Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some Clay Tips

When I first started working in clay I would have given an arm and a leg for some of these tips, so I posted a few here. Some of you may know these already, but perhaps you have other clay tips, if so please let me know.

To minimize warping and cracking for slabs of clay, roll slabs in all four directions turning the slab over and rotating it with each roll of the rolling pin. If using a slab roller, set the roller on a thicker setting and then flip the slab of clay over and roll in the opposite direction for the final roll of the clay.

An old bedsheet or pillow case is good to use to roll out or flip over clay slabs to minimize stretching and finger prints.

When applying stains, stir the mixture before each use, since the chemicals settle to the bottom.

For applying slip to pattern cutouts, use a flat bottom sponge and dab the slip, like you would apply paint in a stencil.

Use a foam pony roller to press seams of clay together to avoid finger prints. Thanks for the pony roller Cindy, I started using it and it really helps.

Use pam or WD-40 for a release on slump or hump molds; works great on glass, ceramic, or wood. The clay slides right out of the mold when firm and the spray burns out in the bisque to no ill effects.

Use cornstarch for a mold release for cookie cutter or other small metal molds, thanks Yolanda.

Use an acrylic rolling pin for rolling your clay and it won't stick and gather clay like a wood rolling pin. Wipe the rolling pin clean with a damp sponge after each use.

When glazing if you get a run or drip of extra thick glaze, use some tulle to rub the drip lightly after the glaze dries. The tulle rubs just enough off without rubbing all the glaze off.

For smoothing edges of greenware bowls and plates, wait till the plate is completely dry and use a silver chore boy scrubbie draped over both sides of the plate, scrub lightly or heavily till the desired smooth surface is achieved. Careful not to break the piece though, that's happened to me. Thanks for this tip, Hil-Dee.

When firing large flat platters or other pieces, place in the coolest section of the kiln and sprinkle a light bed of porcelain sand under the bottom to allow the piece to move freely on the kiln shelf. This helps prevent warping and cracking.

When inserting a hole punch into clay, rotate the punch as you press into the clay and it penetrates the clay much easier.

To minimize the outside surface of seams on hand built pieces, lightly score the edges of the seams where they meet and then smooth the surface. The seam becomes nearly invisible, thanks Hil-Dee.

I know there are more, but hopefully someone can benefit from some of these. If you have any tips I'd love to know about them, every clay tip helps.


  1. Thanks Linda..These are all great helpful hints. T.

  2. Hi Trish, thanks, glad they are helpful.

  3. That's a lot of tips for one post!Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hey, I found a couple I didn't know!... Had to look up what tulle is... Ah yes. Will have to snag a bit of that and give it a go next glazing round. Thanks Linda!

  5. Linda, great tips, one more that I have found invaluable, cover/wrap your creations with bath towels when you are drying them. The wicking action of the terrycloth pulls moisture from deep inside the clay to the outside, thus evening out the moisture during the process, way less cracking, etc. When you check items, towel will be cool with the moisture wicked into it, but no nasty condensation like with plastic

  6. Hi Dennis, thanks, I know I've gotten some good tips on your blog too.

    Hi Patricia, thanks, glad you found the post helpful, I just have to find my tulle cause I'll be glazing soon.

    Hi Pauline, thanks, what a great tip. I just checked a bowl I made with an intricate pattern of slip dots and it has a small crack on the edge, your tip probably would have prevented it. I patched it, but my experience with cracks is that patching never works.

  7. there's a wealth of knowledge in that post! i use WD-40 all the time... i spray my wood rolling pin with it to prevent sticking.
    before loading the bisque kiln i go over my bone dry pieces with a green kitchen scrubby (those thin rectangular ones) lightly sanding off any nubs of clay...also great for smoothing over any burrs from carving.

  8. Hi Judy, thanks so much. I've learned a bunch on your blog too.

    Hi Michele, thanks, the comments are good too, thanks for your tip, I have some of those green scrubbies, I will try using them more often, thanks again.

  9. Hi Linda,
    Your first tip make sense to me, will have to apply to my slabs.... I get some warping and would like to reduce that. Great tips!

  10. Hi Yolanda, thanks, it's something about stretching the clay in both directions so it doesn't want to go back to where it was - the clay memory.

  11. Thanks for the great tips! WD 40, eh? Gotta try it.

  12. Hi Angie S, thanks, works like a charm.


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