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Ceramics 101

How to remove Leatherware from the mold

After the excess slip is poured from the mold it is left to dry. Usually you can tell when a piece is dry enough to open the mold because the clay will pull away from the sides of the mold. Use a fettling knife to clean the excess clay from the pour hole. Some people advocate the use of an exacto knife, but we do not recommend this. Because it is sharp an exacto knife will more readily cut into the plaster of your mold and damage it.

When the excess clay has been removed from the pour hole, remove the mold bands or straps and carefully open the mold so that the piece may dry further. Be careful to lift one part of the mold completely away so as not to mar the piece. Often the mold is left on its side and one half lifted away. When the clay is firm enough to stand on its own it is referred to as leatherware. It must not be soft enough to sag or droop. It must not be so wet that your hands distort it when they handle it. After several hours, or overnight, the piece is removed from the mold and allowed to dry thoroughly. When it is first removed from the mold the clay will be dark gray.

How to clean Greenware

When the piece is dry, it is light gray, and is called greenware. Greenware is extremely fragile and must be handled with great care. Never pick up a piece of greenware by the edge - or the edge might be all you have left in your hand. Handle the greenware with both hands, gently sliding your fingers under it to lift, turn or move it.

Always cradle the piece of greenware in one hand and work with the other. This way you will have a good feel for the amount of pressure you are exerting on the greenware and are less likely to break it. The edges and seams should be carefully removed with a cleaning tool (Kemper's K23 or B3). Use the flat end of the tool, not the curved end, to gently scrape away the seam line, moving at a diagonal across the seamline, never straight up and down the seam. If you move straight up and down you'll end up gouging into the greenware and making a dip where the seam line once was. When you can run your thumb across the seamline without feeling any difference between it and the rest of the piece, you are ready to move on.

Now use a rubber scrubber to gently sand and smooth the area, moving in a circular motion. Be carfeul not to allow your nails to scrape or gouge into the clay. If any detail was lost in the cleaning the curved end of the tool can be used to recarve.

Now hold your piece so that you can clean the rim. If you are working with a piece like a vase, you can gently scrape off the excess clay with your cleaning tool, then smooth with a rubber scrubber. Or, if the piece is extremely rough you can use a quick stick to 'sand' down the roughness. Be careful though. A quick stick can take away more than you want it to if you sand away without paying careful attention. When the piece is evened out use your rubber scrubber to sand it smooth.

Now use a damp (not wet) sponge to smooth the rim and seam lines. Clean away the greenware dust with the sponge and smooth the piece all over if necessary. Again the piece is allowed to dry thoroughly. When dry, carefully carve your name or initials into the bottom of the piece.

If desired, details may be painted on the greenware at this point using Cover Coats or EZ Strokes.
Otherwise the piece is ready to be fired to cone 04 in the kiln and painted later as bisque.

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