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Published Dec 1, 2021

pug mill clay mixer

Clay mixers and pugmills are great machines designed to help with the constant chore of recycling clay or mixing new clay bodies from scratch. They’re not cheap, but in some situations, the investment is well worth it. If you have wrist problems or have an intense production schedule, a clay mixer or pugmill could end up paying for itself in the long run. Among the major manufacturers, there are scores of options available, so you would be wise to do some homework if you are thinking about making this purchase.

In this post, Bill Jones, former editor of Pottery Making Illustratedpresents six important considerations to make when shopping for a clay mixer or a pugmill. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Function

An example of a horizontal mixer. The hopper on this model from Bluebird Mfg. tilts forward to aid in emptying the machine once the batch has been mixed.

What do you need? If all you want to do is mix your own clay, you need a mixer at a minimum. If you want a mixer that empties itself, go for the mixer/pug mill or a mixer with a tilting hopper. If you need clay that's ready to throw without any further wedging, you'll need a de-airing pug mill either as a standalone machine or as part of a mixer/pug mill. If your concern is just recycling, a pug mill or a mixer/pug mill can do the job but you'll need to ask the dealer about what condition the clay has to be in before it can be processed, for example, stiff, bone dry, slurry, etc.

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Capacity

You don't want to overestimate your needs and purchase a machine you'll only use once or twice a year, or one that won't keep up with your requirements. Manufacturers make machines of varying capacities and rate them by batch-mixing sizes (in pounds), mixing rates (pounds/hour), and pugging rates (pounds/hour). In addition to these rates, you'll need to consider times for batching, unloading and wedging to get an idea of total clay throughput.

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Ventilation

If you're planning to mix clay, you'll need a ventilation system to control dust even if the clay mixer has a tight fitting lid on the hopper. There are dust collection systems available or you may have an existing system to tie into. Caution: Even with a ventilation system, you'll still need to wear a respirator when working with dry materials.

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Electrical Requirements

Larger machines have larger motors and hence draw more power. And if you opt for separate a separate mixer and pugmill, you'll need to allow for two machines. Find out how much service you have (in amps) and whether your system can handle the additional draw (this is not usually a problem, but worth knowing in advance). You'll also need to know whether you have single phase (residential) or 3 phase (commercial/schools) service as this affects the type of motor.

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Cleaning and Storage

When switching from dark to light clays, or buying a machine without a tight seal, you'll need to clean the machine. If this is a concern, check on how easy it is to dismantle the machine for cleaning. When storing a machine for days or weeks at a time, or even over summer holidays at schools, most machines can just be sealed and the clay inside remains moist.

Clay Mixer & Pug Mills: Safety

All machines are potentially dangerous and pugmills and mixers are no exception due to the tremendous torque required to blend and move clay. Most machines are equipped with safety shutoffs and guards that prevent hands coming in contact with moving blades and augers. Check and compare safety features.

For more information:

Axner Co. Inc.
Bailey Pottery Equipment
Bluebird Mfg. Inc.
Peter Pugger
Shimpo Ceramics
Soldner Clay Mixers by Muddy Elbow Mfg.

Note: Many manufacturers sell their machines through a network of distributors. Check the websites above and with your local supplier.

**First published in 2010


Topics: Pottery Clay