How Strong Is Unfired Clay?

Written By: Ed Shears

It’s kind of a strange question but deserves an answer. I am not sure why you would ever want to keep unfired clay. What Is the Strength of Unfired Clay? Unfired clay is not very …

It’s kind of a strange question but deserves an answer. I am not sure why you would ever want to keep unfired clay.

What Is the Strength of Unfired Clay?

Unfired clay is not very strong at all. Unfired clay contains a lot of moisture and is fragile. If dropped, unfired clay would break. Unfired clay is dried mud and has little value or practical use. The only purpose for Clay that has not been fired would be to put it on a shelf and look at it. But eventually, after a while, the clay would most likely crumble.

How To Make Unfired Clay Stronger

1. Making Unfired Clay Stronger With Glue

If for some strange reason you wanted to preserve unfired clay without firing it, then it would need some sort of protective coating to keep it from eventually crumbling. One option is perhaps to give the clay body a good coating of glue. After the glue has dried, then you might consider painting.

This would protect the clay somewhat, but you still would have to be very careful not to bump it or drop it. This method would never be as good a bisque, but would at least protect it more than unfired clay.

2. Bisque Firing Clay To Make Stronger

Another way to protect unfired clay is to go ahead and bisque fire it. Do not paint the clay, just fire it the way it is. Depending on the type of clay, you would get its natural color. It would look almost like it was unfired, thus preserving perhaps the look you are after. Just remember clay shrinks during the firing and drying process. Because of this, you should start your project a little bigger so after shrinkage it’s the right size. Also, certain areas of the clay will dry faster than other parts. This is due to the clay thickness. If you have a built up area for decorative purposes then this area may take longer to dry.

Many folks think they can fire clay at home in the kitchen oven or use a barbecue grill. And if you have never done this before, you might think it possible. But let me tell you, it’s extremely difficult. And the reason why is that modern kilns can gradually raise the temperature to keep the clay body from exploding. Modern kilns have an electronic module that controls the firing schedule. Raising the temperature too fast will only cause the clay body to crack or explode.

Those folks who can fire pit Greenware clay have years of experience and are truly masters at what they can do. Unfired clay is called Greenware. Kitchen ovens and barbecue grills just can’t get hot enough to do the job. You need at least 1000 degrees Fahrenheit for the water in the clay to evaporite. So taking the clay body up to a very high temperature slowly is key, and it’s very difficult to do without a modern kiln.

I say take it to your local high school or look for a local shop in your town that gives classes. Also, you might check out your local University. Anywhere that gives pottery classes will have a kiln and they might be willing to fire it for you.

A ceramicist would be someone who makes ceramic products or works of art. A ceramic artist is referred to as a ceramist. A person who works with clay may be referred to as a ceramicist, sculptor, potter, or just an artist. Ceramics are clay materials that alter irreversibly when heated.

Raku Firing Technique – What Is Raku Firing Technique? – Raku firing is a type of low-temperature firing. While the pots are still hot and the glaze is still molten, the pottery is taken from the kiln. Stoneware clay is frequently used to make raku. Read the article to discover even more interesting facts about raku.

3. Make Clay At Home

Another way to have some clay sitting around unfired would be to make clay. You would need to mimic an adobe house construction. Clay would need to be mixed with other materials to make it stronger. By adding straw or hay and other materials. The downside is that adobe structures are very thick. It would be next to impossible to make a dainty teapot with this type of clay.

Another method that comes to mind is to make a clay-like mix using cornstarch and baking soda. I did this before, and it is doable. A long time ago, as a kid, I created a Science project using this type of clay. Take 1 cup cornstarch, 2 cups baking soda, and 1.5 cups of water. Mix into an old pan and put the stove on low to medium heat. Carefully watch as the mixture changes into a soft paste. When you have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes, then it’s ready. Now you can roll it out and use a cookie cutter or just mold it into whatever shape you fancy.

4. Using Air Dry Clay

And as the last option, you could always just go out and buy air-dry clay. Most hobby stores have air-dry clay. It’s a lightweight and durable clay that is very pliable and easy to work with. I think it would be perfect for making jewelry or school projects. And the glorious thing about air-dry clay is that it dries in about 24 hours. Plus, you can paint it. The brand you get can make or break your projects. Some brands tend to shrink or even break easily. I would try several brands to see which one works the best.

I have heard that Activa Plus Air Dry Clay works well. But you should experiment with a few brands to see which one you like. Also, keep in mind that air dry clay, although stronger than regular clay that has not been fire, is by no means as strong. With air dry clay, you still can get cracks and it can break, so you have to be careful.

Another downside to air dry clay is that it is not waterproof and should not be used outside. But you might be able to give it more protection by adding several layers of acrylic paint to your clay body. This will help.

And the last downside I can think of using air dry clay is that if one day you want to fire the clay, you can’t. It’s not possible to fire or bake air-dry clay.


Unfired clay crumbles
Unfired clay crumbles

Unfired clay is fragile. Unfired clay, if dropped, knocked, or bumped with another hard object, will chip or break easily. Clay that has not been fired if wet will lose its form. Clay that has not been fired has very little utility value.

Ceramic Firing Techniques – Firing is the method for making ceramics that can endure a lot of pressure. Firing takes place in an oxygen-rich environment. When it comes to firing pottery, there are two primary methods. The use of kilns and open firing are the two methods. The crucial step in the ceramic process is firing. It’s the point at which clay transforms from clay to usable ceramic.

My advice is if none of the above methods will work for you, I suggest you put the clay body on a shelf where it can’t be bumped or touched. You should only look at it. And it should be kept dry. It might last a while, but eventually, over weeks it will dry out and then most likely crumble. regular pottery clay takes about 1 to 3 days to get leather hard and about 7 days or so to get bone dry. Regular pottery clay is not meant to be kept in this state for long periods. It’s mean to be fired. So All I can say is good luck.


Sterba, J. H., Mommsen, H., Steinhauser, G., & Bichler, M. (2009). The influence of different tempers on the composition of pottery. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(7), 1582-1589.

Bebber, M. R. (2017). Tempered Strength: a controlled experiment assessing opportunity costs of adding temper to clay. Journal of Archaeological Science, 86, 1-13.