How I made my water filtering bowls and started pratt ceramics.

This is Wuff. He’s the older brother. He’s super anxious and hides anytime I do anything out of the ordinary. That’s why he isn’t in many modeling pics.

This is Jerry (Gary), he’s a little shih tzu. The groomer said “he has a personality”. Which, if you don’t know, is code for “he can be kind of a jerk”. He can stop in the middle of a walk and refuse to continue in any direction. Princess Jerry.

I was working at a design firm as a mechanical engineer when COVID happened. Business went downhill quickly and I was laid off. After I was laid off I started thinking about a project I had wanted to work on for a few months. The idea was a water filtering bowl for our dogs that was better than any of the plastic garbage you could buy commercially. I came up with a design that would be a ceramic bowl that uses a readily available pump, housing, and filter. I would need to design/make the plaster mold and a couple stainless steel parts. This is a rendering of my first 3D model.

Look at how mopey this dog looks! Poor Jerry.

I had this tiny 3D printer and I had to break the model up into 5 pieces in order to make the mold as large as I needed. Also, in the background you can see that I was testing different pumps, housings, and filters.

This is the assembled 3D print. I then sprayed and sanded multiple coats of filler primer to smoothen layer lines.

I jumped ahead a few steps because I didn’t take pictures. But I basically built a form, attached the 3D printed model to the base, then poured plaster up to the level I wanted for the mold. This is what it looked like after I removed the model. This was the first half of the mold. I put the model back in and added mold soap to the exposed plaster. Then covered the rest in plaster to create the second part of the mold.

I filled the mold with slip then drained it after it sat for a while. I then let the piece dry and tried to separate the mold. This is what happened. It had let it dry too long and the clay cracked because it was starting to shrink. I tried a couple more times and was eventually able to get the piece out of the mold without damaging it.

This was the first slip cast piece I was able to dry get out of the mold undamaged.

I tried it a few more times and then let them dry and took them to the studio to have fired. I have mine fired at a place called Buckeye Ceramic Supply, which charges a small fee to have pieces fired.

These were the bowls after bisque firing. I ended up trying two different glazes, tan and green.

This was just after I picked up the bowls from the studio. I put the filter housing on and it was quickly clear that the bowls did not shrink as much as I had anticipated when I designed the mold. The housing was too loose and did not sit flat.

I was still able to test it out, but it was clear that the mold would need to be remade. This was Jerry’s first drink out of it, and I could start picturing a finished product.

Again, jumping way ahead. I now had a 4 piece mold ready to pour.

Gary needed a haircut by this point.

This was the old mold that I no longer needed. You can see the size of the hole on the bottom piece, vs the two holes in the new mold.

The new mold worked and I poured as many bowls as I could. I could only do 1 per day because the mold needs to dry between casts.

Glazed one of the new bowls and made a prototype plastic nozzle. Jerry approved.

This was another glaze color that I tried. At this point I only needed to finish the nozzle and metal cover.

The nozzle was made out of stainless steel. I got them from a machine shop called Toolmac in Shreve, OH. I made a prototype cover to test the fit before having them made out of stainless as well.

Wuff is upset that it has taken me months to get him some clean water.

I had the covers made (laser cut and bent) at Wolf Metals in Columbus, ordered some housings and pumps, and took some pictures.

These were the first two I tried to sell on Etsy. I originally just wanted to make one for myself as a side project, but after sharing a few progress pictures online, it seemed like these might be something people would actually buy.

It’s about time.

I continued making bowls and trying out new glazes.

I started making a few more sales and getting positive reviews!

After I had figured out the fountain bowls, I started working on a slow feeder. Wuff has been using a slow feeder for about a year. It works, but it is an obnoxious color and I don’t really like the fact that it is plastic. So I figured I’d try to make a ceramic one of those too. I printed 5 or 6 different designs to test, this was one of them. I was making them as large as my printer could.

This is the design I ended up trying. It’s small, but I wanted to make sure the process would work with this before I went through the trouble of making a bigger one.

Meanwhile, I was trying more glaze combinations.

This was not what I was expecting...

These are all the components of a fountain bowl. The filters are long lasting and inexpensive.

I was finally able to slip cast a few slow feeders. I had them fired after drying.

There were a few issues with the original filter bowl mold that made finishing the cast bowls much more time consuming than it should’ve been. So I rebuilt it again.

Then made a silicone mother mold so I could duplicate the mold.

The first slow feeders were back from glaze firing. I was pretty happy with the finished product.

Jerry liked eating out of them too, even if he doesn’t really need one.

I was tired of size limitations of my printer, so I bought a new one.

I started carving texture into some of the fountain bowls, just to give them different looks.

I used my new printer to test some large designs.

This one ended up working pretty well, and I don’t think I will have any issues with the molds either.

I am going to start with the large feeder ,and if that is successful I will make the matching small bowl.

I printed forms for the two piece plaster mold.

After they were sanded and finished, they were ready for plaster.

The finished molds. They aren’t perfect and the gap between the halves is inconsistent, but they will work for now.

It took a few tries to get the timing right, but it eventually worked.