Quick Tips: How to Upcycle Salad Tongs Into Pottery Tools

How to make pottery tools for cheap!

pottery tools

As clay artists, we’ve all upcycled old, out-of-use objects into useful studio tools (think credit card rib). But I had never thought about it in terms of using my clay work to help breathe new life into an old object until I saw Kristin Pavelka’s article in the archives. So when I saw another upcycling article in the most recent issue of Ceramics Monthly, I knew I had to share Dan Ingersoll’s salad tong pottery tools. Looks like I’ll be off to find some cheap salad forks and spoons! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

I like making the things I use. I also like hunting for treasures in thrift stores. Lately, I’ve been hunting and collecting old salad forks, spoons, and other wooden utensils to make clay tools. I regularly find them in teak, fruitwood, black walnut, and bamboo woods that hold up well to heavy clay use. The tools I most often make from these finds are handled cup and bowl ribs, as well as tools for cutting, trimming, shaping, and foot profiling.

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The process is simple. Go thrifting and collect a bunch of wooden utensils, look them over, and visualize their clay tool potential. Use a Sharpie marker to draw on the utensil and map out the modifications needed to create the new tool (1). Cut out the new shape using a band saw, coping saw, or saber saw. Use a fine wood rasp and sandpaper or belt sander to refine the shape (2). Finish sanding by hand and then get to work.

1 Desired shapes of clay tools mapped out on each wooden utensil with a Sharpie marker.

2 Finished tools.

Using the utensils pictured (see 1), I was able to make the following: a sponge on a stick, bottleneck rib, handled cup rib, handled bowl rib, a cut-off tool with lid gallery profile, a straight rib with a foot profile, and a slip rake with a profile in the handle. In total, I made nine tools at a cost of $3 in material and 30 minutes of time.

Most of these tools may be purchased from clay suppliers; however, I enjoy the process of making them to fit my specific needs and find pleasure and satisfaction in using them.

  • Great article. I was thinking of getting blocks of wood, but got bogged down with barriers such as lack of tools, how long and simply how to get started. This is so0000 much better. Dollar store (pound shop in UK) and charity shop! Got it. Thanks loads, Lore!

  • Alexander N.

    Another quick and easy source of wood utensils is a dollar store such as Dollar Tree. I have converted many wood utensils from the Dollar Tree into ceramic tools. I will keep an eye out at swap meets and thrift shops as well.

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