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Hello,

Im a self taught potter. Im starting out wheel throwing. Im progressing well but as I attempt new forms I end up with my entire piece of clay needing to be recycled. What Im currently doing it sticking my clay with my other failed clay and wrapping it up in plastic. My plan is to reuse it but Im not sure the best way to dry the wet clay out without drying it to far.  I only read about ways to recycle scraps. Any suggestions on how to recycle large pieces of failed clay?

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Hi Travis!

Any failing/failed bits that are dryer than what I like to throw with go into scrap bin to fully dry and await recycle.

Failed blobs/lumps that are wetter than what I like to throw with may end up in the same bin, else dropped on a plaster bat - especially if sticky - or just left on the wedging board if not sticky.

Plaster absorbs water quickly! I'll knead that clay periodically, until ready for wedging, then re-throw when it feels about right. If I'm not around to monitor, I'll cover the clay, or just throw it in the recycle bin to dry out completely. A very wet blob could hang around for quite a while before getting too dry...

A rib or wood knife is handy for scraping sticky clay off one's hands and fingers.

Drying up smaller bits of wet clay (smaller than a bag - twenty five pounds) for reuse - about the same as the end of the recycle process. Crucial, imo, is thorough wedge, such that result is homogeneous, that is, no dryer or wetter threads of clay hiding in thar to wreck the next piece! If the blob gets a bit too dry, cutting into bread sized slices, misting, re-wedge, repeat... it's a bit of effort, but it does work. Still key is thorough wedge.

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if you do not have much clay to work with, you may have bought only one or two boxes, it is important to keep track of the clay you want to reuse and do what hulk suggests.  

if you have a little more, 3 or 4 boxes, you might decide to let the scraps dry out totally and when you have enough, just wet them all at once in a bucket.  if you leave that overnight, you might be able to wedge up the entire bucketful the next day and start over again.    slaking dry clay is the easiest way i have found to reclaim clay.  

dry clay does not smell or get green fuzzy stuff growing in it.   the easiest way to get scraps dry is to flatten them.  smashing the big scraps is very tension relieving.

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4 hours ago, oldlady said:

smashing the big scraps is very tension relieving

Indeed---one of the many therapeutic aspects of whacking the heck out of clay, wet or dry!! Even taking Mr. Hammer to those failed glazed & fired pieces is quite satisfying. And for wedging, cut & slam just feels oh-so-good! Dropping slabs with force onto the floor, also.  I could go on.....:D

 

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Recycling scraps isn't really much different than recycling larger quantities of clay. If your clay is wet enough to just re-wedge, then that's the best method.  If it's harder, you can break it up and put it in a bag with a little water and seal it up tight.  You'll have to wedge a lot to get everything even. If the piece is mostly dry, it might be easiest to slake it down and turn it into slurry.

The drying thing is just a matter of keeping an eye on it, and learning how your material reacts to the atmosphere in your specific location. That will depend on your ambient temperature, how wet the clay was to start with, and how humid it is this week.

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If your throwing style involves creating large amounts of slip, you can add that back into clay that is a bit dry or if re-wedging wetter scrap you can add a handful of ball clay. The object is to put back into the clay all the fine particles you removed in throwing. You'll know it needs fines when it seems excessively groggy.

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you can also do what lot of well meaning beginning potters do. Buy a half a dozen 5 gal buckets at Lowe's or Home depot and toss the clay in those while you learn. In 6 months or so when the buckets are getting full and seem overwhelming take those buckets out to the back of your property and start a clay hill. Over the years you can expand this hill with additional clay and add broken up pots that don't make the cut.

Only kidding a little bit, clay's cheap and wrist surgery isn't :-) 

 

Edited by Stephen

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