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Kitty litter clay for bricks  RSS feed

 
Dar Helwig
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I bought a bag of cheap kitty litter. The bag says ground clay. I mixed with water and let it soak for a day. Bought a paint mixer bit for my drill and mixed it up. Its a nasty looking brown that looks like mud. It still is sloppy and gritty instead of smooth and pasty. Maybe it needs another day to absorb the water and then more mixing. Hopefully it will turn out. Any thoughts on this?
 
Glenn Herbert
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I think that kind of kitty litter is partially roasted so that it will not turn completely to mud when wet. I have not heard that it is ever good material to make cob with. Clay, once thoroughly wetted, gets smooth almost immediately provided it started as a powder. Litter-sized granules would not take more than a few minutes to be fully wetted.

Do you not have any access to natural clay from the ground? What are you thinking about making?
 
John Polk
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Not all kitty-litter is equal.
Some uses a bentonite clay, others use a DE material, or whatever is abundant and cheap.

Without knowing where it was mined, it is hard to guess what it is.

 
Ardilla Esch
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It is probably poor quality zeolite or bentonite, both are poor binders. Bentonite swells too much and zeolite doesn't bind enough.  Zeolite isn't a clay but it weathers to clay - so weathered zeolite is sometimes called clay.
 
Dar Helwig
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What am I hopeing to do? I am just trying to get some workable clay and then I want to fire it. If it fires like it should I want to proceed to make a kiln and then try making some bricks and eventially a backyard oven.
I grew up on a river with a beautiful blueish gray clay vein in the bank. It was great clay for shaping. I went back and now can not find it. What I find now is low clay content sandy mud. But I'm still looking. The river was dredged a few years ago but I would thing the clay should still be there.
 
Dar Helwig
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If this turns out to be bad clay thats won't work out for firing, will it be good for cob? What would I mix with it. Sand and straw? What are the ratios?
Thanks.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Good firing clay and good cob clay are at least mostly the same thing.

Structural cob can be something like one part clay to two to four parts sand, plus enough straw to make the mix hold together. I tend to sprinkle about as much volume of loose straw as there is clay and work it in, for a very rough rule of thumb. Do it in several stages so you don't end up with clumps of straw packed together.

The clay/sand ratio doesn't account for how much sand is already in the natural clay deposit. Some may be relatively pure clay that needs a lot of sand added; my clay bank has so much sand, silt, gravel and rock in it that I can make good cob without any additives at all.
 
Dar Helwig
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I spread some of this clay out on a plastic surface and let it thicken. It is still a little gritty from not totally rehydrating. It gone pretty gummy. Sticks to hands like crazy, so much that it takes rubbing to wash it off. I formed a couple of 4x4x1 inch bricks. One is just clay and one has chopped hay mixed with it. I had no straw so I used hay. It had very little strength to it and this is just a test. I forgot to mix sand with the clay. Woops! Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. I will let these dry in the sun and see what happens. Monday I intend to call a masonary place to see if I can buy masonart clay in powder form. I'll keep you posted.
 
Glenn Herbert
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If the kitty litter is still gritty, it's not due to insufficient rehydrating, it's due to some of the clay being heated until it no longer acts like clay but like grit. Once clay has been fired to a relatively low temperature, it undergoes a chemical change and is no longer clay but pottery (even if still weak and crumbly).
 
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