Aug 13, 2012

How to make clay from soil!

Remember this is what your clay should look like...different colors are ok but this texture

 Clay is everywhere. You just have to look for it. But the easier place to find it is along rivers and at the edge of  any water. Even puddling areas.  Walk along your local water source and take note. Ever shovel an area and the dirt area looks shine and dense and the soil stays all together? That soil has a high clay level! This can even be in your own yard. Take a hand full of it, see if it will feel kind of like clay and shape when you play with it.

When I was a kid we had a spot near a stream, a little inlet that the water did not flow so much at,  the soil was just like the clay you by in stores! (:( that area has since been developed).  You will have to go through a trial and error with different samples to find some really good stuff. But some of the fun is in the hunt for it.

Before for settle on one big batch you may want to do a bunch of little batches with soil from different places to see which is the best. 

Now remember some river clay may just need a simple rolling and picking out the impurity's with the ease of firing right away. But if it is more grittier or sandy,  or if you are looking to get clay from less clay like soil this is the possess.

Old Fashioned way of getting clay from soil 

Cleaning the soil of non usable junk. 

You will need a screened container to shack and get all the big junk out, window screen would be best. Have a bucket or drop cloth to catch the good stuff the comes through.
What you are trying to do is remove all the stones and pebbles. Dig off a top layer of soil and use the next layer to screen for you clay ( it will have less impurity's) .

Let the soil settle and separate

Fill a bucket halfway with the cleaned soil, and fill two thirds of it with water and add a 1/8 a cup of liquid dish soap (in hard times you would use you soap that you made with lye) . Mix this up good and let it sit for 24 hours. All the soap really does is help speed up the settling process,  you can do this without it.

Water it
Ok now we get a little tricky.  
After around 24 hours the soil will have separated. The finest clay is going to be on the very top. Next layer is fine sand. 

Now a siphoning possess is suggested :
Fill the hose with water, capping each end with your fingers. One end goes below the water surface in the upper bucket, the other end in the lower. You have now created a siphon. With the end in the upper bucket, begin vacuuming off the topmost layer of particles. This is the finest clay. Below this is fine sand. Be careful not to get into this fine sand, rather, siphoning off only the clay.
You can just skim the top off put it in a second bucket...put 2/3 water in that and a dash of soap stir and let is sit another 24 hours and repeat  the skimming of the top part. You will know by its feel.
Keep adding. To make a continuous process, simply add more sifted soil to the upper bucket each day after siphoning the clay.
Pour. The clay may now be poured into another container, such as a bread pan, and allowed to air dry to the consistency needed for your project.

You may have to temper the clay  This consists of adding other non-clay material to the pure clay so it can stand the fire. Some materials that are used is a fine sand, or ground sea shells. Even dried grass, moss, dung, have been crushed up and mixed with the clay. 

Make a few small little bowl shapes out of your clay or what ever shapes you want. Let is dry completely some take a few day some a few weeks...a warm window helps the dry possess.But dry completely is key to this.



yep these babys are going right in the campfire! 

get a good fire going and place your creations nest to it. The key to them not cracking is to slowly introduce them to the fire.  So move them closer and closer and then right into it with the tongs. You can do it on a rack on a charcoal grill if you prefer and cover it . you will lose some. This is a craft and there is a learning curve. And again you are testing to find the best clay in your area to work with.


Have fun experimenting with this one! I am!  I am trying to make beads and pendents :) ya not survival stuff but still learning the whole skill!

A fun song for this post sing along!


1 comment :

  1. the day i was wondering if it would be possible to make pots out of the soil near the river, your post appeared on pinterest...
    thanks! surely will give this a try!!