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Benzine

Classroom Work Surfaces And Clean Up Materials

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Ever since I started teaching, I have used canvases to cover my classroom tables.  I realize that many here do not like canvases because of the trapped dust, which I fully understand.  The main reason I have used them, is because they are a lightweight option, to keep chunks of clay off the tables.  A little dust may make it through, but some sponging takes care of that.

 

But lately, I've been thinking of trying something different.  I thought of plywood or cement board, which could be temporarily bolted to the tables, when in use.

I know Pres said he used boards that laid over his tables, in his room.  I don't have space to store any rigid covering surface, that is the same size as the tables.  My tables are 47" square.  I did think however, that I could halve or quarter that size, which would give me the space to  store them.  This would also allow some versatility, as sometimes the tables aren't full.  So one students wouldn't have to get a large board out, when they are only using a quarter of the space.

Thoughts?

 

Also, I am looking for something better than my current sponges to clean the tables.  I've tried numerous sponges over the years, and they just break down too fast with our use.  I went away from them and started using synthetic chamois.  Those work great, and just do not break down at all.  However, they are not quite as absorbent as a sponge, which frustrates the students.

Do those thick grouting sponges hold up pretty well?  I've seen potters mention them before, but never tried them myself.

 

Thanks for any suggestions you have.

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I used hardiback for years. Can scrape them off while the clay is still damp, and sponges off easily. Just screwed them to the tabletop with appropriate screws. Nice benefit is that every table is a wedging surface and no slipping.

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That was kind of my though(s) Fred.  My only issue would be, would a cement style board be significantly heavier than a piece of plywood the same size?  Also, how prone is cement board to chipping and breaking if dropped?  It is important to realize, teenagers will be using them...

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We use those large sponges and they do hold up fine. Even cut them up into smaller pieces for wiping glaze off the bottoms of pots. I believe we purchased them at Lowes or Home Depot.

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Weight is about the same. I had mine screwed to the tabletops, so no issues with dropping or chipping, since once attached, they stayed in place.

Used mine in a community college setting with an attached high school. I didn't teach all of the sections, but no breakage in over 8 years.

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I have used canvas for a long time and I recently changed clay bodies again so I pulled it all off. It was pretty dusty under, but like you I always dampen the surface before using it. I have been using plywood top for about a month now and it hasn't been that great. I wouldn't advise just using it. Clay sticks to it pretty easy and I find it to be more trouble cleaning than canvas was. I plan on screwing down some hardibacker board very soon. 

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benzine, you have not told us what kind of sponge you are currently using.  the yellow grout sponges from home depot or lowes vary in quality.  i have been using the single ones for years.  i tried the pack of 3 once but if you buy them, look for ones that have very small, bb size holes, not larger holes.  larger holes tell me that the sponges will not last as long as the ones with tiny holes, they tear easily.  the very best ones i ever bought came from a small tile installation company.  they were about the same price as the single ones at HD, about $2 each and i cut them into 5 pieces.

 

an electric carving knife will let you cut the sponges in thirds, a good size for cleaning surfaces and smaller sizes for wiping edges of pots and working with the clay surface.  or, if nobody objects in the woodworking room, run them through a metal cutting blade on a bandsaw and cut them all at once.  

 

if you also want to use those tiny, circular sponges that the suppliers sell for about a dollar each, go to a store like a farm and feed store and get a dozen for $7.  ask for tack cleaning sponges.

 

if you have a Dollar Tree store, they have a dogbone shaped yellow car washing sponge that is very good, too.  for $1.  i hate the shape so i use the electric knife to fix it.

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Azek  3/8" 4x8 panels. My work tables are covered with this product, fastened with stainless steels screws.

 

Chemical resistant, clay does not bond to it, glaze and stains will not discolor it. (half the weight of plywood)

 

If you gouge it, easily sanded off. Smooth on one side, wood grain on the other ( texturing perhaps?)

 

Been on 8 years, no problems yet. Most lumberyards can order it for you.

 

Nerd

 

In the tile dept at Lowes, you can find grout sponges. Have used them for years.

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I assume you have cabinets under these square work tables. No storage necessary if you cut a 4X4 in half, and hinge it to either side, then it could swing down when not in use with clay and back up when using clay.

 

 

 

just a thought,

 

Pres

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The large yellow car wash sponges at Home Depot. I haven't seen one tare yet. Excellent hydrophilic sponges.

 

I am one of the many people against canvas. But in your situation where the studio is only working with clay for a short while, I think the dust exposure would be pretty minimal if it was soaked in water after the clay session was over. You aren't getting the trapping of dust from prolonged usage.

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Hardiboard? Please explain. South Africa doesn't use the same terms as you do.  Thanks 

 

Be careful with terminology if you plan to buy some, there is also a product called Hardboard (no *i*).

 

Hardiback (Hardibacker) board was suggested, this is a product made for the building trade, if you were creating a new shower room you would want to line the walls with Hardibacker instead of plasterboard.  It has different names depending on who makes it, Aquapanel is another name for it in the UK.

