Throwing Off the Hump to Make Hollow Handles


Throwing off the hump is a great way to maximize efficiency in the studio. Starting off with a large amount of clay and centering what you need for each piece as you go can be a time saver.

Alyssa Wagner throws scoops this way so she can make multiple parts quickly and have a number of components to choose from. In today’s post, an excerpt from the November/December 2016 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, we’ll share how Alyssa approaches the scoop handles. This method of handle making doesn’t have to be just for scoops, though. Try it on a teapot or a batter bowl too!

– Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

P.S. Learn how Alyssa throws and assembles the rest of the parts needed for her handled scoops in the November/December 2016 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

Making Handles Off the Hump

by Alyssa Wagner

Throwing as a Tool

I choose to throw the parts for the scoop off of the hump. This allows for me to make multiple parts quickly, giving me a lot of options once I start to assemble. Center a ball of clay on the top of the hump then throw a small bowl. This will be the scoop form. Try experimenting with different rim edges on the bowl and various widths as well. Ask yourself whether it will be a large, deep scoop used for dog food, or it will be small enough to scoop out sugar for coffee. Using a metal rib, compress the inside of the bowl and the outside walls. The thickness of the bowl should correspond to the intention of the scoop. For something like a dog- or cat-food scoop I make the walls of the bowl thicker, to protect it from chipping and wear and tear. When you’re satisfied with the size and the shape, use a needle tool to remove the bowl from the hump, and set it to the side to reach leather hard. Continue to throw several more bowls to give yourself options later.


1 Throw the handle off the hump, keeping it in proportion to the scoop.


2 Close the form to trap air inside the hollow handle.
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Start to throw the handles for the scoops from the same hump of clay. I judge the size of the handles by the size of the bowls, always considering proportion and always making multiples. Make at least four handles for each bowl. Proportion is key when making the handle. If it’s too large, it will weigh the scoop down. If it’s not large enough, it will seem understated. The handles should be relatively thin and be long enough to fit in your hand nicely. I also recommend tapering the handle to make it easier to use, but this is just personal preference. Keep in mind when throwing the handle you want to have a good balance between the scoop and the handle; you want it to be relatively thin, but not so thin as to break off the scoop when using it, and not too heavy that it throws off the balance of the form.


3 Refine and shape the curves of the hollow handle using a rounded metal rib.


4 Use an angled plastic Mudtools rib to define the area of the handle that is attached to the scoop.

A hollow handle is made by throwing a tall, thin form (1), and trapping a pocket of air inside it by closing off the top (2). Here is where you can really explore many different designs for the handle. Once the air is trapped in the form, it becomes easy to use a rounded metal rib and angled plastic Mudtools rib to refine the shape (3, 4). After you have the desired shape, cut the handle off the hump with a needle tool (5). Set all parts aside to dry. I throw with very little water, so it only takes a short while for the clay to stiffen up.


5 After you have the desired shape, cut the handle off the hump with a needle tool.


  • Dennis, I think the air is only trapped to make it easier to shape the hollow handle so that it doesn’t collapse while you are working on it. Once the shaping is done to your satisfaction you cut the handle off the hump. I would cut off the base of the handle when it is leather hard and attach it to the pot by the usual method of scoring and slipping. I have noticed from pots I have bought with such hollow handles, that there is (as you thought) a hole made in the end of the handle which will allow the expanding air to escape. Do not make this hole too big as water can get in during the washing up and is not easy to get out! Only a minor annoyance, though. Better than an exploding handle!

  • Your solution seems right Dennis, at least that is how I’d proceed. As a side note, I was told explosions occur mainly from moisture; ie steam and not trapped air. Just my 2¢.

  • Dennis B.

    I’m a little confused here. How is the handle then attached to the hump in such a way that air can escape while in the kilm. I had pieces explode do to trapped air. the only think I can think of is adding a bleeder hole to handle.

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