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Hi guys. Im about to lose my mind. I started pottery about 6 months ago and have been progressing really well. I started with buff stoneware and went on to white stoneware with no problems. I was throwing upto 800 gms till now. Recently I tried throwing a 1500 and then 2000 gms and was so pleased that I was successful. And then one day I couldn't center anymore. And the worst part is I cant figure out why. Not even 600 gms. Not even less. Nothing. I always get a twist right at the bottom on the clay where it touches the wheel and lumps/knots throughout my clay ! I just dont know what it is. After failing on my wheel at home, I tried it in my pottery class in front of my tutor as well. As soon as I touch the clay it gets this nasty twist at the bottom that I cant get out. My pottery teacher and two other students tried to center it as well with no luck. I just dont understand why this is happening. Ive tried different clays, different wheels - nothing. Im getting so frustrated. To explain my centering process - I used to cone up and down to center and then I had more luck recently with pressing with the heel of my left palm on the side and with my right fist on top of the clay to center. It used to get centered under 2 minutes. But none of those methods are working at the moment. Ive struggled for 30-40 minutes at a stretch without any luck. Anyone face a similar problem? How did you solve it? Just to let you know - I have no personal problems or anything that are affecting this - and since my tutor wasnt able to center my clay as well im guessing its not related to anything going on internally with me. Maybe its my wedging? I dont know. Any ideas?

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One question ...

did others just sit down and try to re-center what you had done or did they remove the clay, wedge it then try to center it without success?

The answer would narrow down the problem to process rather than clay body.

 

Basic action and reaction rules apply ... if you anchor your elbow with your leg so it does not move, your steady hand will center rotating clay. The other hand just keeps it down ... it does not need to be a heavy pressure downwards. It sounds to me like your downward pressure is too heavy and is torquing the clