Mixing or Preparing Clay Recipes Using a Pug Mill

Even if you don't make your own homemade clay recipes a pug mill can help in preparing, mixing, or refreshing clay. You can buy them new or find them for sale used on craigslist or ebay. First, we'll look at a definition and how to use one of these systems.

Shimpo Pug MillShimpo Pug Mill

Definition - A clay processing machine that mixes and compresses clay, usually using an auger.

Once the clay has been processed through this machine it is ready to be thrown on the potter's wheel. Some of them come with an additional vacuum feature that further de-airs the clay, removing any air bubbles for ease of throwing.

The way it works is that recycled or loosely mixed clay is fed into the auger. It is then mixed and compressed out one end of the machinge ready to throw.

The clay generally has to be mixed somewhat evenly before being pugged. For example, when I was in college, I would stir up 50 gallon buckets full of dry greenware, wet failed pots, slip, and some powdered clay. After stirring I would dump it into the pug mill.

I usually had to run the clay through the machine several times, adding a bit of powdered clay each time, until it reached just the right consistency.

If I had just dumped a bunch of slip into the machine it would have continued to produce slip. Often, when potters are mixing a homemade clay recipe they will do the initial mixing in a clay mixer. Then they'll run the rough mixed clay through the mill to further mix, compress, and de-air it.

At that point the clay is ready to use and requires little or no wedging.

The main differences in machines is their power and capacity. While some mills are suitable for processing huge amounts of clay, like for a school or commercial studio, others are better for smaller batches, like for an individual studio potter.

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