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.

Comments
  • 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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