How to recycle clay. Sometimes clay projects don't come out the way you expect or they dry too fast or crack. Left over clay can easily be recycled, then reused. Here is how we do it.
Let the clay dry out completely.
Use can use regular five gallon buckets to collect the clay while it drys.
Use a large plastic mixing tub to spread out the clay and use a hammer to bust up the clay in to small pieces. See example to the left. You can purchase it at any hardware store.
We built a small wood frame (18x18 out of 1x3 wood) and attached metal wire (1/4 inches holes) to the frame using staples to create a screen to filter the clay. Diagram here.
Once the clay is busted up filter it through the mesh screen by dumping handfuls (scoops or bowlfuls) into the mesh screen. Shake it and throw the large balls of clay into a different bucket. Keep smashing and filtering until all the clay is separated.
Use this method to go through all the clay to be recycled. You can smash all the clay to dust size or set aside the 'rocks' (the larger or harder pieces.)
If you set aside the 'rocks' place them into a five gallon bucket and fill to above the clay line with water. (Hot water seems to make the clay soft faster.) You will need to let this bucket set overnight or up to a few days, depending on how much and how big your clay chunks are.
NOTE: You may choose to use only the clay dust to recycle the clay. This means more clay smashing, but a smoother finished product.
When you are ready to mix the clay, make a large pile of dry clay (dust) and hand scoop the wet (soaked) clay in to the middle. Get a few students to help you and mix the clay (kneading it like bread) until it is smooth. The more you mix the better the finished product will be.
Put the clay in thick plastic bays and let set for a few days before using. Remember to wedge recycled clay really well.