Lately I have been making extruded handles for my mugs rather than pulled. I just got sick of the way my pulled handles looked and I wanted to try something different. But what I’ve realized is, the extruder can be hard on the wrists. Mine are extra sensitive lately because my two-year-old is growing by leaps and bounds and carrying him has done a number on my wrists. So I was thinking I’d have to come up with yet another handle method.
That is until I saw Dave D’urso’s foot-powered extruder. Today, Dave explains how he makes his ingenious D.I.Y tool and how it has made extruding a piece of cake. We even have a bonus video of the foot powered extruder in action! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
I base all my classes on extruded components so I was making hundreds of extrusions and running my extruder quite frequently. Suffering from carpal tunnel and arthritis symptoms, my hand and wrist were taking a beating from pulling on that handle all the time. I began searching for an answer. I had even bought an air/hydraulic cylinder that I was trying to incorporate into a design for my current set-up.
The other alternative I was considering was to buy a power extruder with an included hydraulic cylinder. Although either path would eventually provide good results, the design for incorporating my own cylinder into my set-up was becoming a little complex and was like reinventing the wheel. The thought of buying another piece of equipment that would not be as portable as my current extruder and would take up valuable studio space, as well as put a dent in my wallet wasn’t helping me make that decision any faster. In the meantime, necessity being the mother of invention, I toyed with a variety of inexpensive and handy arrangements of hardware and gizmos found around my shop. What I came up with — a foot-powered extruder — works very well, is inexpensive, and only takes an hour or so to construct.
Once you make your own foot-powered extruder, you’ll need some project ideas.
No fears! The Extruder Book can help you out!
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A foot-powered extruder effectively transfers all or most of the pressure from your wrists to your feet and it’s very easy to make. You may have the materials in your shop already, or can gather a similar collection of components that are handy.
The key component is the “cargo” strap. I tried chains, ropes and cables, but the cargo strap seemed to have the most desirable features. The problem with chain was that it collapsed into an endless mess and was heavy and noisy. It was difficult to adjust the length with cable and rope. But the cargo strap was strong, lightweight, easy to adjust lengthwise, and readily available. Also the controls can be chest high and therefore easy to operate.
I mounted my extruder to a 2in. x 8in. x 7ft. piece of fir and hinged a short piece of 2in. x 6in. for the pedal to the bottom. To store it, I fold it up and wrap the strap around it a few times to keep it together, then unclamp it from my workbench and put it in the corner for the next session.
If you’re familiar with extruding, you know that once the barrel is filled and you’ve put the plunger/handle on, you work the system in a series of downward ratcheting operations, pulling down the handle as far as you can, re-adjusting the lever center and continuing on until you’ve emptied the barrel. On my system, I probably get about five full handle pulls and the length of the extrusion I need does not always coincide with a single pull. What this boils down to is that you are continually adjusting the location of your lever/plunger as well as the length of the cargo strap. As you work the system down to the end and have ejected all the clay, you remove the cargo strap with the hook and set it aside and probably reverse the ratchet cycle to remove the plunger as it sometimes develops a vacuum that makes pulling it out difficult (sometimes pushing the plunger against the barrel while removing it can relieve some of the vacuum making it easier to retract too). Once you’ve got the plunger/handle out you can reload, set the plunger/handle back on, hook up the cargo strap and start the process all over again.
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