Pottery/Purchasing a Pugmill
I am looking to buy a pugmill. Can't find any really good, in deapth comparison reviews. I am looking at a lightly used bluebird 440, a new shimpo nra o4, & a baileys 400. Is double aguer better than single, which one cleans the easiest & is a deairing always better? I have only used the shimpo & did like it, but would like more info before making a purchase.
Thank you for your recent question. Purchasing a pug mill is a major investment in pottery equipment, and you are correct in searching out information on the best pug mill for your studio.
Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are how much money are you willing to invest, how much clay will you be producing during the month and if you are using various clay bodies, will the pug mill you purchase be easy enough to clean to change over to the new clay body without disrupting production.
As you have probably seen doing your own research, pug mills are quite an expensive investment, So selecting one specific to your needs requires a bit of comparison.
First, let's talk about the used bluebird 440. The first thing you want to know about the pug mill is how many actual hours it was used and on what amount of clay. The potter may have owned it for a year and only used it twice, producing 700 pounds of clay each time, or owned it 6 months and used it 100 times, producing 5250 pounds of clay each time. There is a big difference in the actual hours used in the two examples. Let's figure the two.
The bluebird 440 produces 350 pounds of clay per hour.
In the first example:
Owned 1 year
Used 2 times
Produced 500 pounds of clay
700/350 = 2 hours
In the second example:
Owned 6 months
Used 100 times
Produced 1000 pounds of clay
5250/350 = 15 hours
Just knowing only the amount of clay produced and the number of times used as well as how long they had owned it, the first example would be your choice as, even though the pug mill is a year old, it is very much in new condition as the motor has not been warn a great deal. In the second example, even though the pug mill is newer, it has been used with much force and the motor has used 1/4 of it's warranty life.
Speaking of warranty life, most pug mills have a 2 year warranty. Some are longer. If we were to calculate in the warranty life of the pug mill, would there be a change in the choice made? Let's see.
Let's say the pug mill has a 2 year transferable warranty and the original pug mill cost $2500. This means the pug mill is worth approximately $104 dollars per month.
In example one:
The pug mill is one year old, so it is worth half of it's original cost or $1350
In example two:
The pug mill is 6 months old, so it is worth $1876, calculated as 104 x 6 - 2500.
Now the figures above give you a place to start when looking at used pug mills. In example one, you would not want to pay more than $1350, period. However, you would also need to take off the depreciated amount for the number of months the pug mill was used and subtract any damage to the pug mill or missing parts, non-working pieces an overall condition of the pug mill. These will help you determine your actual price to pay. Yes it takes a little time to figure, but it is so worth it when you search for a used piece of equipment. You then have the advantage of talking the potter down if you feel they are overcharging and can justify your reason behind it.
This gives you some examples on searching for a used pug mill, or any piece of equipment for your studio. Download and use the attached file to complete your figures and ask yourself the right questions when looking at used and new pug mills.
As for features when purchasing a pug mill, double augers are ideal for potters who want or require very little contact with the physical strength required to push the clay through the hopper. Double augers also ensures clay is fully homogenized without having to put clay back into the hopper for a repeat milling as sometimes happens with single augers. However, if you are a small studio, the size and cost of a double auger may play into the cost/profit ratio causing the potter to loose profit for some time before enough pottery is made to outweigh the price paid for the double auger. In my opinion, a single auger is usually sufficient for pottery studio with up to 5 potters.
Cleaning a pug mill is difficult no matter what pug mill you purchase. The trick is to allow the clay to dry completely before cleaning. This will allow you to insert brushes and other dislodging tools into the "unplugged" pug mill and knock and brush away the clay. The Bluebird and Bailey models that you are looking at require end wrench tools to remove the casing for cleaning internally. This would require you to keep one on hand. The NRA pug mill has wing nuts so there is no need for tools to remove the casing. Just something to think about.
Finally, you asked about de-airing. A feature that is almost a must in my opinion. One of the reasons for purchasing a pug mill is to prepare the clay for immediate use, i.e., wedging. In the process of wedging, you de-air the clay to prevent explosions and pockets of air becoming trapped during firing. I think here, I would ask myself, why would I purchase a piece of expensive equipment that has the capability to do a final task as part of a whole task if I do not purchase all that it can do? It would be like buying a truck for a car hauling business that has the capability of employing a tow package and not purchasing the tow package. In my opinion, I would include the de-airing feature
I think I have given you enough information to help you decide on which pug mill to purchase. However, Let me know if you have any further questions. I hope you find what you are looking for. Good luck and I'm always at your service!
Ms. Ti Phillips
Earth Stoke 'N Fire Pottery Studio and Artist Retreat