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benzine, you have not told us what kind of sponge you are currently using.  the yellow grout sponges from home depot or lowes vary in quality. 

 

My mistake, I was planning on mentioning my current sponges, and forgot to do so.  The last few years, I have been using yellow 3M multi-purpose sponges.  They are about 5X7X2".  They have rather large "Cells".  Maybe this is why they don't last long.  They lose their elasticity quickly and begin to fall apart.  I just bought them from my art supply company.  I don't recommend them...

 

I assume you have cabinets under these square work tables. No storage necessary if you cut a 4X4 in half, and hinge it to either side, then it could swing down when not in use with clay and back up when using clay.

 

 

 

just a thought,

 

Pres

 

Pres, no cabinets under the tables...  That would be nice though!  They are similar to this:  http://images.hayneedle.com/mgen/master:EAR065.jpg?is=300,300,0xffffff&cvt=jpg

 

They have height adjustable legs, which means they sway, when students wedge, roll out clay, or even erase... The latter issue has lead to students getting vocal with each other, as the erasing leads to the table rocking, while someone else is drawing/ painting.

 

I do want the clay surface to be removable, whether it be wood or cement board.  So, as I mentioned, I would likely drill holes through the boards, and corresponding holes into the tables for bolts/ pins to be dropped into.  Though, I guess that would not be necessary, and it would save me from permanently altering the tables.  

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I buy the roll ends of vinyl floor covering that Home Depot sells. My tables are 48" square and one roll does 2 tables. I staple it on. The backing is smooth which is very nice when doing slab work. No clay powder bouncing up in the air when throwing slabs. We wedge clay in preparation for the wheel on it too. I have 50-70 potters a week using the studio and the covering lasts 3-5 years.

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Benzine-

No table surface is going to eliminate the wobbling issue, however if you want to have a temporary surface, you can take the cement board (hardiback) and cut it into 2'x2' sections. Just screw a 2x2 along one edge to catch the table edge. Think ______I upside down. Easily stored, and one each for light and dark clays.

In my old classroom, the drawing and painting students just worked on the hardiback surface with no ill effects.

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I have tried wood, canvas, hardiboard, etc. for work surfaces for hand building, and prefer to use the large 12 x 18 inch sheets of craft foam that is about 3 mm thick. 

 

The sheets don't stick to the clay; they don't dry clay fast like plaster or hardiboard; they dont't slide around on the table top. 

 

They are easy to clean with a damp wipe, or just wash with water. They are flexible and can be used to support soft slabs when forming the clay around objects. 

 

Large rolls same type foam are used by some flooring installers as underlayment for flooring, but I do not know if Lowe's or HomeDepot carry it.  I just get packages from the craft isle at Walmart or a convenient craft shop.

 

LT
 

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 printers blankets will always be my choice for work surfaces.  cannot be beat for rolling through a slab roller and the back side, rubber, stays in place while handbuilding on the fine cloth top.  if there is an offset printer anywhere near you, just call and ask for old ones.  they are free, might smell a little until you get the old chemicals totally off the rubber part but wonderful to use.  

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Ben,

Those tables are very similar to the first ones I had in my Ceramics classroom. but mine were the lunch room style 8 ft long, and maybe 3ft wide. Wobbly as a rocking chair and end up bowing in the middle like an old horse. The 5th year they replaced them with shop tables with metal cabinets underneath. Bulkier, but much more stable working surfaces. I did buy drawing boards for the Art classes in there so that the drawing had a good firm, smooth surface for fine work.

 

Best,

Pres

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Fred, yeah, nothing I can do about the shakiness of the tables. I have made my peace with that, but the students have not...

So I am just focusing on something I can control, namely the work surface.

 

Pres, I'd like to get some tables like that, it's what I had in my first couple districts. Maybe some day...

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+1 for grout sponges. I cut mine in half with a utility knife because I like the larger size.

The one thing I found that extends sponge life the most is to scrape up that last skim of clay off the table or the wheelhead with a 4" plastic drywall spreader thingy before cleaning the residue off with a sponge.

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benzine, any woodworking shop teachers in your school?  if you show them the rickety nature of your tables could you imagine some help from them or one of them if you are lucky enough to have more than one?

 

(maybe a coffee cup bribe?)

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Oldlady,  the Industrial Tech teacher and I, have helped each other in the past.  But with my tables, there isn't much he can do.  They wobble, not because they are old, or have a screw loose (That's just me...).  They wobble because the legs are adjustable height.  That's great, if you want a multipurpose table, that can be used in a variety of classrooms.  It's bad if because the gap that has to exist between the inner and outer tubes for the legs, is what causes the wobble.  I have thought about jamming something in between the tubes, like a shim of sorts, but I think that would be the extent of the fix.

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i think jamming some 4x4s into the corners after removing the wobbly legs would work very well.  especially if they fit into a skirt that supports the table top, the only thing left of the original table.

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