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liambesaw

Pug mill alternatives?

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Welp, I've got about 500 lbs of reclaim (two large husky garbage cans) and I really hate to wedge it all by hand.  Anyone had any luck with some other method?  I can't spend 2800 bucks on the world's cheapest vacuum mill, and there's nothing local for the past year (well, nothing under 2800 bucks anyway).  I have a large 5 gallon vacuum chamber I can use to deair clay, but to mix it thoroughly it has to be fairly wet and it takes forever to dry to the point where I can wedge it.  I'm down to my last 400lbs of boxed clay and need to start using the recycled stuff soon.  

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3 hours ago, LeeU said:

Sad story, such a very sad story. :(  I loathe rehydrating/reclaiming & any wedging at any time.  I have a few puny 5 gallon buckets of concrete hard clay, which will probably sit there forever. 

 

Exactly haha.  I take some out and smear it on plaster but I can only do about 25 lbs a week with our humidity here.  I could pour more plaster slabs but I don't have enough room.  

Was hoping there was some crazy diy contraption people use.  Guess not, haha.  

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You don't need to de-air your clay in the vacuum chamber if you are still planning to wedge it. Wedging is a mixing and de-airing process.

Even if you had a pugmill, you need to get the slop to the right moisture content before pugging. So you can still only process as much as your plaster/climate parameters can handle. The pugmill only saves you the effort of wedging. Which is a significant savings in terms of wear and tear, but it still takes work and a disciplined system to keep up with the reclaim. 

I wrote a column for CM last year that details my reclaiming process. I can process 40 lbs at a time without needing extra space. It's done by stacking up a tower of plaster slabs. This does not require a pugmill. The reclaimed clay needs to be either wedged or pugged before using it again. But again, the key to my method is to not accumulate more than 40lbs of slop before processing it. 

https://www.goodelephant.com/uploads/3/5/9/2/3592345/rhee_dec18cm.pdf

You might be better off throwing out your 500 lbs of reclaim, because it might be impossible to process it all now. Clay is cheap, so it's not that big of a deal. Start over with a small slop bucket and keep up with it all the time. 

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Five hun' pounds, wow!

Make friends with a pugmill owner - give them a hun' pounds and leave it clean when you're done?

I'm reclaiming three to four gallons at a time - slake in a five gallon bucket; mix, wait, mix, wait ...in same bucket (half inch drill moter+grout mixer); when it peaks like a meringue (days in summer, a few weeks in winter - what's the hurry?), hand out onto plaster slabs, waait; turn and wedge each lump periodically until just a bit wetter than ideal; bag it. From there, wedge, wedge, wedge before use - doesn't take long to dry up just a bit more... no doubt your current (deferred) procedure is similar. If you start with a smallish batch - perhaps as much as you have plaster slabs for - and keep at it, you'll whittle it down.

What I'm curious 'bout, do you keep the various clays separate, or lump'm all together?

Oooh, how long it takes to dry down from slake slurry to final wedge would be much longer where you are, hmm. I'm using large cake pan plaster slabs, over two inches thick - not much surface area on the sides, hence set on 1"x1"s to allow air to circulate underneath seems key (faster, and else there's damp shelving and mold!). Any chance you can set your slabs in living space, up high where warmest?

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2 hours ago, GEP said:

Even if you had a pugmill, you need to get the slop to the right moisture content before pugging. So you can still only process as much as your plaster/climate parameters can handle. The pugmill only saves you the effort of wedging.

I've got a Bailey mixer/pugmill, I dump in dry greenware, slop from the splashpan, leatherhard, basically clay of any moisture content that hasn't been fired and churn it up in the mix setting for about 5 minutes. If it's too dry then I add water and let it slake for about 10 minutes then mix for about 10 minutes. When it's ready to pug I turn on the vacuum and it's done. Roughly 25 minutes from start to finish. If anybody is thinking of getting a pugger then I really would recommend looking at the mixer/pugger types.

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If I had a pugmill, my idea was to pug as I go instead of putting it all in a bucket.  Most of what I scrap is large flopped pieces, trimmings and things I destroyed while trimming so it's all fairly close to the right moisture from the getgo, I add water and blunge with a drywall mud mixer to get it consistent.

@Hulk I use mainly one clay, so this is probably 90% my red clay, with some small scraps of porcelain and yellow stoneware mixed in.  Once it's all mixed together it seems fine.

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7 hours ago, liambesaw said:

Most of what I scrap is large flopped pieces, trimmings and things I destroyed while trimming so it's all fairly close to the right moisture from the getgo, I add water and blunge with a drywall mud mixer to get it consistent.

If you are mostly using one clay, the blunging is not necessary. It takes a lot of water to make the slop loose enough to blunge. You only need to add enough water to rehydrate the leatherhard parts. It will reach the right consistency a lot faster. Then wedge. Wedging will easily incorporate the small scraps of different clay. 

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38 minutes ago, GEP said:

If you are mostly using one clay, the blunging is not necessary. It takes a lot of water to make the slop loose enough to blunge. You only need to add enough water to rehydrate the leatherhard parts. It will reach the right consistency a lot faster. Then wedge. Wedging will easily incorporate the small scraps of different clay. 

