When I started pottery, I thought all clay was the same and quickly found out there are many different clays to choose from. Clays Range from how smooth you want it, what color you want, to what temperature you’re going to fire it.
Because I have learned a lot and used a lot of clay since then. I am sharing my top clay picks with you to help you choose the clay that’s best for you.
What To Look For When Choosing Your Clay
- What Cone size do you need (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. 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 Pick For Mid to High Fire Clay Is Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff
I prefer to have an all in one clay body for most of my pottery crafting needs. This helps keep pottery making and recycling simpler. That’s the main reason why Amaco Stoneware 46 Buff clay is my # 1 choice.
A plus for me is it centers much easier than other clays I have tried. Making throwing on the wheel much more fun.
This clay stays sturdy, with good flexibility.
New potters naturally play with their clay on the wheel longer, and the clay starts to get soft, and This clay will hold up longer for the beginner potter. The walls stay firm even when throwing thin. Also If you like to recycle, this clay is easy to recycle and wedges out well.
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.
This clay is wonderful to work with. It’s best to best be fired at cone 5 but can be fired all the way to cone 10.
It has a nice light-yellow sand color to it after firing, and glaze colors turn out beautiful with cone 5 – 6 glazes.
The more I use this clay the more I love it. It’s my favorite of all the clays I have sampled so far.
For Mid to High Fire Clay Is Amaco Stoneware 38 White is My Choice
Being a Stoneware Clay without Grog, the Amaco 38 White Stoneware is similar to porcelain, having a smooth texture it is easy to work with. It’s excellent for Throwing smaller items on the Wheel. With no grog, hand building is still very good. If you love the color of this Clay but need it to be a bit firmer for bigger builds, you can always add a little fine grog.
The Clay being so white makes the glazes brighter and more colorful with cone 5 – 6 Glazes, and can be fired from cone 5 to cone 10 with no problems.
If you’re a beginner at Throwing on the Wheel this clay will be nice and smooth on your hands, but if you tend to play with the clay longer then normal it will start to get mushy. 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
My Choice For The Best Low Fire Clay Is 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 because it’s not a sticky clay. You will find this is a very nice Clay to play with for Potters of all skill levels.
This Clay also takes glazes nicely and is food safe. But it’s best not to put it in the dishwasher.
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 Pro-Cutting Wire 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 shorter 11- 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.
That’s why they call it the Perfect Cutting Wire.
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. There were a few times I had to just give away my Clay because it was not to my liking and there was no way I could throw away perfectly good Clay.