How To Use a Pottery Wheel

The first thing to know when thinking about pottery as a hobby is that there are manual pottery wheels and electric pottery wheels.  With manual pottery wheels you have to pump a foot pedal to get the wheel to move, and when you are working the clay at the same time, it gets tricky.  Most potters use electric pottery wheels.  The wheel head can spin clockwise and counter-clockwise, which is important if you are left-handed.  There is a foot peddle that adjusts the speed of the wheel head.

Now you need to think about the clay you are going to use with your pottery wheel.  There are many different configurations of pottery clay. Clay differs in its color and texture.  Also, different clays are fired at different temperatures.  You will need to locate a pottery supply house to purchase your clay.  You need to know ahead of time whether you will be firing in a gas kiln or an electric kiln, as that dictates the type of clay you purchase.  You will want to discuss this with the salesperson at the supply house so that the correct type of clay is purchased.

The next thing you need to use a pottery wheel is a bat.  A bat is a plastic or wooden flat plate-like object that fits on top of the wheel head.  You manipulate the clay on the bat and then when you finish with your pot, you lift the bat off of the wheel head and set the pot aside to air dry for a while.  Then, you will attach another bat, and throw another pot!

So, you've got your pottery wheel, clay, and bat.  Now you need some pottery tools.  At a minimum, you will need sponges, a small bucket, a needle tool, and pottery wire. 

  1. First, fill the bucket with water and put your sponges in the water and keep this right by your wheel. 
  2. Use your pottery wire to cut off a small amount of clay and form the clay into a ball.  For beginners, you will want to start with about a pound of clay. 
  3. Place the one-pound clay ball in the middle of the bat and turn the wheel on. 
  4. With the wheel spinning, you center the clay in the middle of the bat. 
  5. Once it's centered, you press a finger in the middle of the clay and pull out the opening. 
  6. Once you have it opened, you begin to raise up the sides of the pot using the sponge in your outside hand. 

Plan to have a teacher show you how to use one the first time, or look at on-line videos.


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