DIY Project: How to Make Your Very Own Slab Roller

diyslabrollermain

The ingenuity of potters and ceramic artists never ceases to amaze me. Time and time again, readers of this very blog have shared tools that they created to make their jobs a bit easier.

Dale Savoie is one such reader. Recently he sent me this video that he created in which he explains how he designed and constructed his own slab roller. It’s pretty impressive, so I thought I would share it with you! - Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

UPDATE (4/20/16): If you would like Dale to send you plans for this slab roller, email him at dale@cajunish.com.

 


 

 

UPDATE (4/20/16): If you would like Dale to send you plans for this slab roller, email him at dale@cajunish.com.


 

Wondering what to do with your slabs once you've rolled them?

Turn to Mitch Lyons for inspiration!

Buy the Handbuilding with Mitch Lyons DVD online and get free shipping!

(U.S. Orders Only)

 


 

Be sure to download your free copy of the Slab Roller Techniques and Tips: A Guide to Selecting a Slab Roller and Making Slab Pottery. This handy studio reference includes valuable technical references to help you use your slab roller to it's greatest potential!

 


Comments
  • Wow! That is too cool! The Cracked Potter’s are going to have to try that! Thanks Dale, for sharing your design!!
    Jeri

  • Thank you for your roller info. I recently purchased a tabletop slab roller from Laguna Clay (formerly Axner Pottery) it was the worst purchase of my life and by the time I returned it to them it ended up costing me over $150 for the biggest piece of crap and nothing to show for it except a headache and an empty wallet! So all you potter’s out there beware of purchasing any equipment from them! Their customer service is pathetic. So thank you for your great design I plan to build one asap. Potters must stick together in this tough economy!

  • What a revelation! This setup is a lot simpler than the beast I built from scrounged metal and hardware in Thousand Oaks. The next time I build one, I will certainly follow the plans for this. I love the recessed table idea, and the way your cables are routed! Thank you for posting this for all us tool-hounds.

    The only way I think this project could be improved, would be to use Spectra (synthetic aramid) cable instead of wire rope cable, which “takes a set” after prolonged use. Spectra does not stretch any more than the steel does, so the turnbuckles used here would work fine to maintain & balance tension thru the life of the unit.

  • Thank you for the wonderful information on this site. This tool should be entered in a Clay Tools video contest.

  • Thank you for this demonstration. I would have loved to see a bit more about the way the two wheels are tied together, so that it is solid and at the same time easy to roll. And of what material is this made?

  • Thanks so much! Great video and what a nifty slab roller.

  • thank you for a wonderful do it yourself video on a must have piece of equiptment in the pottery studio.

  • Great idea. Do you make the slab roller and sell it? Let me know.

  • I would love to buy this as well. I don’t have the tools or know-how to build it but can’t afford the expensive rollers sold retail

  • OK, ANOTHER PROJECT FOR MY HUSBAND. THIS IS WONDERFUL. HAVE WANTED A SLAB ROLLER FOREVER, BUT COULDN’T STAND THE COST. MAYBE THIS FIR MY BIRTHDAY? THANKS FOR THE INFORMATIVE VIDEO. KATHE

  • Thanks, Dave for that great demo! Are you going to publish the building plans and materials used for your slab roller? I can think of a hand full of people that would love to have one of these in their home studio.

  • This is an inspirational design which should encourage us once more to figure out how to make our own equipment. After all, as potters, we ARE makers!

  • This is just great! I wish you had shown the wires that make it all go in a close-up, but I think I will be able to figure it out when I get ready to build it. I hope you archive these videos? Or should I save it to my computer? Maybe CAD could put the printed plans in one of your free downloads? Awesome, thanks so much!

  • This is wonderful We have a pottery studio but no slab roller and the guys at the woodworking shop would LOVE this project. Thanks so much. What a gift.

  • This is the best homemade piece of pottery equipment I’ve seen: simple”, expertly designed, functional, movable, and made with readily available supplies. Congratulations and thank you for sharing! Mona

  • Is there a way to get more information about this? I’ve been taking a class at our local community center for the last few years. They don’t have a lot of money in the budget for a slab roller but If we could make one that would be just perfect!

  • This is the most useful video I have seen. I also think this video should be entered in the Clay Tools video contest. Many thanks Dale for sharing your creativity and ingenuity with us.
    Carla Lombardi

  • This guy is a genius. It looks like he sent his video for your recent contest. I wonder why he was not given the first price. This is so much better and useful than the top three that you had posted and the content of which I have already forgotten!
    Now if someone could please send a video on how to make a simple, effective, and economical extruder too!
    Thanks a lot for this one.

  • Oops! Now I feel like a real idiot! I have just seen that one of the finalists was actually the extruder builder. I just watched it again. Sorry!

    But then again, I still don’t understand why this awesome slab roller video did not make it the finalists.

  • In response to “Shirley’s” bad experience with an Axner slab roller, I purchased a rolling thunder slab roller from Axner about 7 years ago and have just purchased another one for an art center I am a member of. The service was and is exceptional and the slab rollers are fantastic.

  • Yea!!!…..thank you for sharing Dale’s video!!
    I am so excited that I can not only build, but especially afford, a slab roller!!!…
    Thanks,
    Ruth Speight

  • This is so cool. I have limited space and a limited budget for equipment but this project is definately a problem solver.

  • Excellent work. You can tell that Dale put a lot of time into designing this slab roller with attention to little details like the pulleys to suspend the wire and the added rings to help the rollers track. Its simple and elegant and looks like it should last for some time. I like Pete’s idea of using spectra cable instead of the wire. I will be finding the time to build this along with Murry Gans extruder from the clay tools video contest which I also really liked.

  • This is simply wonderful. My question is, just how much did it cost to build? The smallest slabroller at the supply store is about $400.00. So I would be interested to know just how much it would cost to build this one, and if you actually have plans that show how. Great job, thanks for sharing.

  • Dale, you’re my hero! I’m a “financially challenged” potter. I am always looking for a way to build my own equipment that is comparable to the expensive retail equivalents. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  • Thanks for the video, and I’ll be grateful for real drawings.

    I can not figure out how to build it from the video.

    It does how ever, deliver the urge to do it 🙂
    Gil http://gilgal.kenny.org.il/

  • Thanks for the video.You have made a beautiful, functional tool. I think I want to make one. I wonder if you could send a diagram of the threading of the cables so that I don’t end up having to spend a whole lot of time inventing the wheel on that point. That is the only part of the video that could have used a bit more time!! Thanks again, robertwwolff@gmail.com

  • This is a great way to indulge myself by bringing work from my woodshop into my ceramics studio. My wife sends you that annoyed look only wives can give because you are adding yet another tool to my shop. I send my thanks for your ingenuity.

  • thanks so much. it is like a medicine for me for my rigth arm with len oedema. i try to understand this beautiful, functional your tool. but if you could send a diagram of your tool i will be very happy. thank you again.

  • Sharing your ingenuity to all of us is a very noble deed. MOre power to you, Dale. I’m looking forward to the step by step diagram. Thank you very much

  • I am making minor modifications to the slab rollers design and will have an drawing and build of material in the form of a *.PDF in a few days. Dale Savoie

  • It looks extremely practical and has an elegance of design which probably belies the hours spent creating it. I look forward to seeing a PDF.

  • With my type of slab roller, it is possible to replace the thicker sheets used to elevate the bed of the roller with thinner sheets of plywood, masonite or particle board. I’ve used 2 piece of 3/16″ plywood successfully to make large slabs. The down side is that the thinner sheets of materials do warp but can be reused. Doing slabs this way also allows the ceramicist to transport the slab to and from their desired mold.

    I have noticed some minor scaring of the cylinder since I built the roller. I am redesigning a couple of things on the roller that will reduce this effect. I have placed aluminum channels over the top and bottom edges of the roller tracks and doubling the wires on both sides to reduce stretching. Both upper and lower rollers are filled with cement to reduce compression of the cylinder and allow for better rigidity of the PVC pipe. Metal cylinders are the best but are costly and difficult to work. This design is mostly for ceramicist who use a slab roller in a non-production studio, meaning not everyday and all day.

    I designed this roller so an individual could purchase all parts from one store. Remember, you can use other woods, cabling, fasteners, sheets, etc. that are readily available in your area. You can even change the dimensions to suit your particular situation.

  • Absolutely amazing, and such detail. If you have a tinkerer in the house, this would be a fantastic project. I too wonder about the cost of building the roller and look forward to seeing the drawings.

  • Dale, great piece of equipment. I (the woodworker) would like to build one for my wife (the slab building potter). I look forward to the pdf. Thanks. jimp817@mchsi.com

  • Dale.

    This is a super cool piece of equipment. I always wanted a slab roller but couldn’t afford one. Now I am going to build my own. Thanks for the great design and excellent video.

  • Many of you have expressed interest on the cost of the slab roller. It will cost you between $125 to $150 dollars, or less, depending on what type of materials you select for your roller. I decided on red oak because it is very hard wood… but there are other materials. You could use plywood and it would work just as well especially with my versions, soon to be distributed. I have a lot of tools to do this kind of project, so cost of tools is not an issue for me, but may be one for you! You can also build this roller in stages, as your budget allows. You can change dimensions and reduce the sizes to suit the materials available. It is actually a very simple design that I modified…so can you! Ceramicist are creative and resourceful people, maybe you will create or modify this design in a better way…who knows! Let me know if you do!

  • Thank you, Dale, for doing all the hard work to design and videotape and share with us all! i certainly look forward with the others to having the plans and directions to build my own 🙂 i also appreciate the options you’ve mentioned… It will be a nice ‘winter project’ !

  • Can’t wait to get started, just waiting for the plans… Thank you

  • Very simple design. I am going to have my hubby built me one 🙂

  • Hi Dale…when can I expect to recive the material list and the measurements…?

  • The drawing with measurements, build of material, more pictures and video clips will be finished sometimes next week. As soon as I complete these building aids, I will email them to you all. Several of you have asked about cost for these plans. I’ve spent lots of time and my funds to build and complete building aids for this project but will not ask for specific amount from you. Like shareware, I would suggest that you send whatever you thinks is fair to help me defray cost, be it money, perhaps a piece of your work or nothing if you can’t afford to do so. Certainly, nothing if you can’t build the roller or decided to purchase a factory built model. Finally, remember that this slab roller is designed and made easy for those of us who have the desire to built useful tools within our means and skill level. If you really want and need a slab roller, buying a factory built roller may be the better choice!

  • wao
    thatmis pretty amazing
    thank you Dale for this wonderful piece of work
    I want the plans and the pdf

    I live in Panama, Central America, can you imagine the cost of a slab roller here?
    thanks again

  • I’m hoping my husband will make one of these for me…I tweeted this great video…Thankyou so much for posting it~!

  • Thank you for the great idea! I would like to get the plans and video,
    couldn’t watch the video till the end.

  • WONDERFUL!!!! I would like the plans and would be glad to pay you for them. Thanks again.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your idea. My husband watched it over and over, then made me one. It is the best ever and works like a charm. We had most of the material on hand already, so it didn’t cost us much to build. I just love it! Thanks again.

  • Dale,
    I agree with everyone’s comments. This is a great addition to a personal studio. Thank you so much for your wonderful idea and effort.
    I, too, would love to receive the plans for this slab roller. chancey123@hotmail.com

  • I have not yet looked at the vidwo but will be nagging my other half to watch with me and build one! the plans on PDF would be an immense help as his imagination is not so good!

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing this

  • Dale,

    Thank you for the wonderful design. I modified your design slightly and built a table top version from scrap wood I had around the house. All I had to buy was pvc pipe, wire, dowel for the handle and a turnbuckle (I had one already) and 4 screw eyes to hold the wire.

    The main differences between mine and your original are that I used 5 inch long 2×4 legs instead of building a table, my box is made from 1x3s and I put a 1×1 inch rail on the top instead of insetting the top in the box.

    I would suggest to anyone that wants to make one to not worry about the wiring configuration because using Dale’s video and a little trial and error you will be able to figure it out. While you are working out the wiring just use some string to hold the pipes in place while you string the wire. Run the wire UNDER the top pipe, figure 8 around the bottom pipe, figure 8 around the top again and out to the other end.

    I know nothing about wood working but the brilliance in Dale’s design is its simplicity. Just use your own measurements. Make a rectangular box with legs, rails on the top and run the wire through screw eyes on the sides. That’s it. The hardest part for me was drilling the hole to stick the handle through since all I had was a spade bit. The hole is rough but it works great.

    Dale thank you for sharing this. My husband thinks I’m a genius and I’m sure my friends will want me to make one for them.

    Pat King

  • Dale,
    Your design is brilliant! My husband would like to build me one for my studio as well. Please send me your plans and I’ll send you a check for them. Thank-you Jacky

    jfausset@gmail.com

  • I have completed a detail drawing with a build of materials, a cabling diagram and several videos to aid in constructing the slab roller. I am attending the Texas Clay Festival this weekend in Gruene, TX and plan to bring the roller with me but I have no place to exhibit the table. I did call the organizers of the festival but my request was too late to be considered this year. I will show the table to anyone interested either from my SUV or if a vendor allows me use their booth. One of the seminar sites will be concentrating on slab building and I plan to make most of those demonstrations so look for me there. Hope to see y’all at the festival.

  • When you are ready to share the plan details, I’d be happy to compensate you for this terrific design – which I look forward to actually being able to build and use!
    Thank you,
    tuckadog1-shop@yahoo.com

  • Dale, any sign of the PDF you mentioned? That would be appreciated by many of your fans. — Sue

  • Dale, I too would like a copy of your plans when you’er ready. Of course, I will compensate you. You’er video is just what I’ve been looking for.
    Thank you,
    ktriick@hotmail.com

  • I just wonder, has anyone heard from Dale…? If you have could you send me the plans…?

    Kindly
    Linda

  • Hi Dale, did see your video the first time today. How genius!do you still distribute your plans?
    Here is my email,
    vkvarner@gmail.com
    Kindly
    Veronika

  • Dale, I too just saw your video and would like to get a copy of your plans. Please let me know the charge. I really apprecaite your sharing the video.

    Susan Moore
    susanmoore054@gmail.com

  • Dale,

    I would love to have the plans as well. You are amazing, thanks for posting the video. Also let me know where I can send a payment.

    Toricavaliere@hotmail.com

  • This is wonderful. I’ve been looking at different handbuilt slab rollers and this is by far the best I’ve seen. Thanks!

  • Thanks Dale, this is a great idea, and I am keen to get a copy of the plans if they are still available. Thanks

  • Thanks for this post Dale. Are the plans and materials list still available? I would love to try this.
    Lynne

  • Thank you so much for the information. I just made a slab roller like the one you showed in video, except I made mine a tabletop and it is wonderful!! I had a bunch of scrap wood and already had canvas fabric, so it ended up costing me about $45 to make. It rolls the clay out so nice and smooth and the depth that I need it to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • I realise this is an old thread, but is there anyone out there with Dale’s slab roller design PDF? His website is currently under construction.

    If you do, can you please fwd it to me at annavo_79@hotmail.com?

    Thank you in advance!

    Anna

  • I tried link and it fails. Can someone please assist with plans? Many thanks. Susan

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