As a potter, I have found that many tools and techniques can be used to create unique and beautiful pieces. One such tool is the extruder, which is commonly used in ceramics to create various shapes and forms.
Pottery clay extruders are devices that are used to push clay through a die, creating a continuous shape that can be cut to the desired length. It allows you to create consistent shapes and forms quickly and easily.
If you are new to ceramics or are simply curious about the clay extruder, we will take a closer look at clay extruders. Keep reading to learn more about this clay-shaping tool and how it can be used to create beautiful pottery pieces.
Overview of Pottery Clay Extruders
Clay extruders come in various shapes and sizes, but they all work in a similar way. You put the clay in a barrel, where the clay is forced through a die to create the desired shape.
Extruders are mainly manual and can be used with all types of ceramic clays, including earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
History of Clay Extruders
Extruders have been used in pottery for centuries. The ancient Egyptians used the earliest known extruder to create bricks and pottery. Then, in the 19th century, potters began using extruders to create shapes and designs for their pieces.
Today, extruders are widely used in the pottery industry and are an essential tool for many potters. They allow for consistent shapes to be created, which can be difficult to achieve with traditional hand-building techniques.
Components of a Handheld Extruder
I mainly use the handheld clay extruder to create different shapes and forms for my pottery pieces. In this section, Here are the different components of a handheld clay extruder.
Handheld Extruder Tube or (Barrel)
The extruder tube or barrel is the main part of a clay extruder. A hollow tube holds the clay. The extruding tube is usually made of plastic or stainless steel. The barrel is available in different lengths.
Handheld Extuder Plunger
The plunger is a disk that fits inside the extruding tube with a rod that has a release button. The plunger pushes the clay through the die.
The plunger is usually made of steel, aluminum, or durable plastic; some plungers have rubber around the edges. It fits snugly inside the extruding tube to prevent the clay from squeezing out.
Handheld Extruder Handle
The handles are used to push the plunger. The two handles squeeze together, pushing the plunger down on the clay and through the die.
Handheld Interchangeable Dies
The dies are usually made of steel or plastic. The dies fit at the end of the extruder and are held in place by a cap that is screwed onto the tube. These Die Sets will fit most handheld extruders.
Clay extruders have a wide variety of die patterns to choose from that can be easily changed. You can even make your own die pattern with blank dies. The size of the patterns will determine the variety of die sets you choose from.
These hollow dies will fit most handheld extruders. They also fit in both my Nidec and Scott Creek extruders.
This Hollow Die Set comes with eight dies and a cylinder insert that holds the dies in place.
Components of a Wall Mount Extruder
The components of a wall mounted extruder are similar and only have a few differences.
Wall Extruder Tube or Barrel
The extruder tube or barrel is the main part of a clay extruder. A hollow barrel that is square or round holds the clay and allows it to be extruded (pushed) through the die. The extruding tube is usually made of steel or hard plastic. It is available in different diameters to accommodate different types of extruders.
Wall Extuder Plunger
The plunger is a disk that fits inside the extruding tube with a rod to force the clay through the die. The plunger is usually made of durable plastic. The plunger fits snugly inside the extruding chamber to prevent the clay from squeezing out.
Wall Extruder Handle
The handle is used to push the plunger. There is one handle that pushes the plunger down on the clay and through the die. The size of the handle is long to help extrude the clay easier.
Wall Interchangeable Dies
The dies are usually made of metal. They are available in different shapes and sizes, including round, square, triangular, and more. The extruder die fits at the end of the extruder and is held in place by a cap or plate that is screwed onto the chamber.
Clay extruders have a wide variety of die patterns to choose from that can be easily changed. You can even make your own die pattern with blank dies. The diameter of the ceramic extruder will determine the variety of die sets to choose from.
There are Hollow Dies that are also available for wall extruders. The hollow die would depend on the extruder you have. These dies extrude differently shaped hollow forms. There are Hollow Dies for Brent Wall Mounted Extruders. Bailey also has Wall Mounted Extruder Dies.
What Are the 5 Types of Extruders?
I have worked with various types of clay extruders over the years. Here are the four types of clay extruders that I have used in my work. And one I have never used but is worth mentioning.
Handheld Pottery Clay Extruders
As shown above, the handheld extruders are simple, easy-to-use tools perfect for small-scale projects. It is lightweight and can be operated with one hand. This type of extruder is ideal for creating small coils, handles, and other decorative elements.
