Last year, we finally invested in a pottery studio tool we have wanted for quite some time (about 12 years, truth be told); a vacuum de-airing mixer pugmill. But not just any make or model of pugmill would do. We wanted a Peter Pugger, which has quite a hefty price tag, so it had to wait in favour of other necessities (like food, rent, clay, a bigger kiln, etc). We had drooled over adverts in glossy pottery magazines for most of the last decade and beyond, and had decided on the smallest VPM-9 model and watched every available video on YouTube for this particular machine.
So, when we finally had an unexpected windfall last year, we knew exactly what to get (after we bought our big kiln, that is). When I checked the website of the UK distributor to order (www.scarva.com) I discovered there was a newer, smaller, model now available – the VPM-7 – designed specifically for smaller scale single-potter studios. Knowing that once our backlog (possibly 10 years or more) of clay reclaim was processed, we wouldn’t need anything too big, we opted for the smaller size and used the difference in cost to treat ourselves to a few optional extras.
We added the pug cutter attachment because, having worked for a small-scale clay manufacturer and spent many hours a day processing and cutting pugs of clay, I KNEW it was worth the time it would save in searching for a cut-off wire that had disappeared down the back of the pugmill station for the tenth time in an hour.
We also ordered three die attachments for extruding. One is for a set of various sized coils. Any of my previous handbuilding students will tell you, I hate rolling coils (mainly because, I’m the first to admit, I’m a bit rubbish at it) but I do find coil building to be a really meditative and enjoyable practice and I can achieve shapes I just can’t get with slab building or pinch pots. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with bigger coil pots.
The second extruder die attachment is for handles. The die has an assortment of handle shapes, as well as some small coil shapes, including hexagon and oval, and I’m interested to try them, but I will need to make a blanking plate to cover the ones I don’t want, unless I want to be continually feeding unwanted extrusions back into the hopper. I have been saving some containers with decent sized metal bases (coffee mate tins are ideal) so I think the blanking plate should be fairly achievable, with my limited DIY skills.
The third is a set of dies and inserts for hollow cylinders. I’m particularly looking forward to trying these, as I have a number of ideas I want to play with. Their only limitation is the size of the Peter Pugger nozzle, which is 7.5cm (3” ) in diameter. This means I can only make smaller items, although I am hoping to purchase an extruder later in the year with an expansion box for larger output, to make bigger pieces in a new line of work. For now, the smaller form will not only allow me to make smaller maquettes of the first of these planned new pieces, but also can help with another exciting new project we are working on.
But I digress, so now, back to the Peter Pugger purchase. Although you can select your model and all accessories on the Scarva website, you don’t actually complete and pay for your order immediately. This is to make sure that Scarva can check that you are aware that the machines are built to order, in the USA, and that you understand there is a fairly long lead time. So they called, we chatted, I confirmed I understood about the wait, and gave them my card details. We placed our order in February and had email confirmation from Scarva that it had arrived in the country at the end of May. It was delivered to us within a week or so and, yes, it has been sitting IN THE BOX in our workshop for the last 8 months because… life happens.
And now here we are in February, almost a year from our original order. We finally got the space cleared and prepped for our new baby in January but once we saw everything out of the box, Mo had the brainwave to do an unboxing video for YouTube. When I was pining all those years to own one, I was disappointed with how little online content there is featuring this wee gem. So we came up with the idea to not only do an unboxing but also a ‘first setup’ video, and then a ‘first mixing’ video, and then a ‘first pugging’ video, and then, because some of the extras we purchased included extruder dies, a ‘first extruding’ video. And of course, I’m such an experienced vlogger (I’m really not) so this would be a cinch, right? I don’t believe in doing things by halves, ask anyone who even remotely knows me!
So, this post is the first of a series featuring our Peter Pugger VPM-7 Deairing Mixer Pugmill. We thought about naming him, as we have with our three kilns (Angelica, Eliza and Peggy, if you’re interested), but since he actually comes with a name, he’s probably going to be keeping that one. I don’t think I’m going to win the argument for calling him Alexander. (Give yourself a big gold star if you recognise our naming convention and can guess what the name of our future Extruder would be.)
We haven’t started the filming yet, but here is a still shot of his new home. Check back soon for the rest of the series, including video, if it works!