Making the Perfect Pottery Tools with the Tools at Hand

Get Creative with Your Tools and Create the Perfect, Personalized Tools!

pottery toolsClay tools are a potter’s best friend–especially homemade tools designed to be perfect for specific tasks. Just by doing some creative searching, it’s amazing how many useful tools can be gleaned from around the home.

As Debra Oliva explains in today’s post, you can use everything from beads to discarded plastic-wrap boxes to create what you need exactly when you need it. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

pottery tools

Once in a while an idea for a piece creates the need for a tool to perform a specific task. Since I am always anxious to get to the work, I want to find a tool quickly and get on with the best part, making the piece.

I begin by looking around at the bounty of household items, home hardware and tools, manufactured pottery tools, and so on to see if there is anything that might do the task after a quick modification. Often I find that I have to DIY my own pottery tools too.

More often than not, I find the perfect thing.

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For etching clay surfaces, I needed a texture tool that could get into small spaces. The most obvious was to cut up serrated metal pottery ribs. That seemed a bit of a waste of a costly tool but it was easy and fast. While making dinner, my eyes fell upon the shiny, serrated metal strip on the box of a roll of plastic wrap. This solution is almost free and just as effective. I cut them into whatever size tool I need with a tin snip and insert them into an X-Acto blade handle. The serrated edges wear out over time but one strip of metal provides enough material to last quite a while. X-Acto blade handles can usually be found wherever office and craft supplies are sold. Tin snips are available in home supply stores and are an invaluable tool in my tool box.

For tiny impressions, I make stamping tools by gluing interesting bits, such as beads, to wooden handles saved from broken cut-off wires or pieces of a wooden dowel rod. I try to use pieces of wood that are only slightly larger than the item I am gluing to it so that I can position the stamp more precisely to impress the clay.

To create a double, (triple, quadruple, etc.) line tool, I use broken pin-tool tips, collected over time, or big needles. Rug needles work well as the tip may be a bit more rounded than sewing needles. The quickest way to create a handle is from air-hardening pottery craft clay (found at craft stores). I space the pins as I like and push them into a coil of this clay, taking care to be sure they go in evenly. I don’t fuss with the handle. It doesn’t need to be pretty. I just want it to fit my hand comfortably and perform properly for my purposes. I let it dry overnight and the tool is ready to use the next day. Should the pins fall out, they can be glued in with a strong adhesive. A handle can be made from scrap wood; however, that takes more effort and time than I want to spend.

pottery tools

**First published in 2015

  • Kathy f.

    I go to the button department at my fabric shop and look for interesting buttons. They can either be used just by holding onto the back or glue it to a wine cork. To keep it from sticking to the clay I periodically dip it into cornstarch

  • I have used bits of seashell and I glued them to interesting sticks (did not think to pick up driftwood ones, but they would be pretty and well sanded already.) To use screw tops for stamps, screw them into sticks or corks, and small ones go into the erasers on pencils perfectly. Love the cork idea–just thought of gluing my cheap grocery store kid’s letter stamps to them. It is easy to carve pencil erasers into small stamps too–for indentations or applying dots of glaze materials.

  • Hi Trish,
    It’s not your computer or browser that is at fault. The frames aren’t working right on the article. All you have to do is highlight a little of the text then right click your mouse and select all. At the top of your browser under edit, click copy and then open a blank word document and paste onto a blank page. All of the article will show up including links and photos.

  • Tracy W.

    One of my favorites is a heavey duty paper clip. It can be bent in any way to reach just that little spot your other tools can’t reach.

  • Colleen F.

    Every once in a while, I go to the dollar store idea and texture hunting. I “SPLURGE” picking up every odd shape, texture and usually the most useless things imaginable. Some of the textures I have found have turned out to be amazing. Even with a few “duds”, the price cannot be beat. I teach kids hand building classes and they come up with some great texturing devices, often by just emptying their pockets!!!

  • Genevieve N.

    I’ve been using the kitchen warp cutting strip for years for scraffito designs, but I just hold it between two fingers and it works just fine.

  • Kathleen M.

    If you use your mouse to “right click” on the article, and click “select all”, you can paste the text in a word document and read it all.

  • Karen B.

    re missing text – click on ‘print this post’ to access the whole page

  • Hedy D.

    I have the same problem, can’t read to the right.

  • Trisha S.

    I found the same issue — text is missing from the right. There does not seem to be a way to “fix” it to see more.

  • Local C.

    If you don’t want to use a dowel, you can always glue the bead or stick the pins into a used wine cork. Works great!

  • It was difficult to read this – some of the text seems to be missing from my screen. I tried refreshing, re-sizing, rebooting – but nothing helped.

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