Big Ceramic Store Blog

Softening Clay Scraps For Future Use

Do you ever find yourself with a bunch of clay scraps just sitting in a bucket, box or bag? What do you do with them? Do you throw them away, reclaim it, just keep piling it up? Well, let's talk about some things you can do with it.
There are a gazillion ways to soften clay, but today, we're going to focus on  few techniques I use when the clay still has moisture in it. For example, cut offs from slab work, or trimmings from the wheel, etc...
Grab your coffee, and an apron, and head to the studio. This job may get messy...

Ok, let's just say, the clay has gotten to the bone dry point. For this post, you should just toss it into a bucket and set it aside. We are looking for clay that has enough moisture in it to make indents with your finger, but maybe not soft enough to bend. This is the soft, to medium, leather hard stage.
Maybe you rolled out a slab and forgot about it. The project you planned for that slab, is now on hold, until you roll out another. Well, what are you going to do with that perfectly fine slab you've already rolled?
  • Take a sheet of heavy duty plastic and lay it out on a firm surface
  • Dampen a cotton towel and lay it on the plastic
  • Place the slab on the towel and fold the other half of the towel and plastic over the top of the slab
  • Allow the moisture in the towel to dampen the clay. Check it often, as you don't want it to get too wet


What if you don't have a full slab, but you have pieces cut from slabs?
  • While working on your slab project, place the cut-offs in a plastic bag (I use the ones that the clay comes in)
  • Squeeze the air from the bag, and tie the bag closed until your next project
  • Once you have a bit of clay accumulated, pour a little water in the bag and re-seal it
  • This process takes a couple days to even the moisture out, so flip the bag around often, and squish the contents in the bag... kind of like kneading dough
  • Add water if need be, or open the bag and let some moisture evaporate if it's too wet
  • Once the clay is firm enough to wedge, dump it on the wedging board and get going

Wheel throwing scraps are another thing to consider...

  • I use the same method as slab scraps
  • Place the pan contents into a plastic bag and follow the procedure listed above

With the methods listed above, you need to remember, keep different clay bodies in different bags. The components of the different bodies, may not mesh well, and could lead to problems down the road.

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