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Gutrug

Soaking Moisture - Bisque

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Hello everyone. I'm into formiculture. The study of ants with formicariums. And looking into creating clay nests. Ant formicariums need to be able to soak moisture into its body and currently for small starting set ups I use bisque in glazed tiles. After many years of people setting up nests and so on, the bisque ceramic seems to be the best sturdy and mold resistant material we can use. Except a tile is no ideal set up. My girlfriend is a ceramicist part time. We have a kiln and studio so no problems creating anything. What I would like to know is what clay after a bisque firing soak's moisture better? And perhaps even lining the tunnels or chambers to have less moist areas? Any help will be greatest appreciated

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after bisque firing the clay does not dissolve back to its natural state. It has gone through a transformation. It is still porous and will absorb moisture. It can also mold. 

Cant't quite undersatand how you would line tunnels with bisqued pieces unless you were extruding tubes that you would somehow insert.

 

Marcia

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Earthenware clay bodies typically have high absorption percentages.  You can find absorption rates on the clay body manufacture's website or get them from your clay supplier.  But any clay body, fired to only a bisque stage, will be porous and absorptive.  Clay becomes non-absorbent or vitrified when fired to maturity at a higher temperature.  You can also lower bisque temperatures to leave the clay even more porous -- rather than bisque firing to cone 05/04, you could fire to only 09/08/07.  How low depends on how much manipulation/handling of the bisque item you need to do; at 05/04, the bisque can be handled with care and has a fair rigidity.  At lower bisque temperatures (09/08/07), the bisque will be softer and more susceptible to damage from handling. 

 

Using a paper clay (earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain based) might give you more options for forming/joining and making tunnels.

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Thanks ever so much for your help. My girlfriend uses porcelain a lot so sounds like a good start. By lining I mean using two clays that might have different porous levels, that way before firing I can blend in another clay within the middle area to have less moisture. This allows me to see areas the ants choose depending on the level of moisture to hold there lava and pupae. Food stores areas need to be in a relatively dry area in order to stop fungal growth. Acrylic nests with a damp sponge in a chamber is usually the best possible way to go without risking mold. But I'm trying to figure if creating a ceramic bisque nest would work and giving a more natural feel. The challenge would be more getting the thickness correct so it didn't explode on me, and warping as it needs to have a flat top for a sheet glass to lay upon, so the ants cannot escape but I can see the work. Basically I'm having to make what looks like a minature maze for a ant colony to live in lol

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Gutrug,

Porcelain is really designed for firing to a high temperature and becoming very vitrified.

As already said, the best bet would be earthenware, though your girlfriend may not like you for that, as it will easily stain the whiteness of porcelain.

The biggest effect on porosity is the firing temperature, and it goes down pretty quickly as you fire above 1000C. Perhaps make up some test pieces and fire to different temperatures - depending on how your girlfriend works, she may be happy to adjust the bisque temperature up or down and put your test pieces in with hers. If you make them all the same size then you can weigh them, soak them in water for a while (the official tests say 24 hours, but for comparative purposes an hour is plenty).

A big advantage of low firing is that you can easily work the fired clay with power tools, with a bit of care as it is quite brittle, so you could make pieces of different porosity, then if necessary flatten the faces to make them fit together well - but wear a good dust mask.

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gutrug, if you want to make the maze easily, try getting whatever clay you decide to use very wet.  then make a slab about 3/4 inches thick and draw your hand through the clay pressing down deeply into the clay to make grooves that your ants can use as highways.  a weighted board on top will make the whole thing flat so your glass will lie down tightly.

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