Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Metal Clay Chop-O-Matic

I've never just happened to come across a coffee grinder in forays into a thrift or big box store and haven't bothered to search one out online because I actually like to reconstitute metal clay scraps the old fashioned way - by hand. I tell my students that I enjoy the physical exertion of chopping greenware, and even keep one particular person in mind when I'm doing it. It's a wonderful stress reliever. Is that so wrong? I'm just kidding of course. Kind of.

When I discover that I've forgotten to correctly wrap a lump of clay or left the slip out so long that it's dried solid,  I just get out my handy, dandy tissue blade and begin to chop. It's a pretty easy process actually.

1. First chop up the clay as small as you can. I make thin slices, then dice those into chunks using the same motion the chefs on TV use to prepare parsley.

First stage
2. Next put the crumbs in a mortar bowl, and crush to powder with a pestle. Not the ones used to make guacamole, those are too coarse. I found mine in a restaurant supply store. But places like Sur la Table, Crate and Barrel, and even the local pharmacy carry them for customers to crush herbs and pills respectively. If you don't want to invest in a mortar and pestle or you need to make metal clay powder in a hurry, you can improvise with a small bowl and a tool like the back of a screwdriver. How do I know? I did it in class once. I used a small stainless steel mixing bowl and the wooden handle of my curved burnisher. Worked like a dream!

Notice how the particle size on the
work surface is smaller after I
finished chopping it?
After the clay is powdery, you can reconstitute it the same as you would any other metal clay powder. I spritz 6 - 10 sprays of water on the powder while it is still in the bowl and mix until the powder forms a cohesive dirty ball. Then I place it between two sheets of lightly oiled plastic (like a report cover or two layers of freezer baggies) and roll it super thin. Open the plastic sandwich, spritz the clay two times, fold the clay over on itself twice, close the plastic, and roll again. This action distributes the water very evenly throughout the whole lump of clay. Repeat with single spritzes until the clay feels moist and malleable. Then roll and fold 2 -3 more times, but without adding more water.  Compact the clay into a very small nugget and wrap well in plastic wrap. Give the binder time to fully absorb the moisture by leaving the reconstituted lump over night. It's a little time consuming, but when you come to the bench in the morning, you'll find a perfectly blended, workable ball of clay.
 by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

4 comments:

kim said...

What a great idea to use the wooden end of a burnisher, thank you Lora!

Lora Hart said...

Glad you liked it Kim. I was desperate in a class and used what I had at hand. Not the perfect tool, but it did the job. Eventually.

Rose Germaine said...

Hi Lora, Good idea, like all of your teaching and ideas this one is great. Rose Germaine/last Otis class.

Lora Hart said...

How nice to hear from you Rose! Thanks so much for the sweet comment. Hope you're still metal claying and making beauty!