Jump to content

Pugmill needed for full time potter?


Recommended Posts

I have recently started working full time at pottery. Beforehand my reclaim system was working ok - keep scraps until dry, add water, blitz, dry on plaster. 

I'm now getting a lot more reclaim to deal with and can't keep up. I plan to get some more plaster bats. Climate here is wet and cold - my studio is mostly cold too. Sometimes I put some slip on the bat to dry and it's still wet after a few days. 

Apart from more plaster bats, does anyone have tips for speeding this up? I've considered a pugmill but not sure that's my biggest problem - it's mainly the drying. Can a full time potter get away without a pugmill? 

1603552395296.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are full-time and reclaiming clay, then I think you need a pugmill.

I also think you do not need to blitz your clay trimmings/scraps. That requires you to use more water than necessary and therefore it takes longer to dry. However, when you don’t blitz, the slop will be chunky and inconsistent, which is why you need the pugmill to “power wedge” it. Nothing to stop you from hand-wedging, but as a full-timer, your energy is better spent on other things. 

My studio has experienced prolonged humidity this summer but this has not slowed down my reclaim process. 

I wrote a column for CM that describes my reclaim process with pictures:

https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/ceramics-monthly/ceramic-supplies/ceramic-raw-materials/tips-and-tools-reclaiming-clay/#

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow!

I'm using four 9x13 plaster rectangles (used a cake pan to form), almost the full two inches thick, to dry reclaim on - about three gallons will fit on the four slabs. Propping them up so air can circulate underneath seems to help quite a lot, also air movement - just leaving the man door to the courtyard open and the rollup door up six inches or so makes a big difference (same as drying pots, eh?).

Was noticing the damp spots underneath the slabs, so propped them up on some one by ones we had laying about.

More plaster mass absorbs more water, however, also takes longer to dry out for next load... ...more plaster surface area means more water evaporation.

In "winter" (our climate is raaather mild), it can be cool (a "cold" day is mid 50s, F) and damp (the Pacific Ocean is just over there), however, a reclaim batch can still be ready to wedge and bag in a few days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you do decide to get a pugger you can totally skip the plaster step altogether if you get a mixer/pugger. I never have to soften scraps, anything from bone dry to slop gets thrown in the machine, add water to even out the moisture content then it gets mixed (usually for 10-15 minutes) before being pugged. Two separate steps, the first avoids all the hassle of having to use plaster to dry out the slop. I don't use plaster to dry out slop ever.

I waited until after I had an injury to purchase my mixer/pugger, wish I had bought it years earlier. Can make do without it when you don't have one but it makes life much easier with one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a budget thing for me with a lot of possible equations. The most important being, do you sell enough, or care for your body enough to make it worth the investment.

They certainly pay themselves off, it's just a matter of how long till that happens.

In creeps the equation that is, how well will you maintain it?

If it pays itself off then promptly dies, it will only have saved your efforts.

I been hanging things out in jeanlegs. Once you find the "right" day to unleg it and wedge, it becomes pretty easy, and remains clean. Some of our equation should include the amount of times we must wash our hands with our method. This adds water and clay waste, and more clay to the trap that needs more frequent cleaning then.

To get around this, I been doing initial wedging in a large damp cloth. No sticky, no dryee.

When my schedule is operating correctly, making clay and/or dealing with reclaim is addressed every morning, if there is no clay to make or reclaim to attend, I guess we're either doing it right....or wrong!

