Quick Tips: Jumbo Chuck, One-Handed Cut-off Wire, and Paper Clay Shelf Protectors

Three tips for working in the studio!

jumbo chuck

Clay people have some darn impressive ingenuity when it comes to improving the efficiency of their processes. We get a lot of great studio tips sent to us from readers, and every month Ceramics Monthly publishes some of them in their Quick Tips section.

Since everybody loves a good studio tip, we excerpt some of them in CAN’s Quick Tips every other week. Here’s a few from the archives! Hope they help you out! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

P.S. If you have a great tip to share, email it, along with photos, to submissions@ceramics.org.

Jumbo Chuck

As you in the clay world well know, clay needs to be handled when it is ready to be handled, not when you are ready to handle it.

After a recent day of throwing, I left some the jars under plastic but the bottoms set up more than I would have liked. I wanted to add a European foot to the jars but the clay was almost bone dry. I didn’t have a chuck big enough in the studio so, necessity being the mother of invention, I put a large coil around a 5-gallon plastic bucket to both cushion and contain the pieces then simply trimmed the jars in that. Because the plastic bucket is light weight and the jars much heavier, I often fill it half full to give a bit of weight to it in case someone has a heavy foot.

Thank you to Tony Clennell of Beamsville, Ontario.

Tip from Ceramics Monthly March 2010.

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One-Handed Cut-Off Wire

This ingenious wire tool and throwing wheel adaptation is for anybody who is tired of searching through a pool of muck or untangling a twisted, wiry mess. Attach a wire tool to one side of the throwing wheel at the same height as the bat or the wheel head. Screw an eye bolt into a thin wood block and attach the block to the splash pan using a C-clamp or similar device. Tie the wire tool to the eye bolt allowing enough room for the wire to stretch across the diameter of the wheel head.

The small wooden dowel used to make most wire tools can also be easily clamped for a quick use and remove system. This simple set-up allows for easy one-handed use and a clean cut giving a smoother bottom for trimming!

Thank you to John Powell of Castroville, California.

Tip from Ceramics Monthly November 2009.

Catch Those Runny Glazes!

Some of our glazes can be very runny and we need to have something to put under them to protect our kiln shelves. We keep thin, dry paper-clay sheets on hand to cut for placing under the pieces. A quick brushing of kiln wash makes them slightly pliable and lay flat.

The sheets and pots are placed in the kiln and the excess sheet is cut away between the pieces. For some of our pots, we also use a wadding made of equal parts sand and ball clay. It is crumbly enough to grind away easily. Between the two, we don’t have much trouble with glaze on our kiln shelves.

Thanks to Samantha Henneke and Bruce Gholson of Seagrove, North Carolina.

Tip from Ceramics Monthly December 2008.

**First published in 2010.
  • To secure a one handed cut off wire I would think you could cut a thin slice in the top of the splash pan with a sawsall or circular saw. The wire would slip thru and be held by the wood handle on the outside of the splash pan

  • Subscriber V.

    Paper Clay sheet?? Is this soft/unfired paper clay? Is it then discarded after the firing even if there are no drips?

  • The Jumbo chuck trick is great for my table top Shimpo RK 5T table top wheel which has a side wall that was not permitting me to throw large platters.Now I just need to use a larger bat on top of the chuck.Thanks a ton to Tony Clennell .

  • After reading this I attached a cut-off wire to one of the wheels in my classroom and it works wonderfully. I will add them to the other wheels when I get time. My students were very impressed, but I did not take credit for it, I directed them to CAD. I did make one improvement, and that was to whittle away a flat spot on each side of the cut-off wire handle so that it would clamp more easily to the splash pan and stay there.

  • Thanks for the tips. I especially like the pipe insulation idea to hold a large pot for turning or beveling.
    John the Potter, Birmingham England

  • Donna V.

    Can a person use the fiber paper used to keep fused glass from sticking to the shelf under a ceramic piece in the kiln to keep the glaze from sticking to the shelf? It turns to powder when fired, but the glass doesn’t stick.

  • Gladys C.


  • Have you ever used a very, very thin slab of the clay you work with (green), washed under a pot, rather than the paper clay sheets? How do you determine which pots get the wads and which don’t?

  • Elaine H.

    For turning large bowls, I stretch my fleece hat over the wheel- it forms a lovely snug barrier that protects the bowl rim and seems to have enough friction to stop the bowl slipping!

  • I know that crystalline glazers need to make catch basins or saucers to catch their runny glazes, and that the part of the saucer that meets the pot bottom must match the diameter of the pot exactly. I wonder if they could use the sand/ball clay wadding to make the saucers, which might be easier to grind off later?

  • Darla H.

    I use empty ice cream buckets to store wet pieces in….. so that I can trim and attach handles, on my timeline. I work 50 hours a week, so sometimes a piece just wrapped in plastic can be bone dry before I can get back to it.

  • A “European foot” is the type of foot that we in the West all take for granted, with the recessed circle of clay cut from the center of the foot, leaving the “foot ring” that is so often seen. This type of trimming is not done in all parts of the world (it started in Germany or England I believe) many cultures just leave the foot as it is when it is made, and no trimming is ever done.

  • Subscriber T.

    Hey – we do that too! And use pipe insulation to hold the pot. In fact after our studio was being rebuilt after a fire- we borrowed one of the construction guys coolers- it worked great.
    So we did think of this several many years ago.

    • So a “European Foot” is just a regular foot then? I’ve never heard that expression, I thought it was going to be something fabulous and new.😊

  • Darlene M.

    looks like maybe green? clay balls under the pots too? so they are not sitting on the temp shelf liner? is it?

  • Yes the paper clay is green, not bisqued. I use that closed cell foam that is made to insulate pipes. It comes in 4 foot length tubes with a slit in it and fits on the rim of anything- including my splash pan when I am working above the rim. Good for drying handles over it too.

  • You can also use a foam ring from old cushions. Just cut into a doughnut shape and place on top of the bucket.

  • Darlene M.

    great ideas !

    i had a big slab piece clean crack vertical via the top i had to turn it over to work on the foot. My instructor said that was likely the cause. I wonder would a thick slab of solid clay over a hard surface with a cloth or paper over (between) be good cushion for not round or other odd shaped sized pieces?

    if you work pretty fast seems that cushion clay just needs a quick wedge not reclaim.

    for the glaze running is it “not bisqued” paper clay? porcelain or other?
    if so can thicker cookies with wash be safely done as this would be like a single fire.(in a student setting we could not lay down sheets and cut.)

    or the wadding material as cookies bisqued or raw?

  • I use different sized buckets and bisqued chucks to trim large pieces. They center easily in a giffin grip — I use the smallest rods in the grip which helps keep the container from moving. For small pieces with fragile, rounded, or bottle shaped rims, I keep a selection of small plastic and bisque containers by my wheel. I use these in my grip to support that portion of the piece and the grip rods go above it and hold the piece (not the container).

  • Using a sheet or two of large-bubble bubble wrap over the 5-gallon bucket chuck works just as well for cushioning as the coil ring, and doesn’t add to reclaim.

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