Twisted! How to Make Funky Ceramic Lotion Dispensers With a Clay Extruder

Three finished lotion dispensers, 7 in. (18 cm) in height, handbuilt using extruded parts, with added feet of unglazed dark brown clay and multicolored slip-glazes. Pump dispensers added after glaze firing.

We recently got a clay extruder at the studio where I work. I had never really used an extruder and, so far, I have been having fun using it for my mug handles. But I know the creative possibilities are endless with this new tool and I am excited to play around with it some more.

 

With my newfound access to an extruder, I realized that one thing Ceramic Arts Daily was lacking was a free download about extruders. Up until today, that is, because the Clay Extruder Users Guide: Tips, Techniques, and Projects for Getting the Most Out of Your Ceramic Extruder is now available for download! To give you a sneak peek at what’s inside, I am presenting this excerpt on making extruded and altered lotion dispensers from David Hendley. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.



Want a complete video course on the clay extruder?
Look no farther than David Hendley’s three-disc DVD set Extrude It!

 


Fig.1 Twist the extrusion as it exits the extruder.

Fig.1 Twist the extrusion as it exits the extruder.

I have been using extruders in my clay work since 1974, after I built my first extruder and made my first dies. I immediately saw the potential for making new forms through extruding, and I’ve always had an extruder in my studio that I use on a regular basis. Of all the pieces I make, the extruder is used for about two-thirds of them-to produce either the main form itself or an added element for a wheelthrown vessel. Even my pulled handles start out as extrusions.

Producing work with an extruder seems like it would enable you to make dozens of items quickly, but just the opposite is often true. Because of all the measuring, cutting, and joining, an extruded pot can require more time to make than a similar, thrown pot, but for some forms, extruding is the most expedient way to go.

Fig.2 Use a piece of monofilament fishing lien to cut the extrusion.

Fig.2 Use a piece of monofilament fishing line to cut the extrusion.

As for the dies, manufacturers offer many configurations; however, if you have more than a passing interest in using an extruder, I’d suggest making your own. Designing and making the die is part of the creative process and requires thinking from a different perspective since it’s the negative space of the die that produces the form. With practice, you’ll soon be able to shift your spatial thinking to where you can easily picture the three-dimensional piece you’ll get from the shape outline cut into a two-dimensional die, and vice versa. In fact, after spending a lot of time and thought designing dies, I often look at everyday objects and mentally picture what the die needed to make them might look like.

 

 

Fig.3 Allow extrusions to set up. Turn over after an hour.

Making a Lotion Dispenser

The form for the lotion dispenser is made with a two-part die that produces a 2½ inch square tube. Hollow square tubes are among the most common shapes extruded, but twisting the extrusion gives a sense of movement to the finished pot.

Lotion dispenser pumps, available from most ceramic supply stores, come in a variety of styles and colors. You’ll need to purchase those before you attempt this project so that you can make appropriate design and color choices. The collars need to be attached with adhesive after the glaze firing—check with your supplier for the best combination.

Fig.4 When leather hard, cut extrusions to length.

Fig.4 When leather hard, cut extrusions to length.

To make the lotion dispenser, load the die into the extruder and fill the extruder barrel with clay. To minimize air bubbles in the extrusion, shape the clay so it slides easily yet snugly down the barrel. Pull down on the lever of the extruder with one hand while twisting the clay as it exits the extruder with the other hand (figure 1). To keep a hollow form from collapsing in on itself as it is twisted, keep your hand right below the die, twisting the clay just as it exits the extruder, and move your hand back up as every inch or so of clay comes out. Any faint thumb indentations left on the clay from the twisting process will not be perceptible in the finished piece. While this process feels awkward at first, and takes some practice as well as a wide reach, I have no trouble doing the job by myself. You may want to have an assistant slowly pull the handle while you practice the first few times. It also takes some practice to get a feel for how much pressure is required to twist the clay as it comes from the extruder. Not much pressure is required, and most beginners twist too much rather than too little.

Fig.5 Brush on underglazes or vitreous engobes if desired.

Fig.5 Brush on underglazes or vitreous engobes if desired.

When you have a long enough extrusion, cut it loose with a piece of monofilament fishing line. Wrap the fishing line around the extrusion, and allow one end of the line to dig into the clay, which holds it in place. Use one hand to pull the other end of the line through the clay while the other hand supports the extrusion as it is cut loose (figure 2).

Fig.6 Round corners and smooth edges of squares.

Fig.6 Round corners and smooth edges of squares.

I always make at least 10 or 12 dispensers at a time because of the significant set-up and clean-up time when extruding through a two-part hollow die. Twisted extrusions are cut off in 18-to-20 inch long sections and set aside to firm up on a table (figure 3). In average weather, I allow the sections to dry for about an hour and then flip and allow to dry for another hour. Measure each extrusion and divide it into three 6 to 7 inch long pieces. Use a fettling knife to cut each extrusion (figure 4).

Fig.7 Cut arches into the top and bottom of the form.

Fig.7 Cut arches into the top and bottom of the form.

For my glazing technique, I apply slip glazes to the sections of twisted square extrusions before adding the tops and bottoms (figure 5). Allow the painted surfaces to dry for several hours before handling and continuing with construction. (After bisque firing, I glaze the top and insides of the dispensers.)

Fig.8 Trim the bottom slab flush with the sides.

Fig.8 Trim the bottom slab flush with the sides.

Once the slip glaze is dry, roll out a slab for the tops and bottoms of the dispensers. The slab should be slightly thicker than the walls of the extrusion. Cut the slab into 2½-inch squares, then round and smooth the edges and corners of each square (figure 6). Roll each square again to make it slightly thinner and wider (about 2¾ inches square). I roll past the edges to create a softer and slightly wavy edge.

Fig.9 Use a tool to compress and bevel the seam.

Fig.9 Use a tool to compress and bevel the seam.

Next, cut raised arches into the top end of the extruded section (figure 7). On the bottom of the pot, cut the arch so the four corners become the feet of the piece. Score and slip the bottom edges, attach the bottom slab and trim the edges flush with a cheese slicer or fettling knife (figure 8). Roll the handle of a fettling knife along the edges of the bottom at a 45° angle to reinforce the joint and bevel the bottom slab (figure 9).

Fig.10 Roll the top back and forth to compress the joint.

Fig.10 Roll the top back and forth to compress the joint.

Add the top slab but don’t trim it, leave the overhang as a design element. Roll the top back and forth on the table to secure the join (figure 10), allow to dry for about an hour, then cover with plastic and leave overnight to equalize the moisture.

Fig.11 Cut a 1-inch hole in the top for the pump.

Fig.11 Cut a 1-inch hole in the top for the pump.

On the following day, use a piece of 1-inch tubing to make a hole in the center of the top slab for the lotion pump (figure 11). After the glaze firing, a glue-on collar and lotion pump collar will complete the pot.

To learn more about David Hendley or see more images of his work,
visit http://www.farmpots.com/.

Comments
  • “…a glue-on collar and lotion pump collar will complete the pot.” Where can these be purchased?

  • I am just taking a break from work with my extruder, and look at your great daily newsletter….and what do i see: everywhere extruders! greetings from Austria, ARTforUSERS.com

  • We tried this in our studio classes. Ended up making 6 inch twisted vases in stead. The twisting properly and without fingerprints is the tricky part. Practice-practice.

  • try using thin sponges as ‘grabbers’ they might spread out the pressure from fingers handling the extrusions.

  • This sounds really do-able. Our ceramics club mostly retired little elderly ladies seldom if ever use the fine wheel operated extruder I selected over the long handled ones yet these ladies do not use it when the the cleanup is simple. Oh Well maybe I will introduce this technique to them instead of their “painting’ ready made bisque.

  • i just finished pushing a few tubes.
    here’s what i discovered:
    1) when using the square inner die form, it was more difficult to keep from squishing/collapsing the form. so i assembled the square die with the round inner form for that size die…much smoother spirals that way and less finger distortions.
    2) one could do the spiralling after the extrusion and before cutting off. a slightly less spirally spiral…
    3) leaving the rough bottom end, i used it sort of as a handle to do my turning with, leaving the majority of the extrusion intact and un handled.

    HTH

  • Where do you get the part with the threads that glues onto the top of the dispenser so that you can put a pump on it? I have always wanted to handmake my own soap dispenser but was clueless as to how you would do this without the part shrinking in the firing.

  • I use Soap Dispenser Threading Tool. If you use cone 6 clay; the best is to rub it with sand paper when it is dry, than it is not too big. When you use Soap dispenser tool, you can screw any dispenser you want.

  • How do you attach the lotion pumps? Glues I have used in past (I’ve used E-600, contact cement & many more) have all failed in use. Ant suggestions!

  • 2 part epoxy works really well. Just mix resin and hardener and it sets up in minutes!

  • shaked, that threading tool looks perfect but I wonder about the shrinkage factor…..or are the threads on it calibrated to fit the dispenser tops after the clay has shrunk?????????????????????????????????????

  • I never knew extruding could be so much fun and so creative. Thanks for the information.

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