Here are a few handbuilding tips we've come across in our travels. Have a few you want to share yourself? Drop a comment!

1. Having trouble with clay sticking to your molds, rolling pins, and canvas?

  • Use pantyhose to cover molds, rolling pins, etc.
  • Sprinkle the surfaces with cornstarch. It will burn off in the kiln.
  • Cover items with Saran Wrap or newspaper.
  • If you're using the slab roller a lot, the canvas can get wet and cause sticking. Use separate pieces of cloth (old sheets are great and you can get them at garage sales for 25 cents) or thick plastic instead of placing the clay right on the canvas.

2. To keep tiles and other pieces of clay flat as they dry, sandwich them between pieces of drywall. You can stack many layers this way.

3. To support your slabs while handbuilding, try cutting your templates out of roofing paper (tar paper) or cardboard. They will support the slabs so you can assemble them while they are still soft. Keep it attached until the clay hardens, then peel off.


4. Make slabs in advance and keep them wet for ages in Styrofoam coolers. If they start to dry out, throw a wet towel over them.

5. When carving into leather hard clay, first cover the surface with Saran Wrap. You can draw your pattern on it with a marker. And when you carve there will be no burrs.

6. When cutting clay pieces, first dip your knife in vegetable oil so it glides right through the clay. WD-40 works also, but has a chemical smell. Both will burn off in the kiln.

7. For random textured slabs, impress food objects such as coffee grounds, wheat bran, and rice. Just make sure you don't get pieces of rice entrapped in clay or they may cause an explosion when firing. .

8. Finally, repeating from an earlier tip, use vinegar to attach clay, it works like magic. And if you are trying to attach pieces to work that has gone past leather hard, wrap it all in wet newspaper, then plastic. The moisture will even out and the pieces will stick.

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