Tip of the Week: Quick Change Artist

In today’s tip, ceramic artist Sylvia Shirley explains a quick-change bat system she developed to make throwing in series more efficient. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

For throwing mugs and small bowls, I use a quick-change bat system. To make one, you need one square plastic bat that attaches to your wheel head with bat pins, PVC molding from the hardware store, PVC cement, and some commercial 6-inch-square terra-cotta tiles. Cut the PVC molding into two 5-inch lengths and two 4-1/4-inch lengths. Place one of the terra-cotta tiles in the center of the plastic bat and dry-fit the PVC molding around it, leaving two corners open to make it easy to remove the tiles. Glue down the molding with the cement and let it dry. Remove the tile from the assembly while it dries or you won’t get it out later. Once it’s dry, mount the plastic bat on your bat pins, insert a terra-cotta tile and throw your pot. You can quickly remove the tile and insert a fresh one for your next pot. A terra-cotta tile costs about 30 cents, so it makes a really cheap bat.

**First published in 2008.
  • very informative, interesting and educational. I love this art form

  • This is an old post, but I had a friend with boxes of six inch tiles, so I took a Masonite Bat and centered one of the tiles on the Bat, marking it’s position. I then drilled a hole in one corner of where I marked for the tile. After drilling the hole I then cut out the square with a JigSaw taking care to stay on the inside of the line.
    After cutting the center out I then fit checked the tile and did some final adjustments with a file for the final fit.

    Now that I had one tile to fit I found out that all six inch tiles are not equal so I took my tiles and sanded the edges to fit with the beltsander.

    Here is the important part, I sanded a flat on one corner for two reasons. First you always put the flat tile corner in the corner of the Bat with the hole so you can center the pot if you have to put it back on the wheel to trim or any adjustments after it has dried some. And it is almost impossible to get the tile perfectly centered when laying it out, so this takes any question as to which way the tile was in the bat.

    Second, the flat corner on the tile and the hole in the corner of the cutout in the bat gives you an easier way to get a needle tool or something under the tile to remove it after you are finished throwing.

    I used tiles with some texture on it so the ball of clay would stick better for centering. I also keep several dozen tile on hand for large production runs.

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