Potters & Sculptors - Making Rock from Mud
In getting my studio set up after a 40 year detour, I did not want to spend a huge amount of money. I began making all varieties of things myself. It turned out to be much simpler, easier than I initially anticipated. Three of my projects ended up being published in ceramics journals. They are attached to comments to this topic. I also have a number of other projects for which I have not not been written up for publication that I will be adding as comments to this topic. I invite others to add descriptions of their projects to this topic.
How to make a sieve for small amounts of glaze
I often make small batches test glazes in 32 ounce yoghurt containers and want to sieve them. Here is my simple, cheap solution.
The lids of some 2.5lb nut and peanut butter containers are almost the same size as 32 ounce yogurt containers. Cut the center out of the yogurt lid leaving about a 1/4 inch rim. Likewise cut the center out of the cashew container lid leaving about an eighth of an inch rim. A carpet knife works well for this, Glue these top to top with a flexible cement such as E6000 or contact cement.
Use scissors to cut the disc of stainless steel mesh the diameter of the outside of the cashew container lid. This slightly oversizedness will make it seal well in the lid. Gluing it in place is not necessary. Pieces of stainless steel mesh can be bought on eBay. I use both 120 and 80 mesh, depending on what I'm up to.
If you find it difficult to get the lid on and off the yogurt container, you may want to make little cuts in the rim Of the yogurt lid every couple of inches all the way around
Where are you getting the stainless steel mesh?
I got it off of eBay from Art Minion Incorporated, firstname.lastname@example.org You can probably contact him directly at this email rather than going through eBay and having to pay their fees.
12"x12" 80 Mesh / 177 Micron Stainless was $10 with free shipping. I've also gotten a couple of chunks of 120 mesh from him for the same price.
El Cheapo Spray booth
Here is my version of a folding $40 spray booth that works very well.
The basic components are two 4 x 8 sheets of extruded poly propylene, 8 foot feet of 1 x 2 board, some duct tape a few screws and a salvaged squirrel cage blower from a defunct house heating system. You can usually get these free from household heating companies.
I was going to write this up as I another article, but when I got into it I realized there was no way I could get it into their space requirements. Here's a link you can download a file of some more pictures and the beginning of my rhetoric for the article.
If anyone is interested in making one of these things I will be glad to clean up the pictures and rhetoric a bit and answer any questions.
BTW, I also built a power turntable for it based on the turntable motor out of a blown up (literally) microwave.
Pretty cool Lawrence, when I get some extra $ I will definitely make myself one.
Glaze depth measuring tool
Here is my attempt at a glazed depth measuring device.
Making this gizmo is pretty simple.
I bought the depth gauge on eBay. It is called "0-16" Electronic Digital Indicator / Depth Gage" from anytimeparts. It costs $24.95 with free shipping. There are some similar looking ones for $7 to $15 for measuring tire tread depth, but I don't think they are accurate enough.
Where you see the screws there where originally two smaller screws that held the cover plate and tapped into the plastic body. I did not trust the tapping into the plastic body so I drilled both holes out slightly for screws that would go all the way through and I could put a washer and nut on the other side. You then have to drill the holes in the thin metal cover plate and bore holes in the little metal strip that align with the ones in the cover plate and plastic body. Use very small screws so that you do not completely remove the plastic tube that the original screws tapped into.
Insert two screws through your little metal strip, the cover plate and the plastic body. Make sure they are long enough to go all the way through and have some extra for the nut, washer and the thickness of the X-Acto knife blades. Put the washers and nuts on the backside of the screws and leave them loose. Insert the two number 11 X-Acto knife blades between the original cover plate and your little metal strip. Push the blades all the way back against the black housing. On the backside insert the third X-Acto knife blade under the washer and against the real going down the center of the Depth Gauge. Make sure you have a large enough flat washer to press tightly on this third blade. Tighten vigorously.
Zero the depth gauge out to the tips of the X-Acto knife blades. To 0 it to the points, press the three points and the plunger against a hard surface. Push the 0 on the right side of the controls.
When I push the blades into glaze the plunger rests on the surface of the glaze. If the glaze is dry I can just let the spring-loaded push the plunger to the glaze. If it's damp, I have to gently let the plunger just touch the surface of the glaze. The readout gives me the glaze thickness. There is a negative sign in front of the number. Just ignore them It seems to work quite nicely.
I should also give John Tilton credit for the original inspiration. I liked his $300+ Starette depth gage based measuring tool but was unwilling to fork over that kind of cash. I'm sure mine is not quite as accurate as his but how many decimal places make a difference with pottery glaze?
Gosh Doc, when do you have time to make pots???
oh, gosh, gee is this about making pots?
Fortunately, throwing pots came easy for me. Maybe just being large and strong compensates for mediocre technique.
What has been a nightmare is getting a good palette of attractive glazes. If you notice most of my do-it-yourself stuff has to do with glazing.
I wasted someplace around 500 test tiles because I got some of the low-quality Laguna supposedly high quality iron oxide that Norm Stewart has discussed on this site. I had no idea why so many of my glazes were turning out to be an undifferentiated ugly chocolate brown until Norm disclosed the problem. I now have some high-quality iron oxide from US pigment. I will be baking a few hundred more test tiles in the next few days. Hopefully, I will get some decent results so that it will be worth getting back to making pots.
Given all the above, I have to admit I'm probably more of an engineer than an artist. I'm very startled when someone wants to buy one of my pots right off of my studio shelves.
How to make a ball milling jar
Here is how I made my own ball milling jar. My understanding is that the reason you cannot just throw one is that it's impossible to get it absolutely round and square by just throwing. My experience says this is true. However, here's a way to solve this.
Get a piece of plastic tubing that has an inside diameter about the size you want the outside diameter of your jar to be, maybe 8 inches in diameter. Cut it off very square at the height you want the jars roller surface to stop.
Take the blue feet off of my Giffen grip and throw a cylinder a little taller than the plastic cylinder and just slightly smaller, so that you can still slip the plastic cylinder over the clay cylinder. Put the blue feet back on the Giffen grip. Put the plastic cylinder over the clay cylinder and tighten the Giffen until it grasps the plastic cylinder.
Reach inside the clay cylinder and press it out until it is in contact with the plastic cylinder that it is inside of. Collar in the clay sticking out the top of the plastic tube to form a neck for a lid. Let dry in the plastic cylinder until it shrinks away and plastic cylinder can be removed. It takes several days of drying before the milling jar shrinks enough to break free from the PVC tube around it. It's best to absolutely leave it alone until it pops free on its own.
It takes some careful calculation to figure the shrinkage of the neck of the jar so that the 4 inch plastic pipe cap fits over the collar when the bottle is dry. Luckily, I got it right the first time. If I had not done such an ugly job of glazing it, my final ball milling jar could have passed for a commercial version.
After 11 hours of milling with glass marbles, rocks and water going around in my jar I got 4.3 g of dried residue. So in a typical one hour milling, I would get less than 1/11 of that or .39 g. with a glaze instead of water there should less because of the cushioning and lubrication of the glaze as opposed to just water. Less than .39 g is quite acceptable for stoneware
I agree with Harry Davis who, in his book The Potter's Alternative, says that he sees no advantage of well matured porcelain over well matured stoneware.
Here are a couple of pictures of a sanding tool I just made. It is my variation of one that just came out in Ceramics Arts Monthly. it uses a strip of 220 grit 3M Sanding screen with the ends glued to little sections of woodcut from a paint stirring stick. These are them stretched over a stamped metal drawer pull and bolted in place with quarter-inch bolts. Using a stamped metal drawer pulls rather than the cast time kind allows you to bend it to suit.