So once I’ve been out and gathered all the bags I can carry, I bring it all back to my garage. I made a big purchase of a Bailey Pug Mill Mixer last year. I had some other options but decided that if I was going to spend some money and have a giant piece of equipment I wanted the biggest, strongest, easiest to maintain and use, piece of machinery I could get. This is what I could afford, it fit in my garage, and they delivered it to my door. I really love it.
I empty a bag into the hopper, add OM#4 ball clay, Hawthorne fire clay, bentonite, and grog and mix it. I decided to follow Watersheds recipe, roughly. I do not add Barium Carbonate. It is quite toxic and I’m not worried about scumming as of yet. I always wear a really good ventilator mask so I’m not breathing in dry particles. I may need to add water depending on how wet or dry the Maine clay is. Mixing takes about 20 minutes. I’m very careful to look for sticks, rocks, etc. I don’t want these in my batch they can clog my screens and chip blades etc. also are a pain to come across in when you are throwing the clay…not to mention can explode if they make it to the kiln.
After the clay has mixed, it goes through a screen into the pug mill tube and is compressed into a solid cylinder. It is de-aired so that no air bubbles are present and I don’t need to spend hours wedging and comes out in a long skinny tube. I slice it off at 8 inch increments and stack it in a pile until I have enough to bag up. I re-use the same bags if they are clean enough. It takes about 30 minutes to process about 25 pounds of clay. I usually do a few batches at a time. I don’t think I could stand there all day. I work pretty hard for this clay and have had to rethink the size of my art work with regards to that. I will probably become more efficient with time, but for now it is so precious. I think of it as sacred. I also wonder if I will ever want to make it easier on myself and use a backhoe. Maybe.