Was mostly doing it to mix the throwing sludge fines back in.  I guess I should just be more prudent with wedging my disasters right away.

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40 minutes ago, GEP said:

If you are mostly using one clay, the blunging is not necessary. It takes a lot of water to make the slop loose enough to blunge. You only need to add enough water to rehydrate the leatherhard parts. It will reach the right consistency a lot faster. Then wedge. Wedging will easily incorporate the small scraps of different clay. 

Was mostly doing it to mix the throwing sludge fines back in.  I guess I should just be more prudent with wedging my disasters right away.

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5 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

Was mostly doing it to mix the throwing sludge fines back in.  I guess I should just be more prudent with wedging my disasters right away.

Yes, you definitely need the fines from the sludge. But they don’t need to be blunged in. They can be wedged in. 

I use a bucket of throwing water for several days, until it becomes too thick for throwing, then toss it in the slop bucket. I usually add a little more water from the sink, but just a little. My trimmings are usually bone dry before I add the throwing water. 

Flopped thrown pots can be smushed out on a plaster batt, then rewedged in a hour or so. I sometimes do that because I try to pug only as much clay that I need for one day. If I flop a large pot, I will need to reuse the clay in order to finish that day’s to-do list. 

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I started a pottery business in 2002, and bought my pugmill in 2007. You can get by for a while with elbow grease. You are aware of how much they cost, so start putting aside money from your pottery sales as a “pugmill fund.” The day you come home with the pugmill you paid for in cash will be a big day. 

Edited by GEP

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@liambesaw, are any of your shelves wire racking of any kind? If they are, they can be turned into temporary drying racks with the use of an old bedsheet. I don't use plaster because I don't really have the space for molds of any kind in my studio. To dry out reclaim slurry, I have one shelf on my wire racks that does the job, and goes back to regular shelf service as needed. 

 

(Pardon the poorly lit image. I don't have a good way of getting a nice shot in this particular corner.)

image.jpeg

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It takes about the same amount of time that plaster does, but you don’t have saturated bats needing to dry out. You can do a whole bunch at once if you need. I tend to keep it to one shelf at a time, or stagger laying it out a bit so I’m not having to wedge a hundred pounds of reclaim because it’s all ready on the same day. 

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4 minutes ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

It takes about the same amount of time that plaster does, but you don’t have saturated bats needing to dry out. You can do a whole bunch at once if you need. I tend to keep it to one shelf at a time, or stagger laying it out a bit so I’m not having to wedge a hundred pounds of reclaim because it’s all ready on the same day. 

I have a Costco bin of clay that is waiting to be wedged too, that's always a fun project when I have some angst to get out.  Can't do it at night though, all the cutting and slamming is too loud.  Gonna give the sheet a shot, that could be a nice quick way.

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If you want to avoid cut and slam, I usually cover the slab with that excess bit of sheet hanging down, so the edges dry at the same rate as the middle. It’s a good idea to pull it off while it’s still in that too soft to work with but isn’t too sticky to wedge stage and make it into arches to finish. Easier on the wrists too. 

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Dannon Rhudy suggested decades ago on Clayart, to tie jean legs win a knot, hang on a clothes line and fill with slop and Ley it dry. 

I try to keep up with my porcelain slop and add some of Glaze Nerd's additive to restore plasticity. (recipe is the studio)Then I dry pn plaster slabs or in large plaster bowl forms.

I also like to use the wet tee shirt soaking system for softening hard clay (found on youtube)  and the softening of hard bagged pugged clay by putting the bag in a 5 gallon buckets, add a 1/2 cup od water and tie the bag shut and let it sit for a day or two. If it needs more water, do it again.

I live in Montana , far away from most suppliers. Shipping is expensive. It pays to manage the clay and recycling. Shipping costs are equal to the cost of clay.

Marcia

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Schedule a quantity per week that you can manage.  Pillow slips are good as a manageable size.

I tend to manage as I go along vur when my clay time is compromised I NEED to make and then I deal with my clay varh.

Wedging slamming cutting etc a good warm up to a potting session. Get's you right into the feel of your clay

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How long did it take to accumulate the 500 lbs? Isn't that a couple hundred bucks of clay? When I first started throwing having our pug mill was fantastic because I just cut everything in half and toss with zero regard for clay so it was cool for learning. I would put a calculator to it to make sure it makes sense to buy one over just tossing the clay though if it takes a long time to build up much scrap. They also take up studio space and in a smallish studio that matters. 

Of course if you are just not the type that can toss the clay then a pug mill makes more sense then trashing your wrist :-)

Edited by Stephen

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6 minutes ago, Stephen said:

How long did it take to accumulate the 500 lbs? Isn't that a couple hundred bucks of clay? When I first started throwing having our pub mill was fantastic because I just cut everything in half and toss with zero regard for clay so it was cool for learning. I would put a calculator to it to make sure it makes since to buy one over just tossing the clay though if it takes a long time to build up much scrap. They also take up studio space and in a smallish studio that matters. 

Of course if you are just not the type that can toss the clay then a pug mill makes more sense then trashing your wrist :-)

Since February, it's about 100 dollars of clay. once it starts raining again I'll be putting it in a 250 gallon stock tank to slake and decided I'll foot wedge it once it's ready.

Edited by liambesaw

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