Processing Clay

I was lucky enough to find some easily accessible clay the other day on a morning bike ride. I’ve been spending some time processing it and thought I’d share. Here’s the hill and the pictures of the bagged clay:


After bringing it home, I transferred it to large jars and added water, then mixed violently with a drill mixer to break it all up.  After skimming off the junk that floats up, I mix it up a few times a day for about 3 days. Once it is mostly made into a slurry I start sieving it into another container. Whatever doesn’t pass the sieve goes back in the jar to get mixed again, and it eventually (mostly) all breaks down.

Since I have no space for a large clay drying platform, I’ve decided to try these pantlegs tied off, filled, and left to hang. Seems to be working so far, and I’m hoping to get a nice uniform sausage of clay with no dry edges. I tried a few methods to close the bottom. First, I tried sandwiching the pantleg between two pieces of wood and using screws to tighten them together. This worked, but left sharp screw ends, and when I dropped one full leg, the wood snapped and it opened up, spilling the clay.  Plywood might prevent this. Being too lazy to get out the saw and cut more wood, I decided to split what I had into thinner pieces and wire them together to bind the folded over leg end. I tied them with wire and it seems to be working just dandy. Later, when I have time, I’ll try  finding some sort of non rusting clamp device that can be applied and removed easily and quickly.

Once the legs were filled, tying them off was tricky because a leg full of clay slurry is FRICKIN HEAVY!!! First I tried rolling it down over the rope and tying, which works fine but is kind of tricky and if you don’t do it tightly, it unwinds and makes a mess. I found the best way was to twist the end and bend it over a stick, then bind it with rope. This way, you can use the stick as a handle to carry the leg which is very nice, and the stick can be used to hand the bag. The rope used to bind the end can also serve as a hanger. I hung up 12 of these yesterday, and am now waiting for them to firm up. I’m curious to see how long it will take.

2 thoughts on “Processing Clay”

  1. Hey Mike; I made bags from ‘filter cloth’, a polyester version of canvas which has a ‘knappy’ side, which I have on the outside to speed drying.The local planing mills around Eugene have it to filter sawdust, and out canvas supplier has it. It does not rot.

    I added tabs on the mouth with big eyelets so i can hang the bags from my studio rafters. I will send pics to your email. I also added a coil of plastic flexible vinyl rod that helps keep the mouth open for filling.A chain to hang and a hook under the rafter does the trick, and a plastic pan under the bags collects the drips of water.

    1. Hi Hank,
      Thanks, yes I still use the cloth you sent me. It has changed color but is just as strong as new. Problem is, no one seems to sell it around here to us mere mortals. I’ve searched and searched. Probably need to just pick some up next time I am in CO. visiting family. Did you have someone sew the bags for you?

Comments are closed.