A good citrus reamer is an indispensable kitchen tool. From making cocktails to citrusy desserts to salad dressings, my ceramic reamers are some of my most unexpected kitchen treasures. When developing this object, you want to remember there are several types of citrus fruits out there, and they vary in size and shape. Think grapefruit versus lime. As with all functional objects, try to get as detailed as possible in your research. Use your kitchen habits to inform the type of reamer you make. Also, use your hand size and your strength to help inform the handle shape. Be as specific in your thought process as you can and start there. You can always refine and make changes once you have your foundational object.

Keep in mind this form will require some patience and gentle manipulation. It is built in two pieces and carved and shaped from leather-hard bits of clay. This project can be made with any clay. Just be mindful of the fact that this will be worked solid and carved, so clays that are sandy or groggy might be problematic when carving. Glazing these objects can be tricky as you will need to set them on firing stilts or leave some space unglazed so they can sit on the kiln shelf.

Forming the Reamer Head

Use the template of reamer-head shapes (A) and tape them together according to the pattern. These will give you an idea of the shapes you will rough out in clay. You are welcome to scale the size up or down.

Using your preferred clay, rough out the solid reamer head shapes. Make several (you will mess up a few!) and let these firm up to a solid leather hard. You want the form to be as symmetrical as possible; once it is set up, you will be refining and carving it. Make sure you have plenty of clay to work with, and if you have difficulty making a symmetrical form using just your hands, use your banding wheel and a rib to help (1). 

Forming the Handle

Design and rough out the handle shape (2). I didn’t include any pattern for this, as this shape is open to interpretation. You may want to sketch out a few ideas to get started. Remember, this is meant to fit your hand and provide enough handle to sufficiently get into your citrus. It should match at the connection of the base of the reamer head, creating a strong connection point (be wide enough and not too narrow) between the base of reamer head and the top of the handle. There will be lots of torque on the connection—make sure it won’t snap off. The object should be both utilitarian and visually pleasing. Let these set up until leather hard. 

Next, refine the reamer and handle. Use your Surform to start making the shapes symmetrical (the handles may be asymmetrical). If the clay starts to feel tacky and gums up the Surform, stop and let the clay firm up some more. You want a really clean pass with the Surform, like you are grating a hard cheese; the clay should easily fall away.

1 Rough out the solid reamer head shape using a banding wheel and rib. 2 Design and rough out a handle shape with a wide connection point.

Carving the Reamer Head

Place the reamer head in the center of your circle guide. A circle guide is very handy if you are going to play around with the number of ridges. I use an MKM Decorating Disk, but it’s very simple to make one of your own. Make a small mark to denote the center (peak) of your shape. With a ruler and a needle tool, make lines to the peak in the center of the form. These lines will be the high points of your ridges. This example has six ridges. This is a curved shape—try your best to keep the line straight while adjusting for depth. 

Cut the ridges. Using a scalpel or utility knife, bevel cut to the center of the ridges, changing the depth as you move from the top down (3, 4). Go slowly and steadily, working in one direction, and then the other to help with consistency.  

Let the carved head sit and harden up. You have exposed some clay that is a bit softer, and it will be easier to refine once it is a consistent hardness. 

Once the head is set up and easier to handle, use your fingers or tools to gently clean up the cut areas, refine the shape, and compress the reamer head. Using a wooden knife, compress the valleys. Place the piece in a damp box or under plastic.

3 Use a scalpel or utility knife to bevel cut the ridges of the reamer head. 4 Work slowly and steadily to cut the ridges, making all the cuts in one direction, then the other.

Refine the Handle

Shape the handle. Remember, you generally want the shape to fit in your hand and have a flared base, which will be scored and attached to the reamer head. Use a Surform to refine the general shape (5). Don’t worry about the marks left from the process; we will deal with them in the next step. Once you have gotten closer to your finished shape, you may need to move to a serrated rib to start a shallower reductive refinement/shaping process. This process can be a little hypnotic, and one can easily take away too much clay. Be mindful of your shape goal and keep checking in with your sketches or the image of the finished reamer image to stay on target.

5 Shape the handle with a Surform tool so that it fits in your hand but still has a flared base to connect to the reamer head.

After you have finished refining your shape, it’s time to smooth out any surfaces that seem too rough. Starting with a metal rib held at an angle yields more compression than scraping. Start smoothing. After you have gone over the form a few times, use a soft red rib to really get a smooth surface. This process will help compress the small particles of clay back into the form. Sometimes during shaping, we expose a lot of rough, groggy, or sandy particles in the clay, and compressing with the rib ensures a smoother finish, which is a nicer surface to handle, and the glaze will go over it more smoothly.

Connecting the Head and the Handle

Before you attach the two pieces, double-check that the reamer base and handle match in size where they will be attached. Address any fit issues now by adding or taking away clay. (It is easiest to adjust the handle side.) 

6 Check the fit of the two pieces, then score each attachment point and add slip to one side to join.  7 Clean up the attachment area as needed, then allow the reamer to dry on soft foam.

Next, score each of the attachment points (6). This form will benefit from some slip applied on one side, which will help equalize the attachment of the two leather-hard pieces. Clean up the attachment zone as needed (7) and set up a space for it to dry. I recommend a soft foam surface to avoid flattening out any of your points. Done! 

Excerpted from The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Building: Functional and Sculptural Projects for the Home Potter by Sunshine Cobb and published by Quarry Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group. To learn more, visit https://www.quarto.com/books/9780760374764/the-beginner-s-guide-to-hand-building. See more of Sunshine Cobb’s work online at www.sunshinecobb.com or on Instagram @shinygbird.