Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Arrival!

You may recall my sad tale of the loss of the pug mill. The glorious old mill that Rowantrees had used for so many decades was removed against our wishes by a scrap metal guy. The details don't really matter. It's gone and I have missed it sorely this season.

Now its replacement has arrived.
By far, this is a smaller machine, and it's nowhere near as fast. But mills like the old one just don't come along every day, and this one has a lot of advantages the old one did not. It's a trade off that I can live with.

I have already learned how to use this mill to wedge and mix clay - and it only arrived this morning! Clay recycling will start very soon.

For the potters among you, this is a Peter Pugger model VPM-9 deairing pug mill. It's kind of difficult finding a mill that doesn't use a vacuum pump though they really aren't needed to pug clay well. The vacuum takes the place of aging, not wedging.

 For the non-potters, clay has to be as free of trapped air as possible to throw well. But the first step in clay preparation is to make sure that the water in the clay is as evenly distributed as possible so that every last particle of clay is wet. That is one factor in making clay as plastic and workable as it can be. Use of a vacuum pump in the pugging process pulls any air out of the clay, causing the water to move into the microscopic spaces that had previously trapped the air.

The pugging process is similar to a meat grinder. The clay is compacted by a screw auger and pushed through a small opening at the end of the barrel. This compacting process removes the air bubbles that can make throwing a real bear (not to mention the way pots can explode during firing).

I'm so thrilled to have this little shop assistant. I hope to be using it for many years to come. Profound thanks go to my dear friend Judy who made this possible.

The next large equipment upgrade will be a much larger kiln - but that's not this year's issue. Soon, plans will be underway for the new studio. There will be plenty to talk about then.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tea Pots!

I got an order for a large tea pot recently so i decided to tackle this Goliath head on. Tea pots are probably the greatest challenge any potter can face. Shape, proportion, fit, line, and all of the creative design issues all play a part. And having the design established for several decades does nothing to make the job easier. Last year, I made several of these pots and was satisfied with none of them. There were those that were passable, but nothing that really looked exactly the way it should.

So when I got the order, I was a little nervous. I wanted this to be right and look the best it could. There was nothing for it but to aim for a high goal, so I decided to make 20,

Now 20 tea pots is really 60 pots. You need 20 pots, 20 spouts and 20 lids. That doesn't even count the handle and the leaf on the lid. Those come later.

Once the pots, spouts and lids are thrown and trimmed, they need to be (gulp) assembled. That looks just a little like this:
Not the best photography in the world, I know, but you get the idea. It's a lot of eyeballing, eye crossing, cutting, shaving, whittling, cursing, fitting, sticking, and smoothing.

Did I say 'cursing'? Ok, I admit. It;s just as well that customers weren't flooding through the doors on the two days that I was engaged in this enterprise. I wasn't at my friendliest. But I got through it. And I have no doubt the next time will be just a bit easier. No less time and effort, but easier.

A bit.