Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Clay Cutter

Linda Starr made a comment about my clay cutter the other day, and I realized that it is not a typical tool.  It came into being through a conversation I had one day with another potter here.
     This guy has forgotten more about ceramics than most of the other potters in this area of the pacific.  He has audited classes at the University of Guam at least one semester a year since the late 1970's, outlasting 4 or 5 ceramics professors.
     He and I spent most of the semester making, recycling, and mixing clay into 33 gal. trash containers.  During the semester, the other students were doing all their different projects with the newly mixed clay, but were struggling to get the clay out of the containers.  We discussed different ways of cutting it out, but couldn't seem to come up with something workable.
     This guy is a real researcher though, and came up with a historical answer to our problem.  When they were building the tunnels in New York, the project ground almost to a halt when they hit a very sticky clay.  One of the workers came up with an idea that he had heard or read about how the clayworkers in ancient times dug their clay.  So he designed a handheld cutter for the workers to use in the tunnels.  This cutter worked so well that they were able to work much faster than with shovels.  Kind of like using a big cheese cutter...
     What you see here:


was simple enough to make.  The blade is a stainless bread knife with the serrated edge ground off.  The aluminum conduit is flattened out partially, smeared with JBWeld inside, the cutter is inserted and the conduit flattened out the rest of the way.  That cutter blade is then held in place by the two screws on both sides, that hold the wood handle in place.  Just as a note:  this was an early model, so it has a bare rope at the forearm to brace the cutter.  Later models have a garden hose or thick SMOOTH plastic hose over the rope.  The bare rope leaves rope marks on the forearm for a couple of days... slight bruising.  Makes everyone think you were mugged and tied up.
     To make it easier for the shorter students to get all the way to the bottom of the containers, my friend attached a cutter loop like this on the end of a 2"X2" oak board, about 3 ft. long.  He sanded down the wood and used Thompson's water seal on it before attaching the cutter.
     Hope this will help others who might be having the same problem with removing clay from large containers.  It's much more efficient than digging it out with your fingers!
Happy Mudding!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back in the Mudd...

Now that I have spent the first two days of spring break cleaning classrooms, I am taking advantage of the time off.  I broke out the last of my Hagi porcelain today and found it was too wet to work, so I laid it out to dry some.

Granted, it's not a lot left but hey what are you going to do?

I went through the rest of my clay buckets and found that most of them were starting to dry out too much.  


I ended up pouring some water in each to try and rehydrate them.  The temperatures here will steam that moisture into the clay in a day or two - just need to set them out in the sun a while.  While the rest of the clay is soaking, I guess I will have to break into the 50 lbs of Half-n-Half that I have been saving.  I really should put in a clay order soon.  I just hate paying $15 to ship 50 lbs of clay!  Wish I could just drive down to the store and buy it like you folks.
     My goal is still to get three coil, and three slab pieces done by Saturday.  Wish me luck with that!
Tomorrow morning I will be going to one of the southern beaches to collect different seaweeds to use for my pit firing next weekend.  I want to wrap the seaweed around the pots, and then wrap them in aluminum foil (several layers sealed shut at the edges).  I am hoping to get a sager effect with the salts in the pit firing that way.  I will just have to wait and see...
     I have my senior show (from my college degree) in May sometime.  I will make sure to post the dates, and take plenty of photos and possibly a video.  It's a small gallery, but with only two people showing it will take a lot of pottery to fill my half.  I figure about 100 pieces, and I only have about 40 or 50 good ones now.  Besides, I need a batch of work the instructors have never seen.  
Wow, just discovered I didn't have a "Followers" section on the blog!  Just shows how much attention I give to my own layout!  It's added now if you want to keep up with my adventures as an amateur potter...
Well, gotta run and put the porcelain away.  Happy Mudding!