Sometimes cutting up your studio tools can reveal all new uses. And taking the extra step to make those tools and experiment with using them, can make all the difference in refining your forms. In today’s post, an excerpt from the Ceramics Monthly archives, Jim Wylder shares two homemade tools that have helped him achieve precision from rim to foot. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Foot Depth Gauges
I use two different foot-depth gauges to properly cut the feet on my pots. The gauges are set to leave ¼ inch of clay across the foot but could be made to leave any thickness. The first gauge is a pin tool that has been cut off leaving ½ inch of the needle (1). The end is left flat. Use this tool after opening the pot. Push the needle into the bottom until it hits the wheel head. Keep compressing and thinning the bottom and checking the thickness with the tool until the wood part just touches the clay without making a depression. You now have a ½-inch-thick foot.
Learn to throw and decorate elegant pots using a blend of Eastern and Western techniques. Master potter Adam Field leads you through five easy-to-follow step-by-step demonstrations covering a variety of forms where you’ll learn the secrets of throwing and carving porcelain that will change the way you work. Plus check out the bonus footage for making your own tools.
The second gauge, a tongue depressor with a brass nail inserted into a hole drilled through the center (1), is used when trimming the pot at leather hard and used to determine the thickness on the inside of the foot ring. A touch of epoxy underneath the head of the nail keeps it securely attached to the wood. Cut the nail to leave ¼ inch on the under side. Trim the pot until the nail just touches the clay without making a line (2). Lay the tool across the foot and move it back and forth to reveal any high spots (3). When you are finished, you have a ¼-inch-thick foot.
Funnel Rim Tool
I still use a folded piece of plastic or a chamois to finish the rims of pots but have added one step just prior. The funnel rim tool forces the clay into an evenly rounded thickness similar to what you would get when using an extruder. There were several extra plastic funnels in the studio so I didn’t feel too bad about cutting one up to see if it would work. There were surprises in the process, so testing the tool is important. At first I left too much of the body of the funnel attached and it caught on the rim during use. Once most of the extra was pared away to leave just the half cylinder of the small end, it worked great (4). Using tin snips followed by an X-Acto knife and 220-grit sandpaper, cut the small end of the funnel slightly more than half way to leave the inside curve. The result is a 3⁄8 inch opening. This tool required several fine tuning adjustments but the results are well worth the time. I have more funnels of various sizes destined for a new life. Once you have thrown your pot, apply the tool to the rim with gentle pressure until a smooth and uniform surface is formed (5). Follow this up with a touch by the chamois or a thin piece of plastic.
**First published in 2013