clay that i get from Highwater Clay.  Surely no one is suggesting that I try to force that big modacker through those rollers?  How thick a slab should I feel comfortable forcing through my slab roller?

 

Attached is an image of the cabinets as a slabroller table...And yes, I've been told that no serious clay studio uses expensive cherry cabinets for storage, but I was building my studio just as the housing bubble burst 3 years ago. That bust cost me my construction job, but it gave me a studio full of functional and beautiful solid cherry cabinets ... for cheap!!  BTW, that's Mr. Evans and Mrs. Jones bookending the slabroller.....

 

Jayne

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#10 oldlady

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 12:49 PM

send this whole discussion to jim bailey.  he will give you good advice.  jim@baileypottery.com


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#11 jrgpots

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 01:37 PM

If you want to reinforce the joint between the cabinets; allowing you to roll larger masses of clay, consider the following. Harbor freight has 3/4 inch "pipe clamps" for $8.99. Buy two of these clamps. Then buy two 3/4 inch diameter pipes long enough to span the length of the cabinets. Have the shop where you buy the pipe thread one end, then attach the pipe clamps to the threaded ends. Clamp your newly made pipe clamps along the length of the cabinets in front and in back of the cabinets. When the clamps are tightened up, the cabinets will stay together no matter what mass of clay is used. The total cost would be about $50 to $75 depending on the price of your pipe.

I hope I explained my idea well enough to follow.

By-the-way I think you have one of the fanciest studios...very cool.

Jed

#12 Mark C.

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 01:50 PM

Or just take out the drawers and screw some small wood strips to the inside of the carcasses to keep them from spreading-easy quik.Less than 5 minutes with ascrew gun and wood strips.

As far as cutting a pug you can cut it whatever way you like just pound down an edge so the roller grip the clay and it will compress almost any thickness. I tend to cut the pugs in 1/2 which ever width I need long or short.

The rollers will smash down the clay even if its 4" thick-no need to cut it down to size. I think you are working to hard so the machine is not.

It will take a whole pug as long as its a tapered pug.

Mark


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#13 Isculpt

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 04:30 PM

Old Lady, Bailey has been great. It was they who told me that my base was probably the culprit.

 

Jed,  I'm familiar with pipe clamps and you're right; they would hold it together through a tornado. I had screwed the cabinets together as if they were going into a kitchen where they would receive far less stress, so I took them apart after talking to Bailey and did basically what Mark suggested. So far, so good. And thanks for the compliment on my studio. I carved my studio out of an old wood-working shop  that was filled with spiders, dust, junk and mold. Artist and potter friends thought it was a crazy way to furnish a studio, and I'll admit that open shelves and moveable tables are more flexible but hand-rubbed cherry cabinets create a beautiful aesthetic with 50 linear feet of counterspace  and 26 full-extension, self-closing drawers that conveniently organize my mess so that my ADD doesn't distract me when I should be producing sculptures!  With my kiln in the other half of the wood shop, and despite 2 big dogs underfoot, my tiny 350 square foot studio works surprisingly well for me (and my husband when he gets a chance to make a coiled pot or two).

 

Thanks Mark for elaborating on the capabilities of a slab roller. I can seee that you're right:  with me cutting the slabs so thin, the roller doesn't have to work hard enough to smash the slabs together. I'll try larger slabs and hope that I've stabilized the cabinets enough to take the strain.



#14 Pugaboo

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 04:38 PM

You can run a whole 25 lb block of clay through your slab roller you just have to "adjust" the block of clay. My slab roller will do up to a 3 inch thick slab of clay. To get a large slab of clay that takes more than a 3inch slab of clay to start I lay the block on its side so it's longer than it is tall. I then use my rolling pin to wack it along the top this starts to smash down the clay block. I flip the block top to bottom and do that side as well. I do this enough times to get the clay down to 3 inches thick. I then sandwich this with my interfacing and roll down to 1/4 inch. I flip and rotate every time through the roller in 1/2 and then1/4 inch depth increments. If it gets too floppy to flip easily I sandwich the canvas covered slab between 2 pieces of plywood and flip it that way.

Terry
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#15 Isculpt

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 09:59 PM

Thanks, Terry.  Whack it, huh? I can do that!!  Jayne



#16 jrgpots

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 11:23 PM

Just an FYI...your post are always so posative.

Jed

#17 Mark C.

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 11:50 AM

As far as slab roller about 1/2 the time I'm using reclaimed scraps from my peter pugger-they come out in 3 inch logs.

I usually want a slab that is wide so I cut the logs to whatever width I need. I then slap these logs together and then beat them so the leading edge going into the rollers is thin enough to grab. These slabs never come apart as the whole mess is rolled and smashed as it feeds into rollers.

I tend to roll stuff 1/4 to 3/8 a lot so the slabs are 2-3 feet long.

Mark


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#18 Isculpt

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 04:15 PM

Thanks, Mark.  I have a whole new understanding of what's needed to enable a slab roller to properly do its job and turn out a strong slab. My babying the slab roller was hobbling it.






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