Sorce

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wedging all that reclaim is going to put a ton of wear and tear on your body. A pugger would be a good way to avoid that. However, it may or may not be worth the money. I'm of the opinion that reclaiming clay is a terrible way to spend your time in regards to profitability. In the time spent reclaiming $50 worth of clay, you could easily make some pots worth more than that. Add in the overhead costs of the space taken up up for reclaiming and and it gets even worse. It will likely take many years for the pugger to pay for itself. The only way I would do it is if I was really concerned about the environmental impact of not recycling, and if I had an extra $5000 sitting around to get a mixer/pugger where I could put my scraps in and run a little batch every couple of days, which wouldn't take up a lot of time. But you'll need to recycle about 13,000 pounds of clay ($0.40/lb) to break even just on clay costs, not factoring in time and overhead costs. I have no idea how much gets trimmed off a pot in terms of %, but say you're trimming 15% off each pot, you need to go through 86,000 pounds of clay to produce enough trimmings to pay for the pugger. If you're able to sell everything you make, then throw away your scraps and put your time into making more pots instead of recycling.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me a full timer average use per year for say 20 years was about 10 tons a year it made no sense and I just threw away any trimmings etc. I am slowing it down now to less tonage a year but still above 6 tons.

When I had wrist bones removed (8-9 years ago) hard clay was a done deal for me as was lots of wedging. I got the VMP -30 Peter pugger for 3 k used. I could reclaim anything but my main use is to soften clay for my compromised wrist.  Still toss out dry trimming but do reclaim  alI wet clay.I really dislike short clay which is what you get making dry clay wet again with just the mixer vs slaking clay.  It takes time to make that clay have legs. With the wet reclaim the clay still throws well without lots of time waiting.

In term of pay back it more about my body (after 40 plus years as a full time potter clay handling WILL take a toll on your body. The mixer pugger will help your body and that is for me way worth it. The payback is your body not the $$$$ of what its costs. Thats short term thinking. The long haul is what I have experienced. The sooner a full timer gets a labor savor the better on ones body.

I think for a hobbist this type of machine is overkill

But if you are full time it will aid your body and really take some work off your bones.

Clay is cheap no matter what compared to other materials and working hard at reclaim makes little sense if making a living with clay. So whatever one does  with clay spend the time making and keep the reclaim to less time or it makes no sense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, Min said:

Wish I could get clay for $0.40 lb! Mine runs at just over double that and that's with no shipping and bulk buying. (on a positive note I'll only have to reclycle 6,500 lbs) ;) 

 

Min if you have a LOT of clay to cycle Green Barn has a  loaner pug mill to use.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got my pugmill second hand for $1200. In 13 years I’ve reclaimed roughly 500 lbs of trimmings per year, or 6500 lbs. At .40 per lb, the pugmill has yielded $2600, or more than double it’s cost. Ok, ok, I know it’s had to find a used pugmill, and I got very lucky. But at the time, I was fully prepared to buy a new Bailey pugmill for $2500, so it still would have paid off.

The savings on body wear and tear are hard to measure. Wedging is not the only savings. Throwing causes lots of wear and tear too.  When buying new clay, I can’t control how hard or soft it will be. But my reclaim can be made nice and soft. I usually pug together new clay with reclaimed, which means my throwing clay is always nice and soft. This means i can throw more pots per day (good for profit) and I can work as a potter for more years. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm 180 miles south of you @tomhumf.  Same problem with drying in the winter.  I'm not a full-time potter but I so agree with @neilestrick's calculations.  I have the use of a pugmill at the centre where help run a class.  You need to keep it full, run it often.  No matter how tightly we've wrapped the openings, stuffed them with wet sponges/towels, the clay dries out sooner than we needed to run it.  I's cheaper to throw scraps away than have to spend time unbolting and scraping dried clay out of the pugger.

You need to work out your Time vs Cost life balance and go from there.  Or save it all up and reclaim it during the summer.  Oh yeah, it's probably just as humid as the winter in Sheffield - :lol:  sorry.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, neilestrick said:

Wedging all that reclaim is going to put a ton of wear and tear on your body. A pugger would be a good way to avoid that. However, it may or may not be worth the money. I'm of the opinion that reclaiming clay is a terrible way to spend your time in regards to profitability. In the time spent reclaiming $50 worth of clay, you could easily make some pots worth more than that. Add in the overhead costs of the space taken up up for reclaiming and and it gets even worse. It will likely take many years for the pugger to pay for itself. The only way I would do it is if I was really concerned about the environmental impact of not recycling, and if I had an extra $5000 sitting around to get a mixer/pugger where I could put my scraps in and run a little batch every couple of days, which wouldn't take up a lot of time. But you'll need to recycle about 13,000 pounds of clay ($0.40/lb) to break even just on clay costs, not factoring in time and overhead costs. I have no idea how much gets trimmed off a pot in terms of %, but say you're trimming 15% off each pot, you need to go through 86,000 pounds of clay to produce enough trimmings to pay for the pugger. If you're able to sell everything you make, then throw away your scraps and put your time into making more pots instead of recycling.

It took me quite a while to stop trying to make things with slab scraps. Finally got there by seeing how "easy" it is to reclaim. 

uncle-roger-haiyaaa-rice-meme-433d6de8d2c1d49a90ef1d92188007de.jpg.426f822915ea5b98d8dfb6bb9bc573d6.jpg

What have I been doing!? 

This is going to help me try not to reclaim at all!

Sorce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I reclaim and even though I yearn for a pug mill, cannot justify the cost. So in the Winter when the outside is freezing and the clay is frozen, I let the clay thaw in a warm room and drain in a bucket on an elevated board. I use the heat of Summer to dry when needed, and rebag all scraps and let them slake together. At any rate after time I have very little in the way of waste, and rewedge by cut and slam and cone wedging to finish.

 

best,

Pres

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 A 3-$4000 machine to process a few buckets of  clay scrap every once in a while may not pencil out but if you can get right in your mind that a potter dose not have to spend time and cause body wear and tear wedging then there's that. Also things change, about a year ago I started pressing a lot of tile and now it would be absurd to not mix/pug as I end up with a huge amount of scrap and it would add thousands a year in expenses to just toss. I went from using the pugger every once and a while to almost daily. 

I also think that as a new pro ya just have consider getting things like this to make your process more streamlined and efficient. All of this stuff between used and new doesn't really add up to that much money when you consider its the backbone to your whole business. Most of this stuff will last a really long time, often forever for the first potter buying and using it.

Getting by without essential studio equipment usually means more labor. Nothing wrong with fugal and as a hobbyist reclaim, wedging, rolling out slabs with a rolling pin etc might be part of the whole romantic experience of pottery and part of why you love doing it so much but for a business I think one of the huge obstacles for any artist/artisan is that all we have is a limited amount of time. Even if we dial in our market perfectly and have lots of customers we will always be restricted by just how much we can make. You can't just order more if you have a great month or spectacular show. Spending time jerking around with a bucket of clay slop by hand and an hour wedging up that days clay just seems short sighted to me.

You did say you were new at doing this full time though so maybe just let it pile up for a while until the cash is moving. You can use that time to see if you can score a good deal on a used one. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone, lots of good advice even if it's going in different directions. 

I'm 39 so have a few years of making ahead hopefully so I do need to think about my body. I got a bit of wrist strain the other day after using clay which was too hard, this got me thinking again about reclaim.

I certainly wont be doing 10 ton a year, probably not even 2 at this rate but would like to find a solution.

I'll do a bit more research on pugmills, I've never even used one so wouldn't know what to look for in second hand one, and need to work out the different types. 

I can see the argument that the cost / time doesn't make it worth to reclaim. Even though it is a plentiful resource though, I feel bad at the thought of throwing in on a scrap heap. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, tomhumf said:

I've never even used one so wouldn't know what to look for in second hand one

Make sure it works.  The motor should run quietly and smoothly, the auger should go round and round.  

Problem is, anyone selling one, it's likely been unused for a while, and like the one at the community centre, full of hard, dried clay.

If you find one, you can always post photos here and you'll get lots of opinions before you splash the cash.

 

As for "using", put clay in top, switch on, put more clay in top, put more clay in top, put more clay in top, put more clay in top, put more clay in top, put more clay in top, catch clay coming out the end spout!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.