The first time I ever sat down at a Pottery Wheel, I thought all clay was the same. How little did I know?
I thought you throw some clay on the wheel and some water, and that was it.
From the Texture of your Clay to the Types of Glazes, all the way down to the Firing Process, choosing clay can be difficult.
Flash Forward after Hundreds of Pounds of Wedged and Thrown Clay I have learned a thing or two about Choosing Clay.
Below I tell you what to look out for when Picking Out Your Clay. I also give you a Short Overview of My Favorites and the ones you might want to choose.
What To Look For When Choosing Your Clay
What Cone size do you need
Cone size refers to the temperature you will be firing your clay.
This is the most essential part of choosing your clay. If you fire cone 05 clay to cone 5, the clay will melt. If you fire to cone 5 clay to cone 05, the clay will not vitrify (partials fuse together to make the clay nonporous), and your piece will not be dinnerware safe.
How much Grog or Fine Grain does the Clay have
Grog is clay that has been fired then ground up. The grog can be ground up super fine or course. Grog helps to keep the clay firm when hand-building and throwing large pieces on the wheel. It also reduces the shrinkage in clay during firing and helps gases to escape.
How much Plasticity does it have
Plasticity refers to the flexibility and smoothness in the clay. You want to be able to push, pull, and mold the clay to your desired shape.
How well does it throw on the Wheel
The ability to throw the clay into your desired shape without struggling, hurting your hands or having the clay collapse.
Is the Clay good for Hand building
The ability to pull-push and move the clay around without breaking and cracking and having the clay stay firm enough to keep its shape.
Basic Kiln Cone Temperature Guide When Choosing Clay
- Low-Fire Range; Cone 022 (1087 degrees F) to Cone 2 (2088 degrees F)
- Mid-fire Range; Cone 3 (2106 degrees F) to Cone 7 (2,262 degrees F)
- High–Fire Range; Cone 8 (2280 degrees F) to Cone 10 (2,345 degrees F)
When looking for clay the most common low fire range is 04 to 06.
The most common Mid-Fire range is cone 5-6.
The most common High-Fire is cone 10
Top Clay Picks
When it comes to making pottery choosing the right Clay is very important. Here Three of the best Clays that I have used so far.
- Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff
- Amaco Stoneware 38 White
- Blackjack Clay
1. Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff
Amaco is a great company with outstanding customer service. Here are several reasons why I recommend using Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff clay.
This Clay has no grog or sand in it. This clay feels so smooth I can play with it all day. Making centering and throwing on the wheel easier and more fun.
This clay is wonderful to work with. It stays sturdy and has good flexibility. New potters naturally play with their clay on the wheel longer, thus making the clay too soft. This clay will hold up longer for the beginner potter. The walls stay firm even when throwing thinner.
Stoneware Buff is a Mid to High fire Clay. It can be fired all the way to cone 10 but is recommended to mid-fire to cone 5.
Trimming and decorating is easy if you don’t let the clay get past the leather hard stage. I have had no cracking so far. It has a nice light-yellow sand color to it after firing, and glaze colors turn out beautiful with cone 5 – 6 glazes. If you like to recycle, this clay is easy to recycle and wedges out well. The more I use this clay the more I love it. It’s my favorite of all the clays I have sampled so far. Click Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff to purchase.
2. Amaco Stoneware 38 White
Being a Stoneware Clay without Grog, the Amaco 38 White Stoneware has a nice smooth texture that makes it easy to work with. It’s excellent for Throwing smaller items on the Wheel. With no grog, hand building is still good.
For Throwing on the Wheel, this clay has good flexibility and is easy to mold, but if you tend to play with the clay longer then normal it will start to get mushy.
Amaco White is a mid to high fire Clay It fires to cone 10 nicely, but can also be fired to cone 5 with no problems.
Amaco 38 stoneware makes the glazes bright and colorful with cone 5 – 6 Glazes. Trimming is also smooth and easy at the leather hard stage. If you want quality Clay that is smoother and lighter in color, this Clay is for you. Click Amaco 38 White Stoneware to get yours.
3. Blackjack Clay
If you do sculpture work with Low Fire Clay than this Blackjack Clay will work nicely for you. Because this clay is so smooth, it won’t be abrasive to your hands when throwing on the wheel. Seems to hold form nicely as you throw.
Blackjack Clay is good for Hand-building with slabs and coils. You will find this is a very nice Clay to play with for Potters of all skill levels. This clay also holds its shape nicely on the wheel.
Blackjack is a low fire clay. It can be fired in the kiln from cone 06 to 04.
This Clay also takes glazes nicely and is food safe. But it’s best not to put it in the dishwasher. To get your Blackjack Clay Click HERE
Recommended Clay Helpers
When playing with clay we all want helpers to make it easier for us. These are a few things that may help you too, especially if you recycle your Clay.
Must-Have Clay Cutter
This Mudwire is by far my favorite. The length of the wire and feel of the handles are perfect for me. Even with Clay covered hands.
When cutting through your Clay, you want to have control over how much clay you are cutting off. The 13 – inch wire gives you that control. When cutting pieces off the wheel, you don’t want to have to wrap the extra wire around your fingers. This Cutter allows you to cut your pottery off using both handles which makes it easier and gives you a more even cut.
Convenient Clay Container
With its seamless construction, this Clay Container was built with Clay in mind. 20 gallons is a good size. Just big enough to handle a good amount of Clay for mixing new clay in dry form. But not too big to make managing your Clay difficult. It’s always a good thing to recycle and not waste. This container is suitable to use for recycling your clay.
Heavy-Duty Plastic Bags
Clear Bags are great for keeping your Clay moist and workable. These Clear Bags are durable and can be used for recycled Clay and preparing different amounts of Clay for Throwing or Hand-building projects. Also useful for storing Clay made from a Dry Mix.
Clay can be your best friend and feel like silk, or it can be your worst enemy and feel like sandpaper when you’re Throwing on the Wheel. Having the right Clay to Play with makes all the difference in the world. Clay can be a personal thing. Some Potters even get local Clay. Some Potters find their perfect Clay and some are on that never-ending journey. I will always continue to try other clays and hold onto my favorites. Hope this helped you in selecting your Clay.