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Perhaps there is something I don't understand here.  Can anyone explain?

I am accustomed to having new blocks of clay that may need softening.  My usual method is to lay a moist towel around the block, then wrap it up again in its plastic bag and allow a few days.  This always seems to work.   But recently, since I had a lot of clay that was sitting around and getting hard, and in order to make sure I had a large amount of clay ready to throw, I created a "wet box" (a large plastic container -- tightly lidded -- with 2" of plaster in bottom that is soaked with water) and I put 3 or 4 bags in it with the plastic bags semi-open so as to admit the surrounding moisture. 

There they have sat for weeks on end.  But every time I check them they are still hard as heck!  Is there something wrong with this method?

Any advice or explanations will be greatly appreciated.

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25 minutes ago, Rick Wise said:

Perhaps there is something I don't understand here.  Can anyone explain?

I am accustomed to having new blocks of clay that may need softening.  My usual method is to lay a moist towel around the block, then wrap it up again in its plastic bag and allow a few days.  This always seems to work.   But recently, since I had a lot of clay that was sitting around and getting hard, and in order to make sure I had a large amount of clay ready to throw, I created a "wet box" (a large plastic container -- tightly lidded -- with 2" of plaster in bottom that is soaked with water) and I put 3 or 4 bags in it with the plastic bags semi-open so as to admit the surrounding moisture. 

There they have sat for weeks on end.  But every time I check them they are still hard as heck!  Is there something wrong with this method?

Any advice or explanations will be greatly appreciated.

Yeah hard to get these rehydrated that way with no real push to get the moisture to travel into the clay. Try this in a pinch, take your bag of clay (No holes in it) put it in a 5 gallon bucket, add a tiny bit of water to the bag, maybe start with 1/4 - 1/2  cup. Close the bag up air tight with little to no air trapped in it. Fill the five gallon bucket and overtop the clay with water. Remember the bag is sealed so no new water can get in, only the small amount of water that you added will be pushed in so to speak. Leave for a few days and your clay  should be pretty darn soft. The usual result of this is I put too much water in to start and now my clay is a bit too soft so go slowly till you figure out just the right amount.

Hmm, @Dondon posted the video. Watch the video, much easier to follow.  To check the bag for sure, inflate the bag, trap air, stick it in a bucket and look for bubbles.

Edited by Bill Kielb

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I have rehydrated clay by placing a brick or two in the bottom of a container with a sealing lid, added water  to cover about half of the height of the brick in the bottom of the bucket, removed the clay block from its bag and placed on the brick but not touching the water, placed the lid (sealed) on the bucket, wait a week or so and check to see that the clay is becoming moist and the water level has not gone to zero, adjust water level and wait more if needed.  Never had clay over hydrated with this technique.  

The method posted by Bill also works just fine.  


LT

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9 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

Try this in a pinch

I use this method all the time-not just in a pinch, because it works so well, so simple, doesn't take too long, and is not muddy-messy, if, as Bill notes, I don't put too much water in the bag to begin with. 

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I have used the sealed bag in the bucket trick a fair bit. Word to the wise: check your bag after a couple of hours. If your bag has a hole in it you didn’t know about, your clay will be quite sloppy if you leave it for days on end. It will be nice and soft after an hour or two. 

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One caution regarding the video - note that she mentions that the clay she's restoring is bone dry and is leaving it in the bag/bucket for two weeks. If your clay is just too hard hard to use, but isn't bone dry. 2-3  days is all you need to restore the clay. I've over-softened clay with this method and that presents its own challenges.

It is a bit of trail and error. Develop a feel for the clay - don't just look at the clock and the calendar. Check on the block of clay as time goes on.

Another method I've used is Simon Leach's solution for clay that isn't bone dry but just needs softening:

How to soften up clay that's too hard to throw
https://youtu.be/SmoL8a-uSYM

Also not a strict formula and as Leach explains, depends on what softness/hardness of the clay you need.  

As in all things clay, a bit of philosophy is always helpful. :)

- Jeff

Edited by JeffK

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32 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

I usually just slice the clay into 3/4" thick slabs, dip each slab in water, and stack them back up in the bag. After a day or two it's ready to go. If it's really stuff it may take a second dipping.

You might give  the water in the sealed bag a shot, no slicing required. You might be impressed with how quickly and uniformly it works.

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