The hand-held extruder is the most popular for beginner and hobby potters. It’s the type of pottery extruder I use the most. I have both; this Nidec-Shimpo Extruder and the Scott Creek extruder.
For more information on both extruders, I have a video comparing the two to help you decide which is best for you. Check out the video Handheld Clay Extruders Review.
Wall Mounted Pottery Clay Extruders
Also shown above, the wall mounted clay extruders are designed for large amounts of clay. It is typically mounted on a wall or table and can be used to create a large amount of continuous extruded forms of clay.
You can get a square barrel extruder like this Bailey Wall Mounted Extruder or the round barrel Brent Wall Mounted Extruder. Both are ideal for creating large forms and larger-scale production pottery.
A mini extruder is a compact tool. This type of extruder is operated by hand. It’s ideal for creating very small shapes and decorative elements.
Check out the Mini Clay Extruder with 19 dies.
DiamondCore® Handheld Extruders
DiamondCore® handheld clay extruders are a different type of extruder that uses a metal shape as the die on a handle. There are also different brands like this Pottery Carving Tool. They are available in a range of sizes and can be used to create a wide variety of shapes and forms. This type of extruder is ideal for creating handles.
Each type has its own unique features and benefits, and choosing the right extruder depends on the specific needs of your project.
Electrical Clay Extruder
The Electrical Extruder is a powerful and efficient tool that is great for high-volume production work. A motor operates it and can be used to create large quantities of uniform shapes and forms.
This type of extruder is wonderful for the potter that can’t apply too much pressure to the handle of the extruder, as the wall extruders can be hard to use when pushing the clay through the dies.
Using an Extruder
Here are some tips for using different types of extruders.
Preparing the Clay
This tip is for all types of extruders. Before using an extruder, it is important to prepare the clay. First, I wedge the clay to remove any air pockets and make sure the clay is soft and pliable. Then, I shape the clay a little smaller than the cylinder to fit into the extruder.
How to Use a Handheld Clay Extruder
Using a handheld clay extruder is similar to using a caulking gun. To load a handheld clay extruder, place a small amount of soft clay into the barrel and use a plunger to pack it tightly.
Select your die, place it on the end of the extruder, and attach the cap.
Instead of pushing the handle down, apply pressure to the plunger by squeezing the handles together to push the clay through the die. When using an extruder, a plunger pushes down on the clay and through the die.
How to Use a Wall Mounted Extruder
To use a wall clay extruder, select the desired die and attach it to the extruder. This wall extruder has screws and a plate to hold the die in place.
When loading the wall clay extruder, make sure to pack the clay into the cylinder to prevent air pockets. Next, push the plunger plate down on the clay with the long handle. This pushes the clay through the die.
How to Use a Mini Clay Extruder
With the Miniature Rotary Clay Extruder, just load the clay and push it through the die.
How to Use an Electrical Extruder
An Electrical Extruder is similar to a wall clay extruder but is powered by electricity. To use an electrical extruder, plug it in and select the desired die. Then, load the clay and turn on the machine to extrude the clay.
How to Use a DiamondCore® Handheld Clay Extruder
The DiamondCore® Handheld Clay Extruders are easy to use. I select the desired chunk of clay and run the wired shape through the clay to create a pattern.
Overall, extruders are an excellent tool for creating consistent shapes and patterns in ceramics.
You can use different types of extruders with ease and precision.
Ways to Use the Pottery Clay Extruders
I find extruders to be an incredibly versatile tool in my studio. They allow me to easily create consistent shapes and forms with moist clay, saving time and effort. Here are some ways to use an extruder:
One of the most common uses for an extruder is to create handles for mugs, pitchers, and other vessels.
It quickly and easily creates identical handles for a set of pieces using a die specifically designed for handles.
For a more detailed look at making handles with the handheld extruder, check out Making Ceramic Handles with a Handheld Extruder – With Videos
You can also check out this YouTube Video below on 8 New Handheld Clay Extruder Handle Designs – Handles for Mugs.
Extruders are great for coil building. Rather than rolling out each coil by hand, Simply extrude long, consistent perfect coils and cut them to the length you need.
I use the Extureder for coil building all the time. Coils are great for creating many things out of clay.
Clay extruders can also be used to create different-shaped hollow forms. You can create many different shapes with these Hollow Dies. They can be used in many ways.
As an add-on to your pot or you can even create things like vases, shot glasses, and more.
You can extrude forms for add-ons for pieces, such as spouts or feet. You can create these elements quickly and easily by using a die that matches the shape you need.
In addition to creating forms, clay extruders can also be used for decorating. By extruding thin, consistent strips of clay, I can create intricate designs and patterns on my pieces.
Finally, extrude unique shapes and forms by experimenting with different dies and techniques. The things you can create with the extruder are endless.
The extruder also works great to make test tiles. You can make a good amount of test tiles in a short time.
What Are the Benefits of a Clay Extruder?
As a ceramic artist, I have found that using a clay extruder has many benefits. Here are a few reasons why I love using this tool:
Another benefit of a clay extruder is its versatility. With different dies, You can create a variety of shapes and sizes, from simple tubes to more complex designs.
This allows you to experiment with different forms and textures in my work.
Consistent shapes and sizes
One of the most significant benefits of using a clay extruder is the ability to create consistent shapes and sizes. This is especially important when making multiples of the same piece, like handles for a set of mugs, with a clay extruder.
Using a clay extruder can also save a lot of time. Hand-rolling coils or cutting slabs can be time-consuming. You can quickly produce a large amount of clay in the same shape and size with an extruder. This allows you to spend more time on the creative aspects of your work.
Maintenance and Care
I know cleaning the clay extruder is essential to maintaining proper performance. Extruders are easy to clean.
Cleaning the Extruder
After each use, clean the extruder thoroughly to prevent any clay from drying and clogging the machine.
It’s also important to clean the dies. If dry clay sticks to the die, it will affect the shape of the clay going through the die.
To clean the extruder, I remove any leftover clay from the barrel and the die. Then, I use a sponge and push it through the barrel to remove excess clay.
After that, wipe the extruder down with a damp sponge to remove any remaining dirt or clay particles.
For wall mounted extruders, potters can line the barrel with a plastic bag. The plastic bag keeps the barrel of the extruder clean.
Choosing an Extruder for Ceramics
When choosing an extruder for ceramics, there are several factors to consider. Here are some of the key things to look for in an extruder:
Factors to Consider
Capacity: Consider the size of the extruder and how much clay it can hold. This is important because it determines how much clay you can extrude at once and how often you need to refill the extruder also, if you have a home studio which extruder would work best for you?
Durability: Look for an extruder that is built to last. I want one that can withstand heavy use and won’t break down easily.
Ease of use: Consider how easy the extruder is to use. You want one that is simple to set up and operate.
Versatility: Consider whether the extruder can be used for various shapes and sizes. I want one that can be used for simple and complex shapes.
Popular Extruder Brands for Ceramics
Here are some popular extruder brands that I recommend for ceramics:
Brent Clay Extruder: Brent extruders are known for their durability and ease of use. The heavy-duty steel barrel holds up to 10 lbs. of clay and can be used in various shapes and sizes. Check the current prices HERE.
Bailey: Bailey wall mounted clay extruders are another popular option. They are known for their versatility and can be used for simple and complex shapes. Check the current price HERE.
Scott Creek: Scott Creek Extruders are known for their different sizes, and many dies to choose from. They are built to last, and the rubber on the handheld extruder’s plungers helps keep the barrel clean.
Shimpo-Nidec Extruder: The Shimpo-Nidec is a popular, durable handheld Extureder. It comes with five dies and one blank die. It can hold a little over a pound and a half of soft clay. Check the current prices HERE
For more detailed information on choosing a handheld extruder, watch this YouTube Video below: Handheld Clay Extruders Review – The Nidec vs The Scott Creek.
When choosing an extruder for ceramics, it’s important to consider your specific needs and preferences. By doing so, you can find an extruder that will work well for you and help you create beautiful ceramic pieces.
An extruder allows for the creation of intricate and complex shapes that would be difficult to achieve by hand. The extrusion process also allows for consistent shapes and sizes, making it ideal for mass production.
Whether you are interested in creating simple shapes or complex designs, the extruder is a valuable tool to help you create them.
Can You Use Air Dry Clay in a Clay Extruder?
Ceramic artists often get asked if air dry clay can be used in a clay extruder. The answer is yes but with some limitations.
Firstly, it’s important to note that air dry clay is different from traditional clay. Air-dry clay is a water-based clay that dries and hardens without needing to be fired in a kiln.
When using an extruder, the consistency of the clay is crucial. Air-dry clay tends to be softer and more pliable, which can make it difficult to use in an extruder. It’s important to make sure that the clay is not too wet or dry, as this can cause it to either break or not extrude properly.
I found this Air Dry Clay by Amaco works the best for me. While air-dry clay can be used in a clay extruder, it requires some experimentation and careful handling.