Low-tech clay reclaim system

One of the things I like about having my own wheel at home is having control over my clay scraps.  At a community studio, you don’t always have the ability to save your trimmings and slop easily, and I found that a lot of my clay went to the scrap barrel.

Here’s what I’ve set up to reclaim my scrap.  First, everything goes into a 5 gallon bucket to wait until there’s enough for a batch. Then it goes into my homemade ‘filter press’ I made from several old cat litter pails that are the perfect size for me.

I start with one unaltered bucket:

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Then a second bucket that I’ve drilled a bunch of 1/4″ holes in the bottom gets stacked inside:

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Some day I want to try cutting larger sections out of the bottom and putting in some hardware cloth to hopefully improve drainage.

Then a double layer of fabric cut from a plain cotton bed sheet goes inside:

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After mixing up the slop well, in it goes. I’ll usually mix it well with an impeller attachment on a drill a few days before, then let it settle. I pour off the clear water that comes to the top just to minimize the time it takes to filter, and also make sure it will all fit into the pail:

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I’ll usually let it set like this for a few hours. I’ll periodically empty the bottom pail of water by just lifting out the top one and putting it into another one.  The cotton also helps remove water by wicking.

After about a day, I’ll fold over the fabric:

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And then put another pail on top with weight (clay, water, cat litter).

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After the clay sets this way for a few days, the sheet will be less drippy and just damp.  That’s when I pull it out of the bucket system and start drying it either on the concrete floor, or the wedging table – still wrapped in the sheet like a burrito. I turn it over twice a day to get air on all sides. The sheet will continue to wick moisture out of the clay.

Soon, when you open the sheet and lift one side, it will roll cleanly away from the sheet.  It’s still very soft inside, but I remove it from the sheet at this point and continue working with it until it’s firm enough to throw again.

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