Finally, about to load a glaze firing

Unbelievable. I am finally about to run a glaze load or two. It’s been nearly a month since I did the bisque firing. Where did the time go?

VPM-9 Guts Getting Cleaned
VPM-9 Guts Getting Cleaned

Well, there was Pug Day. I had some friends over to run their scraps through the pug mill. We started about 9:30am, and I closed the studio door about 8:30pm. We estimated that we milled between 400-500lbs during the day. I had to take apart and clean the pug mill three times total. Once the day before, once when we switched from ∆6 stoneware to ∆04-06 clay, and finally when we finished. I now feel completely comfortable taking apart and cleaning a Peter Pugger VPM-9. Not sure I could do it blindfolded, but I did learn some tricks. And I have to add, the Peter Pugger worked solid, all day and turned out a lot of very nicely pugged clay. Should have photos from some of the participants soon. Initial reports on the clay have been very positive.

That took a big chunk out of the month. I finally got back in to the studio to glaze yesterday and again this evening. I forgot I had to finish mixing a nice “Mary’s Blue” glaze. I had started the mix back in June, and never got around to running through a sieve or hydrating it to the right specific gravity. So, first I screened it, using a nice 60 mesh sieve. Then I adjusted the water until I had about 1.47 specific gravity. In the past, I used a homemade float hygrometer, which was basically a plastic bottle with a 3 oz. fishing weight in it, and Sharpie markings for “working great” mixes of my favorites. That was ok for a while, then I started using a beaker and weighed 100ml of glaze. That was a mess and took some time to get the 100ml just right. It’s very accurate if the volume is correct, but it’s not quick. The most recent approach is a 100ml syringe. I found the 100g mark for water, then drew the same amount of glaze and weighed it. I found I had 147.6g of glaze. So, I checked with my hygrometer and beaker methods and was very pleased to find it confirmed. While I wouldn’t say I have a very scientific approach, I think it is close enough to make functional mixing decisions and adjustments. I found the syringe on Amazon for about $5.00 – I think it was a good buy. We’ll see how long it holds up.

In this batch of pottery are a few pieces I’m planning to submit for the “Japanesque” show at the Overland Gallery, and a few candidates for a submission to the NC Pottery Center’s annual auction. It’s fun having work in the process for which a destination is already in mind. There are a few requests in this batch, too, including a set of bowls for some disc golf friends.

And I’ve done a couple more block prints at home in my spare time. I think I also worked out a couple approaches to try printing on clay. More on that later.

So, that’s about it for July. I hope you’re having a good summer and have lots of great pottery to show for it. Cheers


4 thoughts on “Finally, about to load a glaze firing

  1. Joel, I do enjoy reading about all your clay adventures. What are the tricks you discovered about cleaning the pugmil? I had a rough time when I tried to clean the darn thing… I like silk screening on the clay with a fine mess screen so much fun. Look forward to seeing your wares in the near future.

    1. Thanks Connie. The biggest trick is to put a hole in the clay in the pug end to make removing the casing easier. I put a wooden spoon handle through, then scoop out as much clay as I can. Then, I found a blue kinda-rectangular Sherrill Mud Tools rib makes the perfect scraper for cleaning out the casing, and cleaning off the mixing blades. I also used a scrubby sponge on the blades. Also, having a couple bit of wood to hold the back end of the mill at the right height when removing and replacing the casing is a big help. That about covered it. I should note also that the rib and spoon got nicked up a bit, so don’t use your favorites for this. I think by the time I cleaned it the last time, I had the process down to about 40 minutes.

      1. Not sure about the popping noise. Did it come from the section with the clay or from the motor end? We had one distressing noise. That turned out to be a small bit of gravel in the clay. It didn’t damage the mixer, but did put a little scratch in the casing – nothing serious.

      2. I guess I will have to get brave in the future. What scared me was when I put everything back together, put clay it and started to mix the clay it made a popping noise. It only did it once and things have been moving along every since. Thanks for the tips…

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