Hand pressing method of making ceramic objects

Ceramic objects

The hand-pressing method of making ceramic objects is one of the most ancient. Primitive people to this day still use this method, because it is simple, easy, and takes little time.

The basic principle of this method is-plastic clay is placed or pressed against an object and takes its form from that of the object. The primitive potters would press moist clay against the lower half of a bowl or pot, and thus build up the base. They would remove the bowl or pot, and then build up the sides upon this newly formed plastic base. This method saved time as compared to creating a complete new bowl or pot. We shall create objects by this method for the experience.

Lesson V

Part I. Making an inside plate materials:

The same as in lesson II plus:

  • A rubber sponge
  • A piece of cotton cheese cloth or gauze, 1 yard square 1 10-inch plate with a smooth inside curve
  • 1 10-inch plate, dinnerware type (to be used in part II)

Procedure: Draw a circle 10 1/2 inches in diameter on paper. Cut out this circle with scissors.
Roll a slab of well-wedged clay 3/16 inch thick. Place the paper pattern on the slab. Cut out a clay circle from the pattern.
Place the plate (with the smooth inside curve) right side up on the table.
Place the cheesecloth on the plate. Stretch and lay the cheesecloth so that there are no wrinkles in it.
Place the clay circle on top of the cheesecloth and plate so that it is centred in the plate. With the outside heel of the palm, gently tamp down the clay circle all over until the circle lays flat against the plate. Do not press so hard that there are indentations of the palm in the surface of the clay circle.

Fig 19

With the pen knife trim the edge of the clay circle until it is even with the edge of the plate (Fig. 19A).

Let the clay rest in the plate until it becomes leather hard. At this stage the plate, cheesecloth, and clay may be turned upside down, the outlying cheesecloth gathered above the plate, and the plate and cheesecloth lifted away from the clay plate. The plate is ready for drying and bisque firing. It is as easy as this.

If a footing is desired, a plastic coil may be slip pasted to the bottom of the clay plate. The edge of the plate should be rounded with sandpaper after the plate is "bone-dry" or bisque fired. This type of plate is especially useful for practicing the engobe decoration methods indicated in lesson X. After bisque firing, sandpaper the plate surface to smoothness.

Part II. Making an outside plate

Materials: The same as in part I, this lesson, (except the 10-inch plate with a smooth inside curve).

Procedure: Proceed to make a clay circle similarly as in part I of this lesson. Place the dinner plate upside down on the table. Spread the cheesecloth over it so that there are no wrinkles in the cloth. Place the clay circle over the plate and cheesecloth so that the circle is centred on the plate.

Press down gently with the outer heel of the palm so that the circle is flat against the plate. Trim the edge of the circle even with the edge of the plate (Fig. 19B).

With the brass edge of a ruler held perfectly vertical and level, pass the ruler horizontally across the raised portion of the clay plate to make a level footing.

Let the clay rest on the plate until it becomes leather hard. Turn the group upside down, gather the loose cheesecloth above the dinner plate and lift it away.

The footing of the dinner plate will leave an indentation in the top of the clay plate. Using soft moist clay, fill in this indentation with the finger, until the surface is level. Round the curve of the soft clay smoothly in the direction of the shoulder of the clay plate. Gently smooth this clay "fill" with a moist sponge after the soft clay has dried for about 10 minutes.

Let the plate become "bone-dry," and fire it to bisque. Sandpaper the edge of the plate to round it when "bone-dry" or in bisque. Sandpaper the surface of the whole plate to smoothness when in bisque.

Making a bowl

Materials: Same as in part I this lesson, plus:

  • A small rubber pad. (This pad can be made by cutting an oval from a smooth surfaced automobile inner tube.)
  • A shallow wide-mouth bowl which is smooth and curved outward on the outside. A round container (this container should be sufficiently large in diameter to hold
  • the inverted bowl securely, and high enough to hold the bowl above the table level).

Procedure: Thoroughly wedge a double handful of clay that is more moist than normal. Roll a circular slab 1/4 inch thick. Place the bowl upside down on the round container.

Place the clay on the top of the bowl and with the hands slowly press the clay across the top and down the sides. The feel of the hands will indicate when the thickness of the clay on the bowl is uniform. Do not pack the clay in where the clay is too thick. Slowly press the clay down, trimming away the excess as it gathers at the base of the bowl. The clay should remain 1/4 inch thick all around the bowl. Trim the clay at the base so that the outside surface comes down to the edge of the bowl. Smooth across the top of the clay bowl with the brass edge of the ruler to provide a level footing for the clay bowl.

Moisten the rubber pad and pass it across, smoothing the entire surface of the clay. Do not press the pad down too hard, to avoid packing the clay.

Do not touch the clay until it is leather hard; at this time, the group can be turned upside down and the bowl lifted out. Place the clay bowl straight up on the breadboard to become "bone-dry." Sandpaper the rim to roundness. Fire the clay bowl to bisque, and then sandpaper to smoothness prior to firing with glaze.

This lesson is a good exercise to facilitate the "feel" of plastic clay and in estimating thickness by feel.

  • Index
  • Coil method
  • Decoration
  • Glaze decoration
  • Glossary
  • Hand pressing
  • Kiln & firing
  • Mould making
  • Plastic & flower
  • Potters wheel
  • Slab method
  • Slip casting

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