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Testing your own native clays is easier that you might think

Some simple equipment is all you need. You can do practical tests to characterize a clay in your own studio or workshop (e.g. our SHAB test, DFAC test, SIEV test, LDW test). You need a gram scale (accurate to 0.01g) and set of calipers (check Amazon.com). Some metal sieves (search "Tyler Sieves" on Ebay). A stamp to mark samples with code and specimen numbers. A plaster table or slab. A propeller mixer. And, of course, a test kiln. And you need a place to put, and learn from, all the measurement data collected. An account at insight-live.com is perfect.

Simple tests being done on a found clay

Related Pictures

Why you need to make your own glazes, fire your own kilns

Are you a potter that depends on glazes made by others? Do you have your ware fired in someone else's kiln? Cannot mix clay body tests? Then the evolution of the quality and aesthetics of your work is being stunted. This mug is a good example of why. This is G3933, version 1 of an oatmeal we made by adding iron, rutile and tin to a 75:25 blend of our base matte and glossy glazes. It is crawling at a few sharp angles of the incised decoration, that means it needs a little CMC gum. And, it is not quite matte enough, we need to switch to an 80:20 blend. Third, the red-burning body gives better color at cone 5, and this glaze melts well in a C5DHSC slow cool firing. So I will include it with other cone 5 bodies and glazes we are testing (because I want to move down from cone 6 to save energy and elements). Finally, I would like the glaze a little darker so I will test increases in the rutile and iron. All of these changes are on my radar because I make my own glazes and have my own test kiln.

Heavy duty mixer mounted on a steel pole

It is adjusted so the shaft is at an angle (rather than straight up and down) to pull less air bubbles into the slurry. It can mix up to 5 gallons of viscous glaze or body slurry. The motor is very powerful enabling the mixing of low water content slurries (this means that amounts of less than about 2 gallons of slurry can splatter quite a bit). The 1/2 inch shaft is 22 inches long and the propeller is mounted up from the end of the shaft.

Home-made propeller mixer with mount and switch

This is a heavy-duty unit, home made, with a 1/3 hp motor. It that can handle 5 gallons of high density suspension glaze or body slurry.

A must-have: Laboratory variable speed propeller mixer

If you are at all serious about testing glazes and clay bodies, you need one of these. There are other methods, but nothing else comes close to this. It is the most valuable and frequently used tool in any ceramic bodies and glazes testing lab or classroom. These are expensive new, this Lightnin 1/20 hp variable speed cost more than $1000 many years ago, now it could be $4000! But you can get them used on ebay.com. I adapted a mount (to give it vertical adjustment) from a hardware store. Propellers are also expensive, but you can design and 3D print them yourself or have them printed at a place like shapeways.com.

Links

URLs https://insight-live.com/insight/help/It+Starts+With+a+Lump+of+Clay-433.html
It Starts With a Lump of Clay: How to Assess a Native Clay
Glossary Slurry Up
The process of slurrying a clay body powder and dewatering it on a plastic slab or table.
Glossary Clay body
A term used by potters and in the ceramic industry. It refers to the earthenware, stoneware or porcelain that forms the piece (as opposed to the engobe and covering glaze).
Glossary Native Clay
Glossary Characterization
In ceramics, this normally refers to the process of doing physical or chemical testing on a raw material to accurately describe it in terms of similar ones.
Glossary Physical Testing
In ceramics, glazes and bodies have a chemistry, a mineralogy and a physical presence. All of these need to be understood to adjust and fix issues.
Glossary Insight-Live
A database website where potters and ceramic technician account holders enter their recipes, materials, pictures, test procedures, firing schedules, etc.

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