Tips, Techniques, and Tools for Getting the Most Out of Your Pottery Wheel – From Buying to Trimming – Tips for the Pottery Wheel
Pick up throwing and trimming tips, techniques, and tools for the pottery wheel, and much more in this FREE PDF!
Throwing on the pottery wheel is exciting and fun. Once you can center, you’ll never get tired of the many things you can create with the potters wheel. Here we’ve gathered some tips and techniques that will show you how to use a pottery wheel in the most efficient and effective ways. If you want to throw sets on the wheel, here are some simple gauges for the potters wheel you can buy or make. Or for duplicating profiles, you can make wheel throwing templates. Another ingenious technique is to facet freshly thrown clay then continue throwing the clay and watch the pattern expand. Finally, you’ll enjoy the survey of trimming accessories for wheel thrown pottery—maybe there’s a tool that’s right for you.
Check out this excerpt:
The What and Why Before You Buy a Potters Wheel
When it comes to buying a wheel there’s no shortage of choices. Ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to nearly $2000, potters wheels are separated by degrees of capacity, construction, and accessories. While there’s nothing wrong with purchasing the wheel you used as a student, or happen to be using in a community studio, you may be missing out on an opportunity to find the ideal wheel for your needs. If you’ve limited yourself to one or two wheels, you may not know if a different brand or model would be even better, or whether those models are still in production. To find out which wheel is best for you, you must assess your needs and understand what wheels can offer.
Assess Your Needs
The two most important things to consider when purchasing a wheel are how often you’ll use it and how much clay you realistically expect to throw at one time.
If you plan on using the wheel a lot, such as in a production situation, then you’ll want to look at sturdier professional models. Additionally, if you plan on centering large amounts of clay, then you’ll need to look at wheels with at least ½hp (horsepower) motors. In addition to level of use and capacity, you may also want to consider how much space you have, whether you need a portable wheel, if you just need a “starter” wheel, and, of course, what you can afford.
Assess the Wheels
Steven Branfman, in his book The Potter’s Professional Handbook, describes the features you need to consider when looking at wheels.
- Power: A wheel’s power in practical terms is a function of hp and torque. What you really want to know is whether you can apply the necessary force to the largest amount of clay you will work with and not have the wheel slow down or stop.
- Speed: Speed is related to power but is really a different performance issue. Your style of working dictates the speed or RPMs (revolutions per minute) of the wheel head you require.
- Control Sensitivity: Your sensitivity to extremely slow speeds and the degree of gradual increase as you apply it will dictate any concerns you have in this area.
- Smoothness and Vibration: Again, personal style and expectations will make this more or less of an issue.
- Weight: If you use 30 or more pounds of clay, the weight and stability of the wheel could be an issue. You don’t want the wheel crawling along the floor as you apply pressure to the clay.
- Wheel Head Diameter: Although you can use bats of almost any size, the diameter of the wheel head may be a concern. The smallest head is 12 inches, with heads going as large as 16 inches.
- Miscellaneous Features: Splash pan, integrated seat, attached worktable, adjustable height, choice of rotation (reversing switch), construction materials and finishes, are all options you need to be aware of and assess as to their importance.
For potters prone to back problems, standing at the wheel to throw may be the answer. Most wheels can be purchased with optional leg extenders. Durable, stable, and easily adjustable leg extensions allow you to throw standing up, perhaps, the best thing many potters can do for their health.
If there is a pottery supplier nearby with a selection of equipment, they‘re your best bet for answering your questions and trying out wheels. If there’s not a nearby supplier, visit local potters, schools, and studios to see the equipment they have. Ask questions about the operation, maintenance, and repair records of the equipment that interests you. Ask to try the wheel and be sure to bring your own clay! Why? It’s both courteous to the studio and sensible to test the wheel under as close to realistic conditions as possible.
it possible to shop around and find bargains on some wheels. Your local supplier not only service the wheels they sell, but they may also match an online price or order a particular model if they don’t have it in stock. Remember also that if you purchase a wheel that requires shipping, make sure you nail down all the costs for getting the wheel to its final destination.
A new potter’s wheel that fits your needs is a long-term investment you’ll certainly enjoy for many years to come.
This article was excerpted from Steven Branfman’s The Potter’s Professional Handbook and from Jonathan Kaplan’s “As the Wheel Turns” reprinted from Pottery Making Illustrated.
Gauges for Wheel Throwing
by Bill Jones
Sooner or later every potter wants to make multiples of a form — a set of bowls, mugs, whatever. Two basic measuring devices for throwing sets on the wheel are the Western pot gauge, which measure pots from the outside and the Eastern tombo, which measures pots from the inside.
The Basics of Pottery Throwing Ribs
by Bill Jones
The best throwing tools around are our fingers but there are just some things they can’t do, and so we have throwing ribs—an essential tool for every potter. Pottery tools like throwing ribs provide an efficient and effective way for potters to remove moisture, control contours, and smooth surfaces. Here’s a look at these tools and where you can find them.
How to Make Custom Pottery Throwing Ribs
There are times when you may need a special tool when throwing on the pottery wheel. Robert Balaban solves this problem by making his own tools and here he details how you can do the same.
Throwing on the Potters Wheel with Templates
by William Schran
While throwing gauges can get pots the same height and width, templates will help you get the same profile. This technique involves using templates to repeatedly create an even, symmetrical form. These easy to make templates can be used to scrape the surface as it’s rotated on the potters wheel to create a smooth, uniform surface.
10 Tips for Stronger, Smarter Throwing
by Claire O’Conner
Throwing good pots, especially of a larger size, on the pottery wheel is a challenge, but with these tips from Claire O’Connor, it can be easier than you might think.
Trimming Accessories for the Potters Wheel
Frank James Fisher
Trimming the bases of pots on the potter’s wheel is another opportunity to bring unity and beauty to your artwork. But different shapes and sizes of work create challenges, and if you throw a lot of large bowls and platters, pots with delicate necks, lids, etc., then you should evaluate trimming accessories for the potter’s wheel.
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