How to roll a slab

Boondock

Shohin
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you don't need any fancy equipment to get started making pottery. A trip to Home Depot or other home improvement store is all that is required. And don't bring alot of money either, because the things you will need to make a nice slab will cost you less than 7 dollars.

There are several ways to roll out a slab of clay. Slab Rollers are professional pieces of equipment costing hundreds of dollars. You can see what a slab roller looks like and a video explaining its use right here if you're interested.

You need three things...

1. something to roll the clay on--I use Reynold's plastic coated Freezer Paper
2. roller guides--I use oak slats, that are 1/4 inch in height. I have one that is 2 inches wide, and one that is 3 inches wide and I use them for alot of other things to make a pot. They should be 3 feet long. These cost 2-3 dollars.
3. a rolling pin--I use a 2 foot piece of 2 inch diameter PVC pipe ($2)

Here's what you need



Oh and of course you need clay. Clay is very cheap. 25 pounds of clay costs between $8 and $10 dollars. Buying in larger amount is cheaper, I usually buy 100 pounds at one time. You should buy a mid-range stoneware clay for cone 6 firing. Here's what 25 pounds of clay looks like. Look in your phone book under Ceramics or Pottery supplies to find clay in your area. While your at the pottery supply business, ask them for a list of place that will fire your pots.



next, use a knife (or better yet a wire cutting tool, which costs about 3 dollars) to remove the amount of clay you want to roll out. This is about 3 pounds. Place the clay between your roller guides and press down. The height of the roller guides determine the thickness of your slab. I recommend 1/4 inch.



roll out the clay just like pie dough



when the clay reaches a smooth, consistent 1/4 inch height, use a metal scraper to smooth the clay, compress the slab, and drive the grog into the slab



here's your freshly rolled out and scraped clay slab



now all you have to do, is wait until the slab loses enough moisture to become leather hard. This will take many hours, and depends on the temperature, humidity and other factors in the environment of your work area.

The best thing to use to dry your slab is a plaster table, but sheetrock/dry wall will do great job

that's it, it takes just a few minutes to roll a slab of clay, once it's leather hard, it will be ready for you to cut pieces out of it and make a new bonsai pot.

You can go to this excellent tutorial to see more information about slab making.


Here's another vid you that might interest you about rolling pins
 
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Thanks for sharin' boon;)

That's a great first step. You guys can also go to Andy Pearson's (stone monkey) blog and see a demo on a slab built pot. He is a great guy from what i know of him and his work is awesome.

-rob
 

ketoi

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Does the clay stick to the freezer paper?

Never thought of PVC for rolling, will have to stop by hardware store to pick some up.

Thanks Boon!
 

Boondock

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Does the clay stick to the freezer paper?

Never thought of PVC for rolling, will have to stop by hardware store to pick some up.

Thanks Boon!

thanks ketoi for the question because I should have explained it better. The freezer paper does not stick to the clay, it peals right off, but it's not the ideal solution because the plastic coating is non-porous and will not absorb water from the clay. I have tried using butcher paper, but it always soaks so much water in that it becomes a mess, even when I put newspapers under it.

Since I've been making only small pots, what I do is flip the slab to allow the other side to dry. I may flip it a couple of times during the drying process. I do this using 2 pieces of plywood. The plywood is 2 ft X 2 ft. The process works like this..... I slide a piece of plywood under the paper the slab is on, then I put a new piece of freezer paper on top of the slab, then the other piece of plywood. So now you have a slab with freezer paper on both sides and plywood on both sides, it's very easy now to "flip" it over, without disturbing the slab. I then scrap again and continue to wait till it dries to leather hard.

Ideally, the slab should be placed on a plaster table to dry, or a piece of sheetrock, (since it's made of mostly plaster) but I broke mine while flipping and just got used to the method I came up with.

The PVC pipe is the original pipe I bought 3 years ago and it works great. Again not ideal because it's non-porous, but it works fine as long as you clean it between rollings. Never had a problem with it sticking. they have a big wood rolling pin at the pottery supply store for $45, but since the PVC pipe has never caused a problem, I continue to use it.
 
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Thanks for sharin' boon;)

That's a great first step. You guys can also go to Andy Pearson's (stone monkey) blog and see a demo on a slab built pot. He is a great guy from what i know of him and his work is awesome.

-rob

That is a great progression on slab built pots, he also has some other interesting pieces on bonsai pottery as well. For those of you who do not know, Andy's blog can be found at http://blogs.knowledgeofbonsai.org/andy_pearson/



Will
 

TheSteve

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I just wanted to point out that the pipe is abs not pvc. Don't know if it will make a difference or not but abs is more forgiving than pvc which is more likely to shatter. Also pvc is white compared to black abs. This is meant to help so people won't get confused while in the store asking for one thing (they think) and being directed to something else. Thanks for all the lessons you guys have been throwing out lately. I've had an interest in pot making and this helps alot.
 

irene_b

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"roll out the clay just like pie dough"

And how do you deal with air pockets?
Mom
 

Boondock

Shohin
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the only time I've had air bubbles, was when reusing clay from leftovers. I use a needle tool to pierce the surface and gentle press the area to release the air, then scrape again. I wedge leftover clay

Wedging, looks and feels like kneading bread dough. You can see it demonstrated here

However, I've been told by experienced potters that wedging is really not necessary for slab construction using clay straight out of the bag, and that the majority of people who wedge clay actually induce, or add air bubbles due to improper technique. I have never had a single air bubble in clay straight out of the bag. I even asked the guy who makes my clay (he makes it by the ton). He told me the same thing.... just use the clay directly from the bag if you're going to roll it out.

Clay for wheel thrown pots is a different story, but I'm not a wheel guy, so I don't know
 

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Boondock

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so what do you do when you have a leather-hard slab, and it's raining outside?

you make a shohin hex with a one piece rim and sorta ugly feet.

This pot was made from the demo slab on this thread.





not a bad little pot made with 2 pieces of wood and a section of ABS (thanks TheSteve) pipe

 
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ketoi

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Boon,
How do you measure the angles to get everything to line up?

Made this one last year but it's a mess, nothing lined up. Good thing it was soft slab or it would have never been made.


Want to create one using leather pieces.
 
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Boondock

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first I make a design on paper, then I cut out templates. I cut the rim as one piece and assembled the pot upside-down. The angles were cut by my miter cutter, and then adjusted individually by eye to to fit.

Here's my design. I didn't follow it exactly. I can't post it directly on the forum because it's actual size.

here the templates I cut out.



Hexagons are the hardest pots for me to make, and probably one of the hardest for other potters. You just don't see too many handmade hex's and if you do, they are usually mid to large size.
 

irene_b

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I really like that pot son!!!!
Mom

I think the feet on this are cool looking....
 
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