Graphite on pottery

So I stumbled across a technique that is used by some Potters in Mexico that I want to try. So I am doing that now. The technique is to apply graphite to bone dry pottery, and then burnish the piece. The result when fired is a shiny deep black surface on your piece. I have only run across to discussions about how this is done.

In the pics below, the first I have started applying the graphite to this plate and burnishing the outside edge. The second pick is on un-modified surface of my bone dry terra-cotta plate. And third pic I am finished burnishing.

In the workshop video I have watched about this, the Mexican potter that was doing itExplained how the pieces were finally sanded before applying the graphite. And this application of graphite and burnishing is done three times. The process is very time-consuming, Slow. And usually only one piece is produced a week. However the results are amazing. As you can see below. On this piece i did not sand, and I have only applied the process once thus far.

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Little bit oh clay work

OK, so I was messing around with the Clay I dug from my yard, that I️ have subbed yard clay. I am not sure it is going to Works so well for hand building, but may do well on a form. It seems that when it starts to dry some, it is still to soft to hold its shape, however it is not very plastic and cracks easy. This little finger bowl I made on a form.

This finger bowl I made from my Terra cotta clay. I made a hump mold from a little glass bowl and then formed this bowl on it. It is slightly bigger than the yard clay bowl.

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Made plaster wedging slab

So I got around to uncanning the clay I dug from my yard that was in a five gal bucket, which I have dubbed Yard Clay😛 it is still rather damp, so I was kneading  and wedging on a piece of plywood to dry out some. The 1st pic is the clay in Two lumps which I am going to leave to air dry some. 


I have been intending to make a clay wedging slab. Now that I think I can and may be using local clay that I will have to process, and I have some to dry out, I got motivated and made the wedging slab. I already had a frame I could use from some lumber I bought at a garage sale that came with two wood frames for something or another. 

The frame is divided into two sections 22.5” x 15.5” x 2.5”. So one section will make a fairly decent sized plaster slab to dry clay. 

I put water in a five gal bucket, unfortunately I put a little to much for my half bag of plaster. Fortunately we have a hardware store 5 mins away, so I went there, got a bag and returned home and finished mixing and poured into frame.

I was able to unframe about 30 mins later. 


I do not have a rack to dry it on, so I laid it on some desert cups we have, so it will have air flow sound it to dry out completely. 

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Made plaster wedging slab

So I got around to uncanning the clay I dug from my yard that was in a five gal bucket, which I have dubbed Yard Clay😛 it is still rather damp, so I was kneading  and wedging on a piece of plywood to dry out some. The 1st pic is the clay in Two lumps which I am going to leave to air dry some. 


I have been intending to make a clay wedging slab. Now that I think I can and may be using local clay that I will have to process, and I have some to dry out, I got motivated and made the wedging slab. I already had a frame I could use from some lumber I bought at a garage sale that came with two wood frames for something or another. 

The frame is divided into two sections 22.5” x 15.5” x 2.5”. So one section will make a fairly decent sized plaster slab to dry clay. 

I put water in a five gal bucket, unfortunately I put a little to much for my half bag of plaster. Fortunately we have a hardware store 5 mins away, so I went there, got a bag and returned home and finished mixing and poured into frame.

I was able to unframe about 30 mins later. 


I do not have a rack to dry it on, so I laid it on some desert cups we have, so it will have air flow sound it to dry out completely. 

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Adventures with yard play – 2

OK, so here is my test strip that has dried fairly early now. From the picture you can see that it has shrunk down to 4 3/4 inches. My starting lenthg was 5 inches wet. So that calculates out to be 5%, which is great.

So now I am looking at the characteristics of the bone dry test strip. And what I find is that it is more corce than I was thinking yesterday when I made the test strip. It actually still has some fine grit. It sanded pretty well. Smooths pretty well with a finger. However, it does not take a polishing from a smooth stone as you can see in the picture below. It sounds/feels more you are trying to sand something.  In the pic you can see the fine grit. So I will have to get a finer sieve than what I have if I want smoother clay. But for the time being I will see how this fires and also see about adding grog to it and see how that does.

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Adventures with yard clay

Back on September 2, wow has it really been been more than two months? Anyway, I had Gathered a little clay, about have a 5 gallon bucket,  from a pile where I have been digging a ditch in my yard. My intentions were to prepare this Clay to use for pottery. I sieved all the rock and gravel and other detritus from the Clay, and then further sieved It finer to get the sand and grit out as it was rather course. 

I was left with about 5 inches of Clay and water in a 5 gallon bucket. I had kind of forgot about it and left it sitting in the garage until now. Remembering, I checked it tonight and it is just about perfect for use. I Think it would probably be good for throwing and maybe even for coil pots, but may be a little on the wet side. So I got some out, enough to make a test strip from. I rolled it out about a quarter inch thick, and an inch by 5 inches. At this stage it appears to be fairly plastic. It is also pretty smooth. It is a very dark, chocolate brown. I will put this aside and let dry and see what the shrinkage is. 

I am hoping that it will pass shrinkage test as I would like to test it making some pots as it is, as well as adding some grog to it to make it more course and see how that does. I am interested in seeing what color it fires too. I have no idea at What cone I should fire it too. So I guess I will just have to fire it to cone 02 with my other clay bodies and hope that it does not melt down!

Here where I live in central Missouri, There is a lot of clay. It is everywhere and a bane to anyone that has to dig in it as it is sticky and Darn neat possible when wet and hard as rock when dry. But to someone who wants to make pottery with, it, it may be worth it’s weight in gold. Following is a picture of my test strip.

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Reveal after test fire

This morning at 5:30, before my son Alex and I headed off to his robotics competition in Rolla,  I opened The kiln and was surprised to find that the test pot was still just a bit hot to handle. That’s like 7.5 or more hours after it finished firing. It looks like the firing was successful. 

The test pot had no cracks or breakage And appears to be thoroughly vitrified. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly what color of Mason stain I used, maybe It was the Crimson. Which in that case it looks like the color may be good or close.

 In the pic there is a piece of the broken Placard which is unstained And is the terra-cotta color the Clay is supposed to fire two. As you can see the pot is more of a reddish brown which may be due to the crimson stain being mixed with the terra-cotta clay.

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Kiln Test Fire

Test fired kiln tonight. What happens to clay with moisture in it in the kiln? I was setting up witness cones in the kiln. I did not have a placard for them, and I had not made one and set up to dry. I had a piece of clay not quite dry and thought, well why not, I don’t care if it cracks or pieces pop off, I just need it to hold the wetness cones to get my maturation Temp along with upper and lower. Well as you can see from the pic, ceramics with moisture can be completely destroyed when fired! 😀

The piece that is in there that I used for testing had some cracks in the seams When bone dry, so I figured it was a good piece to sacrifice to a meltdown If the kiln sitter failed shut down. Which I really hope does not happen, since I do not have kiln wash or shelf paper!
Firing appears to have been successful however. The kiln Has five separate individually controlled heat zones. I started with the lowest zone and turned each on every 30 minutes. My witness cone placard exploded sometime after turning on the second zone. My kiln setter Cone was Cone02, 2048°F. Kiln sitter shut down occurred between three hours twenty and 3 hours 50 minutes into firing. It will take this puppy some time to cool down, so I will leave it to it and check my test fire peace in the morning.

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Efforts on my studio

So, between my full time job in Information Systems, time with my family, and struggling with my ever present issues with Anxiety, depression and just being plain exhausted and failing to be motivated to do anything,  I have been working, hit and miss, at efforts to get a pottery studio established. I have a pot, in a previous post, started more than a week ago, half done. And I have my cobbled together clay extruder project from my last post to get back to.

On a good note however I did finish the work bench, getting the last piece of the top on, sanded, stained and lacquered. Also a friend of mine mentioned a work table/bench they made from a solid wood door that is just sitting in storage. So I need to find out what size it is (can I get it in my Tahoe!), and how much he wants for it. Hoping he will just let me have it 🙂


I forgot however that I had planned on adding a backboard and shelves. Which I can still do I guess. At least until I do add the backboard, it is finished. 

I am also in the market for a utility sink. you know one of those big plastic square tubs on legs masquerading as  sink. I have one in our utility room, or laundry room. But since it is our laundry room I don’t want to have to worry about cleaning up clay mess in there. Also not have to worry about clay in the drain trap. So I figured I would get one to go in the garage, or just outside of the garage, not hooked up to our plumbing and just straight drain with no p-trap. That way it is somewhere I don’t have to worry so much about the mess.

I came across one for 20$ in Facebook market place that would not be to far away when I was at work. I responded to the seller, last night, just hours after it was posted, that I was interested and where could I see/pick it up today. This morning they responded to me that they had someone coming to pick it up. If they did not, they would let me know. Sigh… They did not have a time that whom ever was going to pick it up would be doing do however 😦

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Cobbled Togethher 19” Clay Extruder

So since I made a clay exruder out of a caulking gun. I wanted to make something that was, well, a little more. Also something less complicated and would require less effort to use than some of the bigger ones you can buy. I was thinking of somthing using other than a fulcrum lever, say a mechanical screw or hydraulics to push the plunger through.  So this is my first cobbled together effort. 

The clay tube is about a 19” length of 2 1/4” sched 40  pvc pipe. Same as the caulking gun extruder. The plunger rod is two pieces, one short and one longer, cut from and old garden hoe handle. When I was first trying this out, I was using a 1/2” square dowel. The dowel was not stout enough however and it bowed in the middle under the stress which caused the end against the plunger to get off center inside the tube, turned the plunger sideways and then pushed passed the plunger into the clay. You can emagine how much fun that was!

The pvc pipe is strapped down to a board with 2 pieces of plumber’s hanging strap, and butts up to a board with a hole in it to allow the extruded clay to pass through. I use two inch washers with correct diameter holes for the die, which are slipped in between the board and tube.  The 3rd piece of plumber’s strap you see over the plunger rod keeps the rod straight as it will want to rise up when the force to push it through the tube increases. 

The clay log gets put in the tube. The plunger inserted and then the short plunger rod passed thru the plunger strap. The scissors jack is layed down butting up against a short piece of board that is screwed down with business end of the jack against the rod. I then found a socket that would fit over the jack’s shaft and with a short extension and a ratchet I turn the jack shaft and as the scissor jack expands it pushes the plunger rod against the plunger into the tube. Viola the clay is forced through the die and extruded. 

When the scissor jack reaches its limit, it has to be reversed and backed down and the longer plunger rod put in and then expand the jack again to finishing extruding the clay. I had to figure out what the jacks maximum extension was and then cut the two plunger rods accordingly. 

So this is the cobbled together version. The base it is built on consist of two lengths of board because it is what I had at hand, and they are screwed down to the bench. Now I will cut a length of board that is long enough to house it all. That way I can put it away in the corner when not in use. But I do want to get a bottle jack to use instead of the scissor jack. I think it would work better for a couple of reasons. 

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