Simple Sets: Making and Using Slab Bowl Templates

Up your production by using slab bowl templates!

Slab Bowl Templates

Throwing bowls on the pottery wheel is not the only option if you are interested in making a set of bowls. You can make lovely bowls by handbuilding, and using templates is a great way to make them uniform.

In this post, an excerpt from his book From a Slab of Clay, Daryl Baird explains how to make and use slab bowl templates. A great benefit of this is that if you make them with a sturdy material like card stock or laminated paper, you can use them over and over. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

A template is useful when you want to make several items the same size and shape. The template for a dish looks something like a donut with a bite taken out of it, and the template for a pitcher is essentially the portion represented by the bite, albeit on a larger scale.

Five Great Handbuilding Techniques and Tools

Pick up variations on classic handbuilding techniques when you download this freebieFive Great Handbuilding Techniques and Tools.


Bowl Project – Tools & Materials:

  • small 1×4 block of wood with one end cut at a 45° angle
  • pencil
  • needle tool
  • fettling knife
  • rolling pin
  • serrated rib
  • small sponge
  • marking pen
  • drafting compass
  • X-Acto knife and #11 blades
  • 12×12-inch card stock, matt board, or equivalent.

Get more great slab building ideas in Daryl Baird’s popular book From a Slab of Clay!

1. To see what form a flat template makes, cut a series of circles and experiment. Here the templates on the left and right produce different shaped truncated cones.

2. Draw an 11-in. circle on cardboard with a 5-in. circle in the center of it. Draw a right angle from the center to the edge and cut out the pieces with an X-Acto knife.

Slab Bowl Templates3. Lay the template on a slab of clay and trace around it. Remove the template and decorate the slab with stamps or drawn lines. Cut the arc.

4. Bevel the ends at 45° as well as the inside radius. When beveling the ends of the arc, bevel in opposite directions so the ends overlap.

5. Score the edges, apply slip and bring the ends together to draw the shape up to form the wall of the bowl. Smooth the seam.

6. Cut a disk of clay slightly larger than the bottom opening of the dish to make a base. Decorate it and attach it with slip.

Slab Bowl Templates7. Finish the edge with a rounded stick and place decorative elements over the seam if you wish. Clean up any rough spots with a small brush and water. 

**First published in 2012
  • I’m going to assume Chris P is a newer potter; unaware that not everyone can use a potters wheel. I do approx. 1/2 + 1/2 thrown and handbuilt. When I started (back in the 80’s) wheel throwing was pushed as “the” way to work with clay. I have learned over time that no one method is “the” way to work with clay.

    Sam Cuttell
    Maid O’Mud Pottery

  • This seems a complicated process for creating simple bowls. Why don’t you just use a wheel and add the leaves when leather-hard?

    • Sometimes its not about just making a bowl, its about the different processes you can use that actually makes the bowl a beautiful piece of functional art. There is so much potential for shape, color, texture and size, why would you choose to just use the simplest way to make an object. Challenge yourself and see what you can do. Use your imagination. There are no limits.

  • Patricia S R.

    It is so cool to see what you can do with a circle and all its little pieces and parts. If you do a search for circlematic, you will see many other shapes that can be formed using the circle.

  • Gayle K.

    clay has a memory and u need to roll it out in both directions (left ring and up and turn half way and roll again). Than confuses the clay and u should get less warping or no warping.

  • Linda S.

    Thanks Daryl, for showing how to develop other forms from this type of template. I didn’t see where or how the small block of wood was used?

    To reduce warping from slabs I roll my slabs in one direction then the other flipping them over and turning them each time, this helps align the particles as in throwing. If I use a slab roller I roll in one direction with a thicker setting, then flip a quarter turn and roll to the thickness I desire. As Sue said, I also try to reduce handling till piece is dry. I dry my pieces on wallboard on an open grid shelf in a closet out of drafts and lightly covered with a dry cleaning plastic bag.

    Linda Starr
    Blue Starr Gallery blog

  • Sue R.

    Warping is certainly a problem with handbuilt pieces. I try and over come this by reducing the amount of handling and moving around while the piece is still wet. But most importantly, is slow, even drying.

  • Dennis B B.

    I find my hand-built bowls – whether made from slabs or coils – seldom retain their true “roundness” through firing. I have assumed that this is because the particles in the clay haven’t been aligned as they are when thrown.

    Do others have the same experience? Have you found ways to get around it. (Please excuse the pun. It just popped out.) Any suggestions will be welcome.

  • Darlene M.

    I love that you showed the concept in #1 so we can translate it to more shapes easily and that you listed all of the required tools too! Thanks mucho!

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