Six Key Considerations When Shopping for a Pug Mill or Clay Mixer

Clay Mixers, or Pug Mills, or Both?

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.
Today, Bill Jones, former editor of Pottery Making Illustrated, presents six important considerations to make when shopping for a clay mixer or a pugmill. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Clay Mixers & Pug Mills: Function

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.

pug mill clay mixer

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.

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.

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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.

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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
  • Steven F.

    I owned a Peter Pugger VP-30 for over a decade. I had to replace the control board at considerable expense. I found the machine had quirks, for example, getting a good seal for de-airing. I purchased a Bailey MSV25-SS and sold my VP-30. I like it much better. It seals and de-airs every time, its easy to use and highly efficient. I just wanted to point out that all that pugs and de-airs is not Peter Pugger. There are other very good machines out their.

  • I was all set to buy a PeterPugger VPM-9, only to find that they were out of stock. I was offered a “new” VPM-20 that had only been used as floor model for people to look at–it had never had clay inside it. The price they quoted was so low, I couldn’t resist. And am I glad I have it! This machine is built like a tank, and the de-airing is the finest feature of all!

  • Cheryl M.

    Anyone willing to recommend a size of peter pugmill to run in a studio of approximately 100 students a year?

  • There are other pug mills that work well besides a peterpugger. Maybe the marketing is not as slick or the name as cute, but I bought a shimpo and it is great! easy to take apart and operate. Less expensive too.

  • I got a PeterPugger after promising my husband I’d shut up. That pugmill is the best at reconditioning wrassled-up dry clay– out-wedging and mixing better than ol-lady me !!! That’s good medicine !!!!

  • Bonnie S.

    I have been a long time proponent of having a pug mill as a most necessary piece of equipment in the studio. A potter friend introduced me to the use of an early Bluebird. I purchased this one around 1967 and have used it ever since. So far it has carried me through my career as a professional potter these many years and I still use it to soften my clay. At 88 years of age, I need softer clay and this fills the bill. If I were to purchase one now, though, my choice seems to lean toward the Peter Pugger as the Buebird changed the hopper size (as a safety measure) which slows down the process considerably. Of course, my production has also lessened so I now have less scrap clay to process. Any serious potter should consider purchasing this piece of equipment. Mine has paid its dues over and over again for almost 50 years.

  • Sharon R.

    I have owned a Peter Puggery VM 30 for aobut 6 years now and it has changed my life! It’s wonderful and helps keep the studio much cleaner as I can put all scraps–wet, dry, etc. in and don’t have little bags of clay to recycle all over.

  • Klaus K.

    If you only nees a machine for mixing clay from dry powders, you can use o horizontal pan mixer for concrete. but you might need to get it fitted with a more powerful motor and better transmission, ask the supplier for a mixer which can be used for refractory castables, they can mix clay as well.

  • Janet T.

    When I moved our household to where we are here, I brought a bathtub full of dry clay and scraps, using my Peter Pugger to reconstitute and prepare for throwing all that problem clay. I am SO HAPPY for this addition to my clay machine family !!!

  • Eliot L.

    I also purchased and Peter Pugger VPM-9 shortly over a year ago. I did some homework and the VPM-9 seemed to be the pugger that would work best for all my needs. I also place all my clay scraps from the wheel or handbuilding directly into the clay chamber, close the clay chamber and when I have enough to process just mix and pug. The greatest benefit I have found is the deairing feature, saves time and it is a breeze to wedge the new reclaimed clay if necessary. Less physical strain on the body is a definite asset. I weighed the benefits against the priceline and the benefits definitely provided me with the performanace I was looking for. Very happy with my choice and I know it will be a piece of equipment in my studio that should last a lifetime. I also need to comment on the support staff at Peter Pugger. They are so willing to assist you if you have any questions or concerns. I feel this is an important detail in the decision process.

  • Ceramics Enthusiast S.

    I purchased the Peter Pugger VPM-9 last year and I don’t know how I lived without it. Since it is a mixer+pugmill there is no storing of scraps of clay. I just put in all my scarps from wet collasped pots on the wheel to leather-hard pots and it gives me perfect clay. With the cold weather coming up, I do enjoy warming up the clay in it as well so it is easy on the hands.
    Like Richard mentioned, other than time and money saved on recycling, I think the main benefit I have found is the ability to create, experiment, design new work without worrying about wasted clay.

  • Richard P.

    i’m well chuffed with mine!
    i got a peter pugger de-airing pugmill a few months ago. i love it!!
    i built a small table to let gravity help my hands shape the round pugs into squares for my extruder and i couldn’t be happier.
    i’ve wedged…some…clay, so dues are paid
    ; ^)

    this takes a lot of arduous work out of the equation for me, and leaves much more time for production, designing, etc. i have it apart at the moment, as i clean it out to process a white clay body for classes i’m about to offer. two wrenches is all one needs, plus a little arm wrestling power to free stuff up.

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