Introduction: Clay Wedging 101
What is Wedging
Wedging prepares the clay for optimal use. There are a few ways to wedge clay. The one you will learn today is called Rams Head wedging. The general idea includes throwing down the clay and rolling it into a tight spiral with a sort of kneading method.
Wedging makes the clay more pliable, ensures a uniform consistency, and removes air pockets as well as small hard spots in the clay before you use or reuse the clay for a project. In the beginning it is very common to actually add air to the clay instead of remove it. Don't be frustrated it will just take practice and repetition (as with most things in ceramics) to get the clay into the perfect consistency and shape.
Step 1: Hand Position
Prepare your hands in the proper position for Rams Head Wedging:
- Left hand behind right hand
- Hands are cupped around the clay
- Palms are facing in towards each other
Step 2: Wedging Motion
First, take your square of clay from the bag and drop down onto the wedging table a few times to help loosen the particles a bit still being sure to leave it in a lump shape verses flattening it out.
Now you are ready to place your hands around the clay:
- Wrap your hands around the clay holding only the upper half of the clay.
- Thumbs should be touching, parallel, and pointing forward.
- Heels of your hands will be pushing at a forward and downward angle onto the table as your fingers and palms continue to cup around the sides of the clay.
- Once your pinkies hit the table, slowly roll the clay back towards your belly button so the point of the clay (or nose of the ram) is touching the table.
- Readjust your hands on the top of the clay as mentioned above and complete the stroke again.
This motions should be completed between 20-40 times.
Am I doing this Right?:
As you get into the motion maybe by 5-10 strokes you should start to see a resemblance of a rams head.
You should also notice a tight spiral forming on the sides of the ram where your palms are, and a slight layering happening on the lower half of the nose from the kneading motion.
Help, I've made a burrito!
You are probably releasing your finger and palms from round the clay as you are pushing with the heels of your hands. Try again and make sure you keep your fingers and palms fully cupped around the as you push it onto the table
My arms are too tired!
Use your whole body to wedge, not just your arms. Try keeping your elbows straight and putting one foot in front of the other using your lower body and upper back to do the bulk of the work.
Step 3: Roll a Cylinder
Once the clay feels like it is a good consistency, and the spiral shape on the sides is looking tight and uniform it is time to start to remove the nose of your ram and form a more cylindrical shape.
- Continue the same wedging motion, but start to lessen your pressure and shorten the stroke of your push. This will eventually leave just a small nub of a nose left.
- Move your clay to the center of the table and roll it towards your belly button. This will remove the remainder of the nose.
It is important to continue rolling everything in the same tightening direction as the spiral you have formed within the clay. Otherwise you can have trouble with your pieces cracking on the bottom as they dry or are fired.
Step 4: Roll a Point
- Put your cylinder in the center of the table
- Using your left hand on the left side of the clay slowly roll the clay back towards your belly button
- You are looking to form a slight point on the left side
DO NOT roll so hard that it creates a concave surface at the pointed end. Any indents in the bottom point of the clay that are left can cause you trouble when you try to center the clay.
Step 5: Create a Flat Sided Cylinder
- Pick the right side of clay up with your right hand so the pointy side is down.
- Give the clay a gentle tap or two down on the table to create a crude cylinder shape
Step 6: Roll a Point
- Place your palm on the top of the clay
- With a very gentle pressure and quick rotating motion with your wrist roll a slight point onto the bottom of the clay. This will be the side you attach down onto the bat when you throw.