For this blog post I’m going to be talking about how to reclaim clay. This process although tedious, is very necessary if you want to save money on clay instead of throwing it away. You would surprised on how much clay you can retain from reclaim. I don’t usually throw pieces with reclaim since it tends to be a bit harder to work with. A good use for it would be handles, small pendants, and anything decorative that can be applied to your pieces. Reclaim is not the best for repeat throwing, since the clay is being rehydrated/dried out, it can be difficult to throw to a gauge. There are several ways to reclaim clay however I’m just going to show you what has worked best for me. I’m going to talk about how to rehydrate bone dry clay using the following steps.
What you will need:
Step One: Break up your bone dry clay into tiny pieces, place these pieces into a deep bucket or container. Fill your bucket up about halfway with clay, you will need the extra room for the water and vinegar. You can use a mallet to break up the pieces of clay, or whatever you have laying around. Make sure your clay is bone dry, if you have to you can dry it out in the sun if it’s not completely dry yet. Bone dry clay will absorb more water and break down faster than leather hard clay will.
Step Two: Start adding water to your clay, the amount of water needed will be dependent on how much clay you have. I usually fill the bucket up about halfway with water, if you add too much you can always skim it off the top. You’ll notice the water will start bubbling and making noises. Don’t panic, this a good thing. That sound and those bubbles is the water getting reintroduced into the clay.
Step Three: Add some vinegar to the mix. Again the amount of vinegar will depend on how much clay you have. I usually just add a couple splashes (half a cup or so) to my bucket. Now you’re probably wondering why vinegar? The acid of the vinegar will help breakdown the clay and improve its plasticity. It will make the clay easier to work with once it has been rehydrated. Although this step is not crucial to reclaiming clay, it does help quiet significantly.
Step Four: Now it’s time to wait. The waiting time is also dependent on how much clay you’re working with. I find it usually takes about a week or two for the clay to break down completely. Once you see your clay turning into a thick mound, you know it’s ready to dry it out before wedging.
Step Five: Collect your clay up and lay it out in a plaster bat or mould. Whatever you have, I use an old plaster mold. Before I had the plaster mould I took a wooden board and stapled canvas to it. The canvas doesn’t work as well as the plaster but it does soak up any unnecessary moisture in the clay. You’ll have to keep an eye on the consistency of the clay at this stage. The clay can dry up very quickly and you’ll have to start all over again. I find in the winter months it doesn’t take as long for the extra moisture to leave the clay, however in the summer it takes a lot longer since it’s so humid. You’re your clay isn’t wet and sticky anymore you can start wedging. Now you have lots of extra clay to work with!
If you’re trying to reclaim slip like clay, maybe from you wheel catch basin, you can skip step one and just add some vinegar and lay it out on your plaster mould to dry. If you have clay that’s not quiet leather hard, but too dry to throw, go ahead and roll it out flat and thick, poke some holes in it and pour water into the holes. Leave it out for a while and let the water soak into the clay, you can then wedge back into shape. I hope this post helps you with your reclaim process, again everyone does it differently I just find this way works best for me. Till next time!