Tips and Tools: Bed of Nails

1 Close-up of Toni Losey’s bed-of-nails spray support, 24 in. (61 cm) in length, ¾ in. (2 cm) plywood and drywall screws, 2017.

2 This close-up shows the small points of contact on the sculptural work and how little interruption they cause to the applied slip texture. It also highlights the distance created between the work and any pooling sprayed material.

Have you ever sprayed glaze on a piece only to realize afterward that the glaze pooled up at bottom of the piece? With this nifty homemade tool, you won’t have that problem.

After spending a number of years as a production potter, I recently returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree. Here, I had the opportunity to explore sculptural work and in doing so, I came up with a simple way to glaze my work—the “bed of nails” spray support.

I create highly texturized pieces with a thick, sprayed-on slip and glaze surface that is delicate until fired. Initially when spraying my pieces I was faced with two significant issues. Since I continually pick up and move the piece in order for spray to reach into all the spaces, I am constantly marking the delicate surface as I set it back down.

I also found that pools of sprayed liquid would accumulate at the base of the piece while I worked. Not only did this interrupt the applied uniform texture, but it also pulled off previous layers of slip as well. This was proving to be a messy challenge.

I needed to find a solution that would elevate the work above the pools of sprayed liquid and would be delicate enough to not hurt any texture already applied to the piece.

3 Applying slip to a sculpture on the bed-of-nails. I use an atomizer alongside a standard nozzle and air compressor to achieve the desired textured slip application.

4 Toni Losey’s Green, 10 in. (25 cm) in height, ceramic, fired to cone 08, 2017.

Here enters my bed-of-nails solution! It was made from an old piece of plywood (12×24 inches) and dry-wall screws (158 inches). I started by drawing a 1×1-inch grid on the board. I chose a spacing that would hold several types of work, even pieces with fairly small surface areas of contact. Where each line on the board intersected, I drilled in a drywall screw. It was very important to keep the screws straight to ensure even height, stability, and strength. At first, I thought the very sharp point of the screw would be a benefit, but as I bisque fire to cone 08, the screws were pitting the work as the clay was still quite porous. The easy fix was a quick couple of taps with a hammer to the sharp end of each screw. Once this adjustment was made, the bed-of-nails spray support worked perfectly.

Clean up is simple but necessary. Once the sprayed material accumulates on the screws, it starts to deposit itself in clumps onto the work. I have made it my practice to hose down the board and screws as soon as I see this accumulation begin. This does little to slow down my work flow since the tiny tips of the screws dry quickly and are instantly ready to be used even though the rest of the support is still wet. When storing it, I always lean it on its edge to ensure that air is able to hit the entire wood surface to aid drying.

The bed-of-nails spray support is useful for any spray booth application of slips or glazes.

the author Toni Losey, born in the Canadian prairie, currently lives in Nova Scotia as a full-time studio potter. In 2017, she received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied sculptural ceramics. Learn more at www.toniloseypottery.com.

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