Now that the Open Studio Long Weekend is over. I can get back to the issue/problem of the pug mills.
Success! I made two batches of clay for wood firing and processed them through the two refurbished pug mills.
They both worked just as they should. Instead of taking a whole day to pug the clay through the small 75mm pug mill, as we did a month ago.
This time, using the 100 mm vacuum pug mills we were able to get the clay pugged all through twice, to insure even mixing in record time.
I made a batch of 140 kgs of iron stained wood fired stoneware body in the dough mixer that I bought from my long time friend John Edye after he retired.
The clay mixing room is loosely sealed and has a vacuum nozzle positioned over the machine that is in current use. This removes a great percentage of the dust from the building, keeping a slight negative pressure in the mixer room and stopping any dust from migrating into the pugging room.
After the clay is removed from the dough mixer, it is placed on the clay trolley and wheeled out of the mixer room and into the pugging room, where it is pugged twice, blended, bagged and boxed.
I scrape, scrub and then sponge out the dough mixer bowl clean as soon as the clay is removed from the bowl. It is best to do it as soon as possible, while the clay is still moist.
It makes the job a whole lot easier. I take charge of mixing the new clay body batches in the vacuum sealed clay mixer room while Janine does all the pugging in the next room.
The fresh clay is then pugged through John’s 100mm. Venco pug mill that dates from the mid ’70’s. This pug mill is the first model of this size made by Geoff Hill.
It is currently disguised as a very large pretend musk stick!
We pug the clay through twice. The first time we stack all the pugs up in a pyramid fashion, then chop all the ends off the clay sausages, working our way back through the batch of clay to minimise any slight variations from batch to batch. Taking clay from the first, middle, and last pugs and blending them back through the machine.
It turns out that Geoff Hill learnt a lot in the building of this first model. And soon made changes to improve it’s design.
We bought our first 100mm. Venco about 6 months to 1 year later than John and we ended up with the second, re-designed model.
As it turned out the second model worked faster and was quieter than the first model.
I didn’t realise this at the time, but as we now have one of each of these earlier pug mill models running side by side, we can experience the differences.
When I made the second batches of clay. The wood fired porcelain clay body. Janine used the pug mill that we were given from our lovely friend Jane in Melbourne.
With its new reconditioned motor now in place, it works beautifully – now!
This is a later model pug mill. Possibly built a decade later than John’s pug. It is much quieter, runs a touch slower, but is much faster and is self feeding.
It runs a little bit slower, but pugs the clay a lot faster.
It doesn’t need a lever plunger to force the clay into the barrel. The clay is just naturally drawn into the pug barrel. This is how we experienced the use of our old original Venco pug mill from 1978.
I attribute this to the design of the blades as they are set up on the shaft. The newer model has the blades a little bit closer together, so that there are no ‘dead’ spots and is a great improvement.
After pugging both batches of clay and storing it all away in the plastic lined clay boxes. Janine puts the chooks to bed and then goes to the house to light the kitchen stove and start dinner.
I wheel the pug mills out of the way, and then wheel the clay bench and pug sausage tables both out of the way. So that I could wet mop the floor and get it scrupulously clean, before wheeling everything back in place. Ready for the next batch.
The mixer room is also mopped clean.
This practice, keeps the clay room spotlessly clean and minimises air born dust diseases.
I’m actually too old to die young now, but I still want to protect everybody else that comes here to visit.