Tips and Tools: Level Tools

Craftsmanship makes the pot. We all know this and spend a great deal of time attending to the small details of each piece. Here’s an easy-to-make tool to help your pots be a bit more perfect.

A well defined and level rim is an essential element to many of my pots, especially my handbuilt oval bowls. Simply shaving the top while it spins on the throwing and banding wheel can leave a jagged edge. So I made this handy cutting and leveling guide out of a scrap piece of wood and a needle tool to take the guess work out of the process.

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Start by using a level to mark lines on a piece of wood. I use a 1×1 square stick. The scrap piece must be tall enough to accommodate several lines, have a level base, and be sturdy enough to hold up to repeated use. Next, use a hand saw to cut small parallel slits into the wood. Be sure to make only a small cut so the needle fits snug into the slit and won’t fall out (1–2). Cuts can vary to make 45° beveled rims or other various angles. When marking an irregular-shaped bowl, place your work on a flat board on top of a banding wheel and pull the marking guide tool along the side of your bowl, keeping the stick vertical and level (3).

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An alternative method would be to measure the lowest height of your bowl, make a marking guide by drilling a hole into a square stick at that lowest height measurement, and slide a needle tool through the hole. Place the bowl on a flat, level board that’s slightly wider and longer than the bowl. Place the board on a banding wheel and mark a horizontal line at this height with the needle tool around the whole bowl, keeping the stick vertical while spinning the bowl. After leveling the rims of your oval bowls, you may refine them with a rib and a sponge prior to firing.

Send your tip and tool ideas, along with plenty of images, to editorial@ceramicsmonthly.org. If we use your idea, you’ll receive a complimentary one-year subscription to CM!

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