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What Is The Best Way To Store Local Clay For A Year Or Two?

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What is the best way to store the clay I am extracting for a year or two?

 

If the clay is kept wet will it grow sour smelling?  Maybe a strange question but wet clay from about a month ago may be smelling bad.  Is there a preservative I can add while the clay is still liquid?

 

Will adding vinegar to the clay soup result in more elastic clay?

 

The rest is about what I am doing and how I am doing it.  So feel free to stop here.

 

Howard

 

I have been processing my local soil to make green sand for sand casting.  The green sand is 80% sand and 20% clay.   Our soil is closer to 80% clay and 20% sand so I am getting a fail amount of clay as a byproduct.  Not sure but I think it would be classified as brown earthenware clay.

 

The clay become elastic if you work it a while.  I made a small clay cup a bit smaller than a shot glass and placed it on top the burnout oven while melting aluminum, dried not fired.  It seems to be quite strong.  That's all I know about the clay.

 

Currently I have at least 100 lbs or more of the clay.    I will end up with much more if I save all the clay from the rest of my processing.  In time I may make tiles or pavers from the clay.   Thinking a wood fired kiln but that is not going to happen this summer.   Once I have a kiln I may try my hand at throwing pots.  Depends on the muse. 

 

The following details how I am processing the soil to get clay and green sand.

 

The greensand is made by tumbling earth with water in a concrete mixer.  The liquid is strained with a colander to remove the chunks and placed in a tub with a tap. 

 

The mixture is agitated to get the clay in suspension, the sand rapidly settles and the clay solution is run off though the tap. The tap has an upward facing elbow so I can select a stand pipe tall enough to leave the sand behind.  The mixtures runs through a window screen on its way to a 2nd tub.

 

The clay in the 2nd tub is left to settle overnight.  The next day I open a tap similar to that on the 1st tub and drain off the water.  After a few days the clay in this 2nd tub is dumped into another tub where the water evaporates.  When the clay get solid enough to mound up I move it to the sealed trash bag.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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Slurry can get pretty stinky and nasty and turn black, but moist workable clay shouldn't smell like that. It will get moldy, but should smell earthy, not sour. I wouldn't add anything to it, as the aging process will increase its plasticity and workability.

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If you want to keep the wet clay from smelling, leave it open to the atmosphere in a open bucket or in a container made from cement blocks stacked together, or large terra cotta flower pots.  If it has a way to drain and breathe, then clay will react pretty much the same way as the soil in a flower pot that has no plant in the pot. 
 
Keeping reclaimed soil bundled in plastic generally brings about anaerobic growth that typically produces an unpleasant perfume.  Sometimes the odor can be somewhat controlled with small amounts of chlorine bleach. 
 
I keep my locally harvested clay stored dry in plastic buckets and boxes.  The rest resides in the bottom of my ponds. (I only dig clay when the ponds are dry).
 
Your process for winning of sand from the clay is consistent with industrial processes. 

 
LT

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If you lived in a cold climate, allowing it to freeze and thaw helps it age. it may require plugging after the thaws to diminish the layering that freezing can cause. I would store it dry as Magnolia mud suggests. Less work to get it prepared when you need it.

Marcia

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Thanks for the info.    So maybe line plastic milk crates with landscape fabric.  The fabric breathes but doesn't rot.   Once the blocks hold their shape I can remove them along with the fabric and make more.

 

Drying would be an option but I am unclear on how one rehydrates it and if any of the plasticity gained from aging remains.  I  tried grinding it in a mortar and pestle and it was difficult. 

 

Howard

 

EDIT:  Curious about storing clay dry.   How is this done.  Does it have to be powered prior to use or can you just dump a dry brick into a bucket of water?

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The clay I have in storage was dug 10+ years ago when the ponds were dry and clay was need for a house foundation.  I simply took several wheel barrow loads of lumps and crumbs and placed in five gallon buckets.  These were crushed and screened to pass a double layer of window screen.  Some was crushed further in a homemade rod mill using large 1 gallon size paint cans.  Took about 2 minutes to make powder in the dry clay.  When I use it now, it is mostly for thick slip or as additive to commercial clay bodies. Wet it and allow to sit, then wedge or pug. 

 

Some was washed and allowed to sit in a flower pot to settle, drain, and 'dry'.  It never completely dried.  About a year later it was moist but stiff.  A little water and wedging became plastic.  It is a sandy red clay that is still porous at cone 10 (pores similar to normal bisque ware).  It needs some additional feldspar or other material to be used at cone 10 and lower and to improve plasticity.    

Terra sig made with it will mature at cone 10 to a smooth red if burnished. About 5-10 pct by volume mixed with cone 10 porcelain produces a nice reddish tint. 

 

I store dry because it is dry, and a five gallon buck of dry clay is easily moved.  5 gallons of wet clay requires a dolly to be moved.

 

lt

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Thanks MMR.

 

Dry does seem to make sense.    I have a cubic foot  block that is solid enough to mostly support its own weight..  I am thinking of making some or all into 6x6 inch tiles.  The dry tiles will be easy to store and move.  And I have the option of rehydrating the clay or firing the tiles some time down the road.  

 

Howard

 

 

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If you're storing it for several years before you touch it, I'd say you're better off storing it dry, not wet.  In dry form you have tons of options - stick it in your lined crates, in buckets, bag it up, leave it in a pile on the side of the yard, whatever's clever

 

When you're ready to think about starting up your project, simply mix it with water and let it sit for a week or two to get more plastic.  It's not like you're using clay body from a fine-tuned recipe that promotes max plasticity, you're using natural clay from the ground and it sounds to me like you don't really know ceramics yet - so to me it makes no real sense to try and store it wet and maximize plasticity through aging.  But if you were storing it wet, I've simply used 5-gal buckets in the past.  Seal up well to hold moisture and small enough to still be able to move it when full.

 

Good luck!

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Mark there is some merit in what your saying but the refining is best done when its hot out.  90F+ speeds up the evaporation big time.  The barrier to entry will be a lot lower if I have the clay on hand.  Maybe start  sooner.

 

Perkolator. like that name.   You are correct.   Decades ago when I studied art ceramics was a few doors down, but I only spent about an hour at the wheel.   Now that I am retired I would like to give it a go.  Having the clay makes it that much less of a pipe dream.  With luck I will end up with a pottery kiln for melting metal and there's no reason not to use it for clay.  It will get a Arduino and thermocouple so I can program firing schedules.    A wheel is only a treadmill away.

 

One of my current projects is casting plaques for our local museum.  It might be fun to do some of them in clay,  The senior center has a kiln.  Maybe I can use it if I get to the point to where I understand this clay better.  I have visions of it melting and ruining my oven..  That would be another thread if I go that route.

 

Yesterday a local well driller dropped off 100lbs of bentonite.

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