Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"This is serious tile manufacturing"

Yesterday, we used a plasma cutter and today we got to play with the pneumatic clay extruder. Ah yes, day after of day of playing with cool toys.

My very LONG morning began at 6am. We met up over at the ceramics lab, ready to figure out how the heck we were going to fabricate 50+ ceramic roof tiles. We started out by kneading the clay, putting it into the extruder and then..... nothing. It wasn't soft enough. So we kneaded it more and added some water.... still nothing. After spraying with water, throwing it and kneading it FOREVER, we put it back into the extruder and woah! It came out like a shot. Don't blink or you'll miss it (pardon the giggling, I like to think lack of sleep has something to do with it):

video

The problem was we had unknowingly grabbed a box of clay with grog. Grog in this case is not a delightful drink shared with your mateys, it is a clay with a much higher percentage of silica and alumina. This means its not nearly as soft as other clays, although from what I've read it also has less shrinkage during firing.

Regardless, I spent 6 glamorous hours kneading 100 lbs of clay to the consistency of butter. My two team mates also worked on similarly exhausting tasks, such as cleaning out the extruder after each pressing, then helping to knead, or trying to fit together the few tiles we were able to extrude. A VERY long morning indeed.

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