How to make the perfect slabs of clay

Ever tried to roll clay on cloth?

DIY: How to make the perfect slabs of clay

If you did, you probably will have noticed that it’s hard to keep the cloth tight and flat.
To make slabs of clay, I used to roll the clay on a piece of textile, supported by two wood slats.

There is nothing wrong with that method. Just that the fabric doesn’t always behave the way I want it to behave. It often crinkles, making lines in the slabs I don’t want.

Then one day somebody gave me this tip. I thought it was ‘the egg of Columbus‘. (Do you use this expression in your country as well?)

(Art and pictures © Hannie Mommers)

My work, using slabs of clay

pennekrats - hannie mommers
Pennekrats” – 37x47x10 cm (2x)

Staple the cloth to a board
And you won’t get wrinkles in the slabs anymore

making slabs of clay
How it used to be

Once I heard this tip, I couldn’t believe I never thought of it myself. It’s so simple, yet so effective.
OK, I do know there are machines that make slabs even more perfectly than mine.
But these machines have 2 downsides:

  1. I can’t afford them (I don’t want these toys, but the industrial kind)
  2. my atelier is too small to have room for such a machine.

board to make slabs of clayOne of my boards

One board, two laths, one rag. And some handiwork

What you need:

  1. Waterproof plywood
  2. Slats in various thicknesses, 2 per thickness
    I have 5mm, 7mm and 8 mm
  3. Sturdy fabric
    I bought denim on the market that has just a little bit of texture. The less texture the better.
  4. Stapler
  5. Hammer
  6. Nails
  7. Driving punch
  8. Roller
  9. Clay

Tip: Make sure the width of the board matches the length of the roller!

Pay special attention to the stapling
This is how your board will last for years

diagram for the stapling
Diagram for the sequence of the stapling

Wet the fabric before you start stapling it to the board. That way you can tighten it much better.

Staple it following the pattern in the drawing. Start at one long side, pull the fabric very tight on the other long side and staple it there. Then the two short sides. After that fix the cloth at the corners. And finally staple in between at a distance of approximately 5cm.

board for slabs of clay
Staple the fabric on the sides

board
Different boards for different thicknesses of slabs

Let the textile dry thoroughly and hammer the slats on the long sides of the board. It’s very important that the width of the board matches the length of your roller! Drive the nails into the wood with the punch so they won’t hinder the roller in any way.

Make as many boards as you need thicknesses. I have three boards and made a fourth one without the slats for thicknesses I don’t need very often.

Once in a while I put my boards outside against the wall of my workshop and spray them clean with a garden hose.

This is how I build my Pages of Clay

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