I’ve said it before and I will say it again, potters and ceramic artists are some of the most resourceful people around. I am continually impressed by the myriad tools and studio shortcuts that members of our community come up with to make their lives more efficient. Today, I am presenting a compilation of tips, tools, and techniques published recently in Ceramics Monthly.
Studio Tip 1
Throw a flat lid shape with a knob approximately 6 inches in diameter and punch three holes at equal intervals around the rim. Fire this to vitrification (glazing is optional).
Clip the bottom section out of three plastic-coated wire coat hangers, keeping the curves at each “shoulder” of the hangers. One curve is used to loop through the holes in the handle piece described above, and the other is used to hook under the rim of an inverted vessel so it can be dipped in glaze evenly. Use the same sized hangers to begin with to ensure that the length of the wires are the same.
Place the bowl (or other vessel) upside down on a chuck or other support that will lift the rim off of your work table. This will aid in hooking the hangers on the rim. Hold the knob on the handle with one hand and steady the vessel with your other hand and dip the rim into the glaze. Set the piece back on the chuck after glazing to dry.
Thank you to Doris Wadell of San Mateo, California!
Studio Tip 2
Some of our glazes can be very runny and we need to have something to put under them to protect our kiln shelves. We keep thin, dry paper-clay sheets on hand to cut for placing under the pieces. A quick brushing of kiln wash makes them slightly pliable and lay flat. The sheets and pots are placed in the kiln and the excess sheet is cut away between the pieces. For some of our pots, we also use a wadding made of equal parts sand and ball clay. It is crumbly enough to grind away easily. Between the two, we don’t have much trouble with glaze on our kiln shelves. The paper-clay sheets can be trimmed directly on the kiln shelf to avoid breakage.
Thank you to Samantha Henneke and Bruce Gholson of Seagrove, North Carolina!
Studio Tip 3
As you in the clay world well know, clay needs to be handled when it is ready to be handled, not when you are ready to handle it.
After a recent day of throwing, I left some the jars under plastic but the bottoms set up more than I would have liked. I wanted to add a European foot to the jars but the clay was almost bone dry. I didn’t have a chuck big enough in the studio so, necessity being the mother of invention, I put a large coil around a 5-gallon plastic bucket to both cushion and contain the pieces then simply trimmed the jars in that. Because the plastic bucket is light weight and the jars much heavier, I often fill it half full to give a bit of weight to it in case someone has a heavy foot.
Since I put the lid in rather wet, I don’t want it getting stuck in the flange or messing up the trim job. I use a single layer of plastic wrap so that I can seat the lid in the somewhat altered gallery, allowing it to dry within the form.
Thank you to Tony Clennell of Beamsville, Ontario!
Studio Tip 4
In the past I would throw my trimmings into a plastic container and let them sit for a week or so to dry before reclaiming. We all know reclaiming works best when the clay is bone dry. Here is a simple technique I use to speed the drying process. I purchased a pen/pencil container from an office supply store. It is made out of expanded metal so it contains many holes. The container was sprayed with black paint, so it does not rust. When you trim or carve your pieces, throw the scraps in this container to air dry. It will take half the time to dry and you can swish the empty container in a bucket of water to easily clean it out.
Thank you to Craig Seath of Hudson, Wisconsin!
Studio Tip 5
While it’s not cast iron with ball bearings, this homemade turntable is easy to make, inexpensive, and works nearly as well.
PVC plumbing flanges can be purchased at any hardware store or home center and both flanges can be purchased for about $10. Just match the inner diameter of one to the outer diameter of the other. Cut two pieces of scrap wood; the bottom piece, which will become the base, should be approximately 2 inches larger than the PVC flange and the top piece, which will become the work surface, should be cut to whatever size is appropriate for you working needs. The top piece should not be unreasonably large and not more that a few inches larger than the base. Each board should be about 1 inch thick and sealed to handle wet clay. Center and screw each flange onto the wood pieces. Add a little WD-40 for lubrication and you are in business.
Thank you to Dennis Allen of Lebanon, Ohio!
Studio Tip 6
For years I have been using a multi-purpose glue to apply wadding and shells to my pieces for wood and salt firings. These glues are very frustrating to use because of the long drying time and the sticky mess. Recently, all of the glue bottles were missing, so I plugged in a hot glue gun and started gluing the wadding to my pots. It worked like a dream! It was quick and if the wadding came off before the work was stacked, we simply had a glue gun near the kiln to replace it. The clean up was a whole lot easier as well. This truly is a no brainer.
Thank you to Jason Doblin of Tuscaloosa, Alabama!
Studio Tip 7
This ingenious wire tool and throwing wheel adaptation is for anybody who is tired of searching through a pool of muck or untangling a twisted, wiry mess.
Attach a wire tool to one side of the throwing wheel at the same height as the bat or the wheel head. Screw an eye bolt into a thin wood block and attach the block to the splash pan using a C-clamp or similar device. Tie the tire tool to the eye bolt allowing enough room for the wire to stretch across the diameter of the wheel head. The small wooden dowel used to make most wire tools can also be easily clamped for a quick use and remove system. This simple set-up allows for easy one-handed use and a clean cut giving a smoother bottom for trimming!
Thank you to John Powell of Castroville, California!