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Wild Bentonite


CactusPots
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Just finished a camping trip south of Death Valley.  Great rocks, good times with friends.  I guess bentonite deposits are fairly common in the area, so I brought some back to play with.  I cleaned it up with a #60 sieve and will dry it back out before using.  It's a rather odd green color.  On thinking about it now, bentonite isn't really a glaze ingredient, but just useful as a flocculent, to my knowledge.  I don't know how to experiment to see if this is a worthwhile score.  Maybe use in a clear glaze and see if it adds any color?

Also found something I think is borax.  I'll just try a melt test on that and go from there.

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11 hours ago, CactusPots said:

Just finished a camping trip south of Death Valley.  Great rocks, good times with friends.  I guess bentonite deposits are fairly common in the area, so I brought some back to play with.  I cleaned it up with a #60 sieve and will dry it back out before using.  It's a rather odd green color.  On thinking about it now, bentonite isn't really a glaze ingredient, but just useful as a flocculent, to my knowledge.  I don't know how to experiment to see if this is a worthwhile score.  Maybe use in a clear glaze and see if it adds any color?

Also found something I think is borax.  I'll just try a melt test on that and go from there.

If it is bentonite; it will clump when it hits water. Sodium bentonite is the most common in the USA. Death Valley had the only Ulexite mine in the country that I am aware of. On the subject of bento's: the farmers lower pasture is typically full of fresh bento piles: as is this thread. One way to distress from modern life. The joys of living in rural America- no lockdowns.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here are my melt tests on the bentonite (bottom), a crust from a dry lake which I take to be borax (top) and a combination of the 2.  The location for both these samples is about 20 miles south of the original gerstley borate mine.  According to the book, Out of the Earth, Into the Fire,  the calcium bentonites do not swell in water like the soda bentonites do.  My sample was comparable to the commercial bentonite we probably all use.  The bentonite photo shows it after it was washed, screened 60 mesh and dried.  There is a slight white powder on the edges of the pieces.  I think the entire area has a boron component.  I don't think I'll have much trouble building this into a stable glaze.  Since I don't do kitchen ware, I have no concern for food safe glazes

melt.jpg

shrink.jpg

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