Instant portable wedging table for different clays

In our studio, we use a couple of different clays depending on the product we are making. Normally we would wedge on a canvas covered table but we needed additional clay working areas that would not get contaminated by other clays. Voila! An instant portable wedging and working surface in the form of a 2×2 foot piece of Hardibacker board.
Hardibacker board is a fiber cement board that was invented as an alternative to traditional drywall. (visit this link to see how it is used in a home ) You can buy this at just about any lumber or hardware store. Ours came from Lowe’s.

We cut a large piece of Hardibacker board into individual 2×2 foot squares and attached a small piece of wood to one end as a lip that would hold the board in place when used on a table. We also tend to put a piece of canvas down under the board to prevent it from rubbing into the underlying table surface. Each of our boards is marked (on both sides with a black felt-tip marker) with the clay type that will be used on it.

To prepare your portable wedging surface, coat the board with a fine layer of clay slip and allow this to dry. Then, scrape the surface with a painters trowel (plastic or metal), dust it off, and you are ready to go! The board is easy to clean and also helps dry-out wet clay.

10 responses to “Instant portable wedging table for different clays

  1. I am very intrigued with your idea for the portable wedging board. I need to make something for my students to use at their tables, and think this will work. I have never used the hardibacker material and am wondering two things: is it durable to withstand the pounding of wedging clay AND is a canvas covering needed?

    • Hi,
      (This is Fred Sweet answering your question. I work with Connie and Marshall in their pottery studio.)

      To answer your questions: 1) is it durable to withstand the pounding of wedging clay? Yes, I’ve used Hardiboard for over six years with no maintenance other than cleaning as an entire table covering on a wedging table where the Hardiboard was screwed down around its perimeter, and have not had any problems with it. Using the “portable” surface may pose a few problems, but if you place a hand or bath towel under it, those should be resolved. 2) is a canvas covering needed? No. The surface is durable enough to be scraped back with a wooden wedge shaped piece of 1 x 4 (pine is fine, but oak or another hardwood will last longer) or plastic putty knife (this keeps the tool from gouging into the surface of the Hardiboard. While it is durable, it isn’t indestructible). I do “prime” the surface by painting it with slip a couple of times and scraping that back to seal the pores of the Hardiboard. After that, it’s easy to clean, and you don’t have the dust problem associated with a canvas cover. The surface can be cleaned at any time with the putty knife, but I find that it works best when the clay is just past leather-hard. If needed, it can be cleaned with a damp to wet sponge to further clean it.

      A couple of items which should be addressed. 1) If you are making the “portable” surface you will want to use 1/2″ thick stock. If you are going to cover an existing table which has a fairly solid top, then 1/4″ stock is fine although you could use 1/2″ if that is all that is available. 2) Use either a carbide blade or a diamond blade to cut it. If you talk to your lumber yard people, they will suggest a blade to use with a radial saw. Use it otherwise you’ll tear up a regular wood blade. They aren’t that costly. 3) It is a dusty process, so I suggest that you cut outside if possible, otherwise expect a mess. I would also suggest wearing a dust mask. 4) There are screws made for mounting Hardiboard, and I would suggest using them, as they are relatively rust proof, and can countersink themselves.
      Fred Sweet

  2. Hi !
    I am preparing to teach a simple pottery unit to (3) 4th grade art classes in an outdoor location. In the past, I have covered our outdoor fiberglass tables with muslin stretched (to the best of my ability) and knotted at the corners under the table to resemble a fitted sheet. There is a bit of “fabric wrinkle” that plagues the kids during class, but I think I can solve the problem with 1/2 inch dowels that could be rolled tight under the ends of the table and clamped on.
    The tables are used by other non-pottery people on the same day so I must remove the rig each time for the two weeks that I use it. Here is my question: I noticed that in the mkregel entry by Fred Sweet from November 13, he states that the use of the hardiboard solves “the dust problem associated with a canvas cover.” Please explain what you mean by “the dust problem”. In my case, after the clay unit, I put my covers on the fence and hose them down thoroughly, and then I bring them home and wash them in my washing machine. Please let me know, based on your experience, if this makes sense, both in terms of safety (silica inhalation) or anything else to warn me against… Also you may have ideas to help me simplify this process.
    Thank you.

  3. I’ve been meaning to check back in after you answered my question about building some sort of wedging boards for my classroom.
    Your suggestion worked beautifully, by the way!!! I thank you for your great encouragement and for your very manageable design. My husband and I made four smaller boards that fit snuggly against the table, so that two were on each side facing each other. At first I thought the students would want to work at their own tables, so we built the boards small enough to move, but found out the students enjoyed working together at the same wedging table 🙂 Go figure. The Hardibacker board material you suggested worked great… just a few chips at the corners after some wear, but easy to work on and easy to clean.
    Thank you so much!!!! We had two successful quarters of pottery and now are onto other mediums.

  4. can the hardiback boards be used to recycle clay on in the same way plaster can be used? I’m trying to set up a clay recycle area in my home studio and stumbled onto the hardibacker board stuff vs. the plaster. I appreciate any help. I just keep buckets, throw in my trimmings and goop and then once the bucket is full I scoop it out. Let it dry, flipping a few times, and then wedge the clay. So could I do this on the hardibacker? Or should I stick with plaster?

    • Hi Lauren, I”ve always been a fan of the hardebacker boards for recycle of clay, but the plaster boards soak up so much water so quickly that you can recycle much quicker with plaster. But, as I get older, I’m getting to be a fan of “lighter if possible”. Ha! Good luck with your studio! Sorry it took me so long to reply.
      Marshall Kregel

  5. I guess I should have said that it’s not a huge recycle operation, but moderate. I use 3 gallon buckets to collect the scraps. Different buckets for different kinds of clay.

  6. Is the slip used to “season” the board from the same clay you intend to use on that side or does it matter if you use slip from another clay?

    Thanks, this is a great idea that I intend to use!

    • Hi Marion,
      In our studio, we’re very strict about the clays that are used so that there is no cross-contamination which could lead to cracking, discoloration, or firing issues. To answer your question truthfully…I don’t know. We always use the same slip on our boards as we do the clay in our vessels. Now, saying that, the minor amount of clay from the slip, added to the clay in your wedged ball, may not be enough to affect your project, but the boards are cheap. PS…we do use some red clays and we do keep separate boards for them.
      Marshall Kregel

  7. I love what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll.

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