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blackbird: ball mills...

updated thu 27 may 04


David Martin Hershey on tue 25 may 04

Hi Joseph,

Like you, I had been interested in ball mills for quite a while. Especially
after a friend & I decided to make some masks out of local dug clay,
with the idea to use local obsidian as a glaze...

And then one day while trolling the depths of the fabulous Digital Fire site
(thanks Tony! ) I ran into this little gem:

"Every industry ball mills their glazes as standard practice, no one ever
questions the need. Yet few potters do. Maybe it is time you should think
about it."

OK Tony, you convinced me.

I looked at all the options, and decided to experiment first with a small
rock tumbler. I ended up buying the Thumlers Model AR2 new on Ebay,
delivered for under $100 US.

This is a small 2 barrel model that turns out to be perfect for milling test
batches. Example:

The insides of the rubber barrels are faceted to give good tumbling action,
so you can fill them fuller than you would a regular round milling jar. I
can mill about 16 fl. oz. (about 473 ml) of glaze in each barrel.

I use a mix of 1/2", 3/4", 1", and 1 1/4" alumina grinding balls that Joanie
Berkwitz was nice enough to give me- Thanks Joanie! Laguna or any of the
other suppliers sell these.

I bought a very slick timer switch on Ebay that requires no setting- just
push the button for 2, 4, 8, or 12 hours of milling.
Typically, I mill for 12 hours.

Conclusion: Tony is right. You will not believe the difference in your
glazes after milling. Especially if you are interested in satin finishes.
They are as silky and smooth as you could ever want.

My next step is to buy or build a larger mill, to mill a gallon or more of
material at a time. There seems to be a lot of info on building your own
around the web, with people using large plastic pipe and fittings for gallon
or larger mill jars. I don't seem to have any contamination problems with
the rubber barrels, but I think I will go with porcelain jars on my big

Also as an aside Joseph: if you are interested in slip glazes you might want
to check out Alberta Slip glazes. I have been getting some very interesting
results with these too.

Best, DMH
From Beautiful Hermosa Beach CA USA
Where the June Gloom is in,
but the baby birds on my porch
are just ready to test their wings...

Joseph Coniglio on wed 26 may 04


Thanks very much for the extensive commentary. I will IN FACT look
over all your links and leads.

Regardless of the outcome, I will testify the world would be a better
place with more people like you.

Thanks again,