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Sanding nerikomi

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Hallo all, 

I've recently starting experimenting with mixing white and black clay and am building stock to hold my very market sale. While working on one design I've noticed that keeping the edges of the two colours clean is a bit tricky, as when you compress the clay before forming it the colours smudge ask over the place. Very cool for some things, but not for everything...

I've explored scraping the clay while wet and leather hard, carving and sanding once bisque fired. So far the sanding gives the best effect, but it's so labour intensive and the pieces are so fragile there are blind to be a lot of breakages. I was thinking of sand blasting the pieces with baking soda, which I'm hoping to try soon. 

But does anyone have done advice on the best and quickest way of keeping the lines crisp and clean? I'd like to find the most efficient solution before I start making up over a hundred pieces! 

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Hi Kit,

Welcome to the Forum.
Good Question!

The very little work I've done with two clay colours, I've thrown as usual, then trimmed away the surface to reveal the un-smeared clays underneath, and then go light on burnishing.
From there, as I typically touch every piece with sandpaper after bisque*, I'll give the two-colour a light scuff to remove any burnishing smear.

Hopefully, someone who does a lot of agateware/nerikomi work will chime in here...

*I sit outside with my P100 mask on, shop vac and two buckets of water handy.
The shop vac is for me, my clothing, and the chair.
Each ware gets a wash and a rinse, then enough time to fully dry afore glazing.
It's a habit - any rough spots get a quick swipe with 220 grit.
I chatter most of my work; it's worth it to me to sand smooth the chattered portions, then rinse away the dust. I like the crisp chatter mark edges, and any (any!) dust in the marks make glazing difficult; the rinses takes take of that.

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Hi Hulk, thanks so much! It's interesting that you sand everything but from what you describe it makes a lot of sense. I make most of my stuff at home so sanding isn't such an option, but I do regularly go to a workshop where I can do it. 

I hand build so trimming is minimal. I've found that if it scrape it when it's the wet enough I can get a really clean, smooth line, but that's a bit trickier on the insides of mugs and in corners. 

I'll report back once I've tried the sand blast box, if anything it'll be fun trying out a new gadget! 

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Since sanding is so time consuming, trimming on the surfaces you can reach will eliminate that portion of it. The fewer times you have to touch a piece, the more efficiently you can work. 

How important to you is it to show off the entire surface of the piece? For things like mugs where you’ve said trimming is impractical, would a slightly tinted or opaque liner glaze that hides an unsanded surface be an acceptable design choice for you? It might not work for everything, but could be another time saving solution.


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Thomas Hoadley makes beautiful nerikomi pieces. I took a workshop with him a couple of years ago, but I forget how he gets such precise lines. Maybe if you contacted him, he would be kind enough to share his knowledge with you. 


Once you find out the best way to achieve the look you are hoping for, please share with us.


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Thank you both! 

Ideally I would want the lines to be clean on both sides, it's such a shame to have the effect obscured, but it's a good point. 

And thanks for the tip Betty, I'll look in to it :-) 

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Here's a ceramicist who may be worth contacting.  Karen Orsillo-pics of her work & contact info is on her website.     https://karenorsilloporcelain.com/       Karen is very approachable and so expert-her work is dazzling.  She saysMy process is a technique often called neriage (nair ee ah ghee) or nerikomi ( nair ee comb ee) from the Japanese tradition,  

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Hallo all, it's been a while but I've done some more research and experimentation and have learnt a lot! 

I tried sanding pieces in the various stages of firing and found that (unsurprisingly), the harder the clay the better it is for sanding. Using the sand blaster works like a dream on bisque pieces and clears the surface very quickly. Unfortunately the machine is currently broken so I've got quite a few pieces waiting to be cleaned up, but there's no rush. 

I also meet a potter who makes large decorative pieces who fires them at a high temperature and then sands them with a fine grit. The pieces feel wonderfully smooth which compliments the complex designs nicely. Sanding like that would be more work for smaller pieces or more complex forms, but I definitely want to try that with the bigger ornamental pieces I have in mind. For the smaller pieces I'm very satisfied with the sand blaster and a thick glossy transparent glaze which fills in the rough parts nicely. 

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