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Recycling/Reusing Clay for Practice


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Hi there!
I would like to practice my throwing without having to trim, glaze, and fire every time. Just practice throwing. Any advice on reusing clay? I just threw about 6 mug cylinders today and left them at the studio. Can I break apart those cylinders, rewedge, and practice throwing again? If so, should I rewedge right after throwing (they seem to be still a bit wet) or rewedge after giving a day to dry out? And how long can I keep this up before the "practice" clay starts to not be so great to use? 

Thanks!

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As long as you are putting everything back in, that is coming out, you can use it for a very long time.  What I mean by that, is that you lose fine particles in the throwing water, that need to be reworked into the rest of the clay.   Without those fine particles, the clay won't throw the same. 

In regards to how long to let the practice pieces set, I would scrap them before they get leatherhard.  Make several to a dozen, and rewedge.  Make another batch, rinse repeat. 

The freshly thrown wares might seem a bit too wet, by if you are wedging on a porous surface like plaster or concrete, they will probably be at a good stage by the time you have them wedged and portioned out. 

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@Benzine Thanks! A few follow-up questions...to your first point of losing things (fine particles) that are coming out, how should I put those particles back in? 

To your last point, seems like if I rewedge right away after throwing, it should be fine? We have large slabs at the studio so not sure how porous those are for right after throwing..

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Hi Chloe!

Putting the fines back in can take some time.

Smooshing your piece(s) when you're done practicing, drying the clay* a bit, then going right back to work with it should work for quite a while.

Keep your throwing water; let it settle, then pour off the clear part, retaining the settlings (muck!). You might find two or three buckets helpful in managing the muck... Down the road, as the reworked clay gets tired, let it dry out completely**, then slake it with the retained muck and minimal added water to form sludge, thoroughly mix/blend (I use a grout mixer in a big drill motor) until smooth (this can take a few sessions over several days), heap up the wet reclaim on plaster bats, turn and wedge (can take a few days) until ready to work again - bag it!

Reclaiming takes time and effort! Is it worth it? Not for everyone...

There are several threads here on reclaiming clay, and many vids out there as well, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xLiJxSGCwI

A regular contributor here had suggested adding small amount of "fixit mix" to reclaim - eight parts ball clay, one part silica, one part feldspar, if I remember correctly - doesn't take much to improve over the original (imo); more elastic, slower drying. There's ref in this thread https://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/19047-reclaimed-clay 

 

 

*drying clay: wedging, per Benzine's suggestion, above. For damper clay, try spreading on a plaster bat or block - the plaster wicks the water out quickly. Wedge and turn periodically until the clay is ready to work - wedge thoroughly!

**individual preference here . Some prefer to allow trimmings, failed pieces, broken pieces - all but the "muck" - to dry out, then slake it when ready to start a reclaim project. Others keep the entire mass wet.

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How much clay do you have?

I feel like it would be more beneficial to get into a larger cycle.

Also, it's really no use practicing throwing without the drying, cuz you may end up making perfect forms that all crack cuz you're leaving too much water.

Then you'll have to unteach yourself a bunch of things.

Sorce

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@Hulk Thanks for all the insight! I do have a bucket of dry trimmings that I plan to reclaim as you described above. However, how many times do you think I can throw, smush, rewedge (with the muck from the water bowl), and rethrow before the clay starts to get hard to throw with? I figured I would do that as long as I could, let it get bone dry, and add to my trimmings bucket to do a full reclaim process. 

@Sorcery I usually buy 20-25 lbs. bags. 

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You might be doing yourself a disservice by not following thru with keeping at least a portion of your practice wares...perhaps you are practicing wrong and your work if had been fired would have ended up with S cracks in the bottom or rim splits at the top or maybe you've put too much torque in your lifts and you get spiral cracks in the wall...btw i have only seen this happen once and i thought it was the most amazing fault to occur in clay...the maker was not so thrilled but to see a bowl break apart in a spiral is very wowish.

And of course you are trashing all the opportunities to practice getting your glaze right...you might as well screw up on the not so perfect pieces than the ones you are more attached to.

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Hi Chloe!

Good question - not sure! My reclaim gets an infusion of fresh clay, and I've been adding a bit of Nerd's fixit, as the result is easier to work with than original/fresh.

PSC, good point - trimming, bisquing, glazing/decorating, glaze firing - all takes practice!

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Chloe:

been thinking about your unique goal. You will need 1lb of OM4 ball clay (or equal), 1/4 lb of silica, and 1/4 lb Nep Sy, Custer, minspar, mahavir or flux readily available to you.  Mix it at 80% OM4, and 10% silica and flux. If you do not have a scale then: 1 cup OM4 ball clay, and 1/8 cup each of silica and flux. Mix it throughly dry and place it in a bowl by your wheel. (Keep a tablespoon in it.)

After you finish throwing; with clay cream still on your hands: spoon one tablespoon on one hand and rub your hands until coated with the mix. Now go back and let the piece run in your hands; allowing it to pick up the dry mix. Then collapse the piece and cone the lump several times to throughly mix it in. Remove and wrap in plastic. This lump can be reused in 5-7 days. Remove, wedge, place on wheel; cone a few times- off to the races. Enjoy!  Modified to fit your protocol. Exact chemistry? No.. but close enough for your needs.

Nerd

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On 5/23/2020 at 6:21 PM, ChloeElizabeth said:

Any advice on reusing clay?

If you have the dough buy a pugmill mixer and just re-pug it when you have 20-30 pounds. I wouldn't worry too much about it all too much though. I know right now you are trashing a lot of pots but that will taper off as you get better. After about 6 months the amount of re-cycle you have I bet will taper off dramatically. I honestly think if I didn't have a pug mill I would just throw it out before I would spend a lot of time on recycle. I would rather be making stuff than messing around with clay.  

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If your studio makes their own glazes at all, those materials will be on hand. They're ubiquitous in North America, and universally inexpensive.

If you're working from home, re-incorporating your throwing sludge into your mushed pots requires the least input. You can dry the resulting mush out on an old pillowcase or other fabric remnant on a cement floor somewhere if you lack a plaster bat. It'll just take a little longer. 

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