No more bricks

My dream of homemade bricks has been put to rest.

I dug, dried, powdered, sieved, powdered, resieved, reconstituted, aged, and wedged up 8 lbs of our pond clay and took it into the pottery studio a while back. I made little testers, enclosed them in saggars (to prevent their harming anything else in the kilns) and with the blessings of the studio manager, fired two testers to electric cone 05 (bisque) and cone 6 (mid-fire).

First, the clay: it is not for throwing on the wheel. It is far groggier (gritty, sandy) than the groggiest clay I have ever seen. Working it while spinning was like fondling a pumice grinding wheel. My hands were sore after just a little bit – sore and smoooth. My fingernails were toast, but then they always are.

Conversely, that same property made it a truly excellent handbuilding medium. Too bad I’m just not drawn to handbuilding.

Still, I would have perservered IF the clay vitrified at the right temperatures; but unfortunately it doesn’t. Both testers are still completely porous and underdone. That means that anything made from my clay and fired to cone 6 (what I could likely get the fire temperatures to while working by myself with a small clamp-style kiln) is no good for outdoor use.

Thing is, I wanted these bricks to build an outdoor woodfired oven and patio. See the problem?

My next test is going to be submitting one of these testers to a woodfire kiln to see if they’ll vitrify at cone 11-13. At this point it’s just an exercise in curiosity. Because even if it worked, those high-fire workshops take three days to a week, require many hours of volunteer time, and cost between $125-$350 per person. (For bricks? No, thanks).

If the clay did vitrify in high-fire, maybe I could still make something from it that was a little more precious – tableware for instance – but the fact remains that my medium is the wheel and this clay is no good for working on the wheel. (Perhaps this very sandiness makes it good for using in straw bale construction. We’ll have to wait to see till next year, because now the pond has filled up again for the winter.)

I’m kinda bummed, but to be honest not by much. Making useable clay is a long, backbreaking process (see first paragraph). When a single afternoon on Freecycle got me more bricks than I could make in a year … maybe it’s time to kiss this project goodbye.

Another archive for the “I could if I had to, but I won’t” files, I think.

One Response to “No more bricks”

  1. Rose Says:

    Good for you! I am impressed you put in so much work to try it and then wisely rejected it as being not worth the effort.

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