Monday, March 19, 2012

Reproducing a Victorian style Tile - No. Eight

Time to finish up this blog series with this post on pressing and the next on glazing. Since the tiles haven't actually been set yet by the homeowner, I can't show you the finished fireplaces. But as soon as I get them I'll share...promise!

Our funky, but very cool and productive, hand press. We start by laying a slab of clay on top of brown paper.

The plaster mould is placed on top of the clay, with the design face down. My production assistant, Trish, is doing all the work here....I've never had finger nails that long.

We use a stiff plastic cutout on top of the mould to help distribute the pressure. The sound of a plaster mould cracking is just a terrible sound.

The mould is centered under the press box.

The press is pulled down until it reaches a stop bar that has been set to create a tile the thickness we want.

Excess clay is cut from around the plaster mould.

The knife is drawn through the clay but chopped down at the end to prevent "dogears" at the corners.

Stamping the back of the tile.

The plaster releases the clay easily from the mould. We lay the tiles on plaster boards that are part of our production shop.

The tiles need to dry up before the excess is cut from around the pattern.

We use drywall tools as tile cutters. They are generally well made and are sharp enough to cut right through the clay.

After the edges are cut off the tiles are left to dry for a few days. Then we sponge the edges slightly to soften the cut just a bit.

The tiles are fired in a bisque kiln along with the field tile, and then are ready to go to the glazing room for the glaze party! Check back soon for that post!

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Blogger cookingwithgas said...

this is so helpful. The husband made me a press years ago and now I know why I was not so successful with mine.
Great info- thanks!

March 20, 2012 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Hi Meredith!
Thanks, I'm glad it helps. If your husband based the press on the layout from a book about handmade tile, that one was a very bad design and a number of people who made it had no luck. Turns out the physics of it were wrong. We also have ram presses, but this little press works perfectly for our decorative tiles and there's no large and heavy die set to mess around with.
Have a wonderful day!!

March 20, 2012 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Michele D. said...

I love it! It's so wonderfully helpful to see your process. Thanks again,


March 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Hi Michele!
Thanks you for stopping by! I'm almost at the end of this series...if there's anything else you'd like to see from the tile-making world, just let me know.

Kind Regards

March 23, 2012 at 8:18 AM  
Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. Very informative. You have a lovely blog.

November 21, 2012 at 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, any chance of sharing your tile press design? I'd love to make one.

April 28, 2015 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Hi Anonymous - Thanks so much for reading and enjoying!!
My Dad built the press over 25 years ago, with a few updates 10 or 11 years ago, so it's not something I have a design layout for. I based it on the press that I used when I was at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, learning how to make tiles...and that was more than 35 years ago!
You can find a design for a hnadmade press in
Frank Giorgini's book "Handmade Tiles". I will warn you that it has some layout problems, as I recommended the design to another tile maker (not having made it from his design myself) and they had some problems with it being able to press anything larger than a 3x3" tile. Maybe the weight balance is off...not sure.
You can pretty much see the whole press in one of my photos, and there aren't any "secret" pieces, except that you can't see the hanging weight on the back that is attached to the end of the pipe, behind the press. It weighs about 30 lbs. and offsets the weight of the pipe handle.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.
Kind regards
L'esperance Tile

April 28, 2015 at 7:09 AM  

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