Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homemade Bat System

We have been looking at several bat systems that use a main bat and inserts, but didn't want to spend the money with so few reviews to go on. So, we decided to create our own bat system using upcycled materials.

First we started with a plastic bat like this:

Then, we marked a square, drilled a hole in one corner, and used a router to cut out a square. The router leaves rounded corners. Rather than going in with a scroll or hand saw and squaring the corners, we decided to take care of it on the inserts.

Next, we cut the inserts. We used Corian™ counter top material that was left over from sink cutouts at our local counter top fabricators. It is smooth, non-absorbent, and durable. These were cut to the same measurement as our cut-out bat. We clipped the corners which was initially done to avoid messing with the square in the main bat, but ended up being better when throwing as well.

We originally thought we would use the wrong side of the Corian™ because it has a little tooth, but we found we preferred throwing on the right side. The wrong side is not planed perfectly smooth and the wobble transferred to the clay.

Alex quickly whipped out stacks of inserts and we made them in 6 inch and 8 inch sizes.

The inserts are easy to remove from the main bat using any number of tools. When we designed the system, we thought the hole drilled in the corner would aid in popping the insert out, but we found that with the corners clipped, we can pop a tool under any corner and lift the insert out.


Yup. We chose it because it is durable and waterproof and there is a lot of it headed to dumpsters. Upcycling is the new black.

I notice the insert sits higher than the bat. Is this a problem?
It hasn't been for us. Before using this system, we frequently used small, square bats. As long as we are using the right size insert for our piece, there is plenty of room for our hands.

Is it really easier to clip the corners of each insert rather than square out the corners of the bat?
Um... I don't know. It happened by serendipity and turned out to be a good thing. Now there are no hard corners to catch tools or hands!

How do you get the cutout centered?
Well, with the plastic bats, you can see the pin holes through the top. So, We marked a straight line across the bat through the pin holes. We found the center of that. Then we marked a line perpendicular to the first through the center. From there, it is fairly straightforward to mark a square that is centered on the bat.

Are you going to make these to sell?
We are considering it. Because we make sure each insert fits the bat perfectly, we are concerned it would be hard to supply more inserts at a later date. However, about 20 inserts fit in a flat rate Priority Mail box with a plastic bat... at least in the 6 inch size.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

While the snow falls outside, it can become very difficult to motivate ourselves to throw at the wheel with cold, wet clay. On the coldest days, we crank up the kerosene heater and handbuild. This week, we spent some time with our extruder and created a shelf full of posey pillows.

Pen cushions or posey pillows are a bit of an indulgence in the studio. They are fun to make and invite us to explore new ideas. While they are labor intensive, they never seem to become a chore, probably because they end result is just fun!

Soon, the crocuses will begin peaking through the snow and we can fill our posey pillows up with the promise of spring! Here is a peek at some of the posey pillows to come:

If there is a better name for these, let us know. We have toyed with posey pillows, pen cushions, and pen-kebana. Many people use these on their desks to hold pens and pencils.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Finding Inspiration

At times, inspiration can be found everywhere we look; yet there are those dark days when the muses become quite elusive. There are a number of ways to make the muses linger such as keeping a journal or sketchbook, researching historic design, and our favorite... tuning in to the children around us.

We have had a harsh winter here in Appalachia. Our kids have been home from school more than they have gone and our studio time has been frequently interrupted. However, having the boys home has meant a continuous stream of creative ideas expressed without reservation.

Last week, the boys announced that our fish needed houses in their fish tank. "Great idea!", I said, so down to the studio we headed. We grabbed the essentials: clay, fettling knives, needle tools, and 'stinky glue' (paper clay slip).

We used the extruder to create the bodies of our houses. The boys attached them to 'yards', cut doorways and windows, and added roofs and chimneys. Boo even boarded over his windows after cutting them out, "in case there is a storm".

After the bisque and glaze firings, the boys' fish houses settled nicely into our aquarium. We have since decided that we need more houses and our doorways need to be just a bit larger. They also said we needed working chimneys so we can put a bubble stone in the house and bubbles will come out of the chimney.

As for my part in this, I was inspired to make these:

Mine won't be landing in the fish tank, but instead will land in our etsy shop.

Since school was called off again today, I am hoping they'll come up with another cool idea so we can all work together in the studio while the storm blows through.