Five Tools for Cleaning Atmospheric-Fired Pots to Prepare them For Sale

All pots require some clean up before selling, but atmospheric-fired pots require the most. Find out how to clean them in this post!

atmospheric-fired pots

All pots require some clean up before selling, but atmospheric-fired pots require the most. Whether it is wadding, glaze drips, or just crusty stuff from a raku firing, it is good to give your pots the once over before making them available for purchase.

In today’s post, an excerpt from her new book Mastering Kins and Firing, Lindsay Oesterritter shares five tools she uses to make sure her pots are ready for the showroom or gallery. Even if you don’t fire atmospherically, these tools can be uses to make sure your work is the best it can be! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. For more tips and tools for cleaning up pots, see a longer excerpt in the July/August 2020 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated. Or pick up Lindsay’s book, Mastering Kilns and Firing, today!


Chuck It: Don’t clean something that you don’t think is worth the time. Too harsh? Maybe. But as the saying goes: your favorite pot going in to the firing isn’t always your favorite pot coming out. Sometimes, the best decision is to let a pot go.

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Bench Grinder: These work great for grinding off large wads that are fused onto a pot. Green-stone and flap-wheel sanding are a great combination. Grinding produces a lot of dust, so I recommend trying to grind outdoors to mitigate dust in the studio. This is a fast process, so make sure you have good lighting or you will quickly discover (but not quick enough) that you have ground a divot into your piece.

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Masonry Chisel: If you’re looking at a fused wad and can see that there is a good buildup of fluxed ash at the base of the wad, a mallet (or hammer) and small masonry chisel work great to remove it. Always angle the chisel just above the pot and chisel toward the center point of the pot. While this method is quick when it works well, the risk is that a piece of the ware could pop off with the wad.

Dremel Tool: This is by far the most frequent way I remove wadding and other crusty bits from the firing that are too big to be removed by sanding alone. There are many types of bits available, but the two I use most often are the ½-inch green grinding stone and the diamond wheel. The diamond wheel is good for cutting around the base of a wad and knocking it off, while the green stone grinds everything else. Note: A diamond wheel lasts longer if it doesn’t get red hot. When I use mine, I spray water as I grind, which keeps it cool and also keeps the dust down.

When you use your Dremel tool, make sure to take breaks. Depending on your tool or if you’re using a flexible shaft, you will experience varying degrees of vibration. Putting your hand through extended periods of prolonged vibration can result in nerve damage. If you finish using your Dremel tool and notice that your fingers are tingly, you have used it for too long. It’s important to take regular breaks to eliminate this issue.

Silicon Carbide: You can purchase a silicon-carbide grinding disk for your potter’s wheel that will eliminate any wobble on the foot of a pot. A handheld extruded silicon-carbide post or stone is nice to work on one or two high points independently. Silicon-carbide mesh powder works well for smoothing out lid seats. Sprinkle the powder into the lid gallery, along with a little water, and then spin or rotate the lid until it’s smooth.

Sharpening Stone: Similar to the silicon-carbide stone, a sharpening stone is great to clean off single high points.

Comments
  • Pat W.

    For around $150 you can buy a stone countertop grinder/polisher. They come with a water connection hose, but I find that it is a nuisance and tends to put too much water as well as having to have a waterpipe connection. I took it off mine and I use it in my ceramics sink with a tiny stream of water running on my work (but not on the machine!). If you don’t use water the grinding disk is immediately wrecked. The grinding disks attach by velcro, which makes them easy to change. The 50 and 100 grades are the most useful, and they are cheap to replace. You you can grind off glaze drips without accidentally knocking anything off your pieces, and the foot looks and feels smooth and perfect.

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