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.
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.