Tips and Tools: Drilled for Drainage

The next time you need to create clean and even holes in a piece—whether it’s a colander, berry bowl, or another form—try using a power drill and drill bits.

 

Berry bowls are perfect for any season. They can be used for washing and draining fruit, and then serving them in the decorative bowl on a matching drip plate. Many potters have punched the holes into their berry bowls manually and struggled to keep the edges crisp and clean. The hole punch creates a raised perimeter edge that needs to be fussed with and pressed back into place. A lot of time is spent cleaning up the edges. An alternative involves pottery with power tools!

Start with a well-thrown bowl that’s trimmed and decorated (1). Even wall thickness is more important than ever now that you will be able to see the wall variations through the drainage holes. I like a slightly taller foot on a berry bowl so it stands a bit higher off the drip plate.

Once the bottom is trimmed, and a good foot ring is in place, determine the placement of your drainage holes. Sure, you can place them randomly, but some of us have a few control-issues and we prefer to be a bit more precise. I use my MKM Decorating Disks to help place my holes exactly. Line the rings on the disk over your foot ring to center it and use a needle tool to press indicator dots through the holes in the disk (2). Make a mark for a hole in the center, and then mark off the locations of five or seven evenly-spaced holes inside the foot ring. These dots become targets for making the drainage holes.

Next, pull out your power drill and standard assorted drill bits. Determine which size your drainage holes should be. Keep in mind that the bowl will shrink, making your final holes smaller in the end. Also, a thin layer of glaze might make them smaller yet again. Consider what kind of fruits might be washed and drained in your bowl; cherries and strawberries can handle larger holes that blueberries might fall right through.

1 Throw, trim, and decorate a bowl and then let it set up to leather hard.

2 Use a MKM Decorating Disk to determine where the holes will go.

If your bowl is still leather hard, you can go straight for the drill bit of your choice. If your bowl has dried out to the stiffer end of leather hard, start with a smaller pilot hole and then increase the size. Use the smallest bit you have and drill little holes through where your indicator marks are. These pilot holes help “steer” the larger drill bit and help prevent cracking. Remember, use the power-drill technique during the leather-hard stage. Working on a bone-dry pot might crack it, and working on a wet pot would just be messy!

Now it’s time to power up the drill with you chosen hole-diameter drill bit. With your bowl upside down on a piece of foam, gently press the drill bit into the marked hole location with the drill at medium speed (3). Be sure to stay aligned to your initial markings. Drill all the way through the bowl when making your drainage holes. After drilling out the center and first set of holes inside the foot ring, I then eye-ball another set of holes spaced in-between the first set, but this time on the outside of the foot ring.

Don’t worry about the little burrs that might appear after drilling (4).  Let them stay there until your bowl is bone dry, then wipe them off with a stiff brush. If need be, a very slight sanding with a wet, green 3M Scotchbrite pad will smooth them out. This method is so much easier than hand punching and smoothing out each hole.

Pottery with power tools. Give it a try… all the cool kids are doing it!

3 Use a power drill and your desired size drill bit to slowly drill holes into the piece.

4 Clean up any burrs left from the drilling after the bowl has become bone dry.

the author Gary Jackson operates Fire When Ready Pottery. Visit www.firewhenreadypottery.com, and follow Fire When Ready Pottery on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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