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QotW:  What is your go to" point or "comfort zone" when dealing with clay weights or sizes for your work?


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Hi folks, 

Once again there are not new questions in the QotW pool, so I will pose one I was thinking about when wedging clay. Everyone has a "go to" point or comfort zone, for wedging, throwing, rolling out slabs, and other things. Myself I figure over 15# is work when wedging. When it comes to throwing, 25# is my limit, but then I don't often do that,  only for large jars and vases. I usually limit my throwing off the hump to 15# as that will easily get me a good hour or two of throwing for stems or chalice bowls. Most recently I have been running some experimental ideas on chalices, so use about 8# of clay.  When rolling out slabs I limit my clay to about 8# as I don't have a slab roller, but use a 25 inch maple  one.  Some people run their limits because of their kiln sizes, or their own physical limits. While others will find work arounds for their dreams, as in an extra kiln section, combination throwing and handbuilding, or making modular pieces to assemble later.

Putting this together in a QotW:  What is your go to" point or "comfort zone" when dealing with clay weights or sizes for your work?

 

best,

Pres

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I try not to get comfortable with a weight, so while I can throw 8lb cylinders fairly thin, I always try to get bigger, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, etc.  I feel like if I stay at 8lbs which is plenty for most everything functional, I'll never get better.  My problem once I hit 15lbs or so is that no matter how much I pull it seems like the cylinder walls thicken up again as soon as I start shaping.  It's difficult to use a lot of muscle while at the same time tryin to maintain even distance between my hands.  Working on it though!

I usually will only wedge 10lbs in a lump, anything more I cant get my hands around and I still haven't even come close with spiral wedging, that's some voodoo magic I think I need someone to teach me in real life.

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@liambesawSpiral wedging was one of the techniques I taught when teaching, along with cut and slam, and the rams head. Spiral takes the least energy when wedging the most clay. . . .very efficient. I have read some good descriptions in books, but videos help the most, or a teacher than does demo, hand on hand, and then critiques as you wedge. Tough to do otherwise.

 

best,

Pres

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1 hour ago, Pres said:

@liambesawSpiral wedging was one of the techniques I taught when teaching, along with cut and slam, and the rams head. Spiral takes the least energy when wedging the most clay. . . .very efficient. I have read some good descriptions in books, but videos help the most, or a teacher than does demo, hand on hand, and then critiques as you wedge. Tough to do otherwise.

 

best,

Pres

Man I've watched so many people do it, I just think I'm doing something minorly wrong because I can do a spiral wedge, but it ends up being more of a nice spiral pizza full of bubbles.

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Ten pounds was my limit,  with my bad hands and wrist it is probably 5 lbs now.   I am mostly a handbuilder so the amount of clay I can or can't throw doesn't matter.  Spiral wedging was the method I was taught first,  now I do the slam method or just work out of a new bag of clay.  Sometime little bubbles pop up,  I can handle them.  I am hoping after my left hand surgery I will be able to throw again.    Denice

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denise, you might be more comfortable trying a technique i use to make bowls.   i think your husband is a woodworker if i am remembering correctly.    a woodworking friend made me a series of discs from walnut.  they ranged from 4 inches to about 8 inches in diameter and were each about 3/8 inch thick.  they thinned at the edges.

to make a soup size bowl, i would use about a softball size piece of clay and center it.  opening it and making it into a flowerpot shape with a slightly thick bottom is next.  when the pot is about 5 inches high, firmly insert the disc that is about 5 inches in diameter.  just push it straight down to the bottom of the flowerpot shape without hesitating.   the clay will widen into a perfect half sphere on the interior and  push the excess clay outward and down.   the height will be less than the 5 inches you started with.   remove the disc when you reach the intended bottom of the bowl.  do not go too deep or you will have no clay for a foot.

 use a circular ribbon tool to cut the excess clay (that was pushed down to the bat) in a single pass and stop the wheel while you remove that large amount all at once.  this takes a little practice and a lot of nerve.  and a good ribbon tool.  not the thick ribbon that won't fit over your thumb, the thin one that will allow a quarter to pass through the circle. 

your trimming is almost complete at this step.  do a series and allow them to dry enough for trimming in the usual way.

 

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That is a great idea,  my husband does some wood working.   He is one of those people that can fix for build anything.    I have been thinking about making a new set of dishes,  my old set  glaze is getting fuzzy from a million tiny scratches.     I have a appointment with the hand doctor Thursday  hopefully he can do the surgery soon.  My neuro told me that my nerve test came out really bad and I needed surgery as soon as possible.    Denice

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Denice Hopefully you are finding a top notch hand surgeon. I consulted with one for 1 hour last week near SF for second opinion and she is now my 1st choice on bone removal this winter.I want to rehab this winter.

My number one surgeon moved  from SF to take over orthopedics in hand surgury teaching at Yale and I would have her do it but flying for me is out now for some time.Find good people it worth it.Check to see how long they have been doing it. The best only operate from the elbow to the finger tips-nothing else .Kansas  must have a good one 

Edited by Mark C.
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On 10/16/2020 at 4:24 PM, liambesaw said:

I usually will only wedge 10lbs in a lump, anything more I cant get my hands around and I still haven't even come close with spiral wedging, that's some voodoo magic I think I need someone to teach me in real life.

I'm with you on that.  Read through detailed instructions, watched multiple videos, and my spiral is more of a cone.  I'll eventually get there...

 

In regards to the question, I throw relatively small 1-3 lbs.  Five pounds doesn't give me too much trouble, 10 lbs. takes a bit of work, and I've never done over 15 at one time. 

A few weeks ago, I pulled most of the clay out of my classroom's reclaim bin.  It was packed full, as last Spring's in progress work got recycled.  So there was quite a bit of leatherhard slabs mixed in with the slip bucket and throwing slop.  So I was wedging twenty five pound chunks with a mixture of cut and slam and ram's head.  I'll tell you what though, that clay now has a great consistency!...  It also made me think really hard about purchasing a pug mill.

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Also mostly working small (or very small, depending non compared to whom!), half pound to two pounds, a few things three or four pounds.

I use the lil' e scale to weigh out balls o' clay, common sizes 350, 450 and 500 grams for mugs and bowls, also 250 and 300 for cups and small bowls, and a few 200 gram tiny bowls, gotta have some fun. Lids and spouts may start at 200 grams as well. Enough taller pieces to fill a half shelf (stagger that load) - vases, lidded pieces, utensil holders, etc. - may run between 800 to 1500+ grams.

Where an increase of weight/mass at the small end makes quite a difference, scaling up, takes a lot more clay to get bigger, eh? At a 1400 grams, to get much bigger, 1600 grams ain' gonna do much. Where an eight foot boat is roomier than a six footer, an eighteen footer is waay bigger than a sixteen, eh? ...it's bigger all way 'round, same as the six to eight, but there's more to get big.

Wedging,  the largest for me at one time would be reclaim off the slabs before bagging, 'bout ten to fifteen pounds, and final wedge (th' whole bag) before re-bagging clay that was too dry - where wetting was piecemeal, for sure, as a whole bag has to be ideally soft (for this old bod to wedge).

As I still believe in continuing with the direction/swirl imparted in wedging, the trouble I was having with the spiral was in the "opposite" way - for clockwise throwing. Whilst clockwise wheel head is natural for me, spiral wedging for that direction - is not. That it's ram's head of part of a mass, picking up some edge as it comes around, and squeezing out some at t'other end - that's what gets me there, as well as taking care to avoid picking up bubbles; any road, for mixing, and especially for preparing an "off the hump" lump, worthwhile, but not essential (imo).

 

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