Every potter needs a surface to wedge clay on, and there are many different types. The most common are plaster, plaster covered in canvas, and plywood covered in canvas. Other possibilities are concrete, granite, Masonite, concrete board and Hardibacker board.
What is Wedging?
Wedging prepares the clay for optimal use. Wedging makes the clay more pliable, ensures a uniform consistency, and removes air pockets as well as small hard spots in the clay before you use or reuse the clay for a project. In the beginning, it is very common to actually add air to the clay instead of removing it. Don't be frustrated it will just take practise and repetition (as with most things in ceramics) to get the clay into the perfect consistency and shape. (Maybe we talking wedging techniques in another blog post soon!)
No matter what you use, wedging is important to working with clay. A wedging surface needs to have a bit of grip to it. If it is too smooth, your clay will simply skid across the top as you try to wedge. It also needs to be a bit absorbent. If it’s too absorbent, it will draw too much moisture out of your clay. But if it is not absorbent enough, you won’t be able to use it to prepare overly wet clay.
The simplest wedging surface is a piece of canvas. It can be put on a table or any surface, however, without being secured to anything, the sheet of canvas will likely move around as you wedge, which isn’t ideal. Wedging is physical and you need a surface that is not going to slide around or bounce as you wedge.
A purpose-built wedging table is an additional expense that you might want to avoid. If this is the case, then don’t stress. There are lots of inexpensive simple ways of finding the perfect clay wedging surface for your studio. The solution provided today is a quick and easy guide that will give you a dependable, portable and long-term solution that won’t take up a ton of space.
Be aware that there is a concern that clay dust is created on your wedging surface over time. Cleaning your canvas or wedging board is essential to keeping dust accumulation to a minimum. Wiping your wedging board down before and after wedging with a soft sponge will help remove dust each session and sometimes replacing the canvas when it gets old will ensure that you are not stirring up dust and causing a potential health concern; however, the canvas on your board will last some time with regular cleaning. I’ve found my only need to change it out is if any cuts in the canvas appear.
While this is a very easy build, some would prefer to pick up an already built wedging board. If thats the case we do offer them on our website at the link below!
Lets Get Started!
A wedging board is essential in the studio. I do most of my work in the second bedroom of my apartment, so I needed an easy solution to wedge my clay up, but also have it be portable so I could hide it out of the way when not required.
I find this 2' x 2' surface is plenty of room for me to prepare my clay. I also added Screw On Non Slip Furniture Pads to ensure grip on the surface which is handy when putting all that work in wedging, and also a small handle that makes it easy to move around and even hang if needed! a picture below of our pre built wedging boards.
Tools You Need:
This project is much more simple than the At Home Clay Trap. It can be made with a few tools that most people have at home.
- Staple Gun
- Screwdriver (likely a phillips head)
Supplies You'll Need:
Below is a list of the items you'll need to build your own Wedging Board. I've attached links to where I picked these up, but most can be found at any hardware store. **Numbers correspond to pictures above
3/4 Inch x 2 Feet x 2 Feet Sanded 1-side Plywood Handy Panel - Any plywood will do, but its best at 3/4" to handle to pressure of wedging, and always nice to have one finished or sanded side which you'll attach the canvas to, in order to provide a smooth wedging surface. Below is a link for a 2' x 2' board, but keep in mind this option is more expensive by foot than buying a full sheet of playwood and cutting it, which is also an option.
4 7/8-inch Zinc Door Pull - Not absolutely required, but these handles are cheap and make it easy to move your wedging board around, or even hang it.
Mod Podge® - I use this to prevent the canvas from fraying after it’s cut. You can use Elmer’s white glue or anything else like that you can find
2 inch Surface Grip Screw On Non Slip Furniture Pads (4-Pack) - Helps keep the wedging board in place and avoid slipping etc. on your surface (I know right... you're asking yourself.... why didnt I think of that!? HA!)
Canvas Drop Cloth - I get asked a lot about the canvas I use when I build my shop tables or these wedging boards. "Do you need a special kind of canvas?" the answer is no! any canvas will do, I just happen to find it easy to find Canvas Drop sheets, somewhat like painters use, and they are widely available at most hardware stores. The link below is more than you'll need, but canvas comes in handy in the studio for other purposes too!
Step by Step Build Instructions with pictures:
1. Ok, you now have all the tools and supplies needed to start piecing together your new At Home Wedging Board! You'll start with the canvas; with scissors cut a piece to about 2.5' x 2.5' feet. Your plywood board is 2' x 2', but you'll need the extra bit to wrap around the board and staple it down. it doesnt have to be exact.
When stretching canvas, some find it helpful to wet it to more easily stretch, you can either run it under water, or take a wet sponge and damp it a bit. I have stretched canvas without wetting first, and it works, but you will get a tighter stretch if you wet it.
2. Grab your piece of plywood, center is on your cut out piece of canvas with the sanded or finished side face down to the canvas. The finished side will be the surface in which you'll wedge on, so its best to have that side face down to the canvas.
3. You should have the extra 6" of canvas on all sides, choose one side to start, take your staple gun and firmly press down to the canvas to apply the staples. The first side you dont have to do any stretching, but you want to make sure you apply enough staples so when you do start stretching on the other side, it will stay in place.
4. Ok, this is where it gets important, you'll now staple the opposite side in which you just attached. To stretch, it's going to take some muscle. A bit at a time, stretch the canvas as much as you can, and apply one staple at a time, after each staple, try to stretch it a bit more each time. As you do this, you can flip up the board to make sure the canvas is stretching enough, there shouldnt be any wrinkles.
5. Once you're done attaching the opposite side, do the same for the remaining sides, don't rush this, you want to make sure the canvas is as tight as you can possibly get it. At the corners, you may have to fold the canvas so they have a tight fit as well. Later when we attach the Non-Slip feet we will need a flatter surface, so be sure that the canvas doesnt bunch up too high in the corners, otherwise the feet won't sit flat and your wedging table will be uneven.
6. Flip your wedging board over to ensure you have it stretched as tight as possible. Run your hand firmyly over the canvas, if it bunches up, or is loose in any way, it's not tight enough. It's a pain, but if its not tight, you can remove the staples and stretch it again.
Flip your board back over and grab your Non-Slip feet, place one in each of the corners and screw them down with the provided screws. If the canvas is bunched up too much in each corner, the screws may not be long enough to screw into the plywood. Make sure these are screwed down tight and they don't move around or feel loose.
7. Grab your Zinc Door Pull handle. Pick a side (any side!) hold the handle in place while you screw each included screw into the side of the plywood. If you're like me.... you're going to want to make sure its in the center, just measure 1 foot in to help you center the handle.
8. Your canvas underneath may have frayed a bit while you were stretching it, trim the extra canvas off, but leave at least one inch of canvas on the inside of the staples. Take your Mod Podge or White glue and apply it to the trimmed edge of the canvas, you can use a small paintbrush, or even your finger! not much is needed, this will just prevent the canvas from fraying any further.
Thats it! not a super intensive project, but one that will help you immensly in your At Home clay journey. Even if you are a member at a studio or have a place you go to throw pottery on the wheel, you can still do handbuilding projects at home! and this is a great addition to any home studio space.
Not only does this board not take up a ton of space, it can be stored out of the way or hung up to save space.
SAFETY: Be sure to keep your wedging board clean, if there are pieces of dried clay on the canvas, dampen the canvas slightly to prevent dust and scrape clay off with plastic putty knife, then sponge it until clean. Dry clay can get trapped in between the canvas and the board. Be aware that slapping or slamming the clay down on your board will kick up clay dust. If you are Hand Building on a canvas clay board, you may also kick up dust while working.
Have a Spray Bottle handy. When you have dry clay in your studio, it’s wise to spray it down and wipe it with your wet rag or sponge instead of brushing it off. Washing the canvas board down with water afterward is best. If your canvas board is portable, taking it outside and hosing it down every once in a while will help keep the clay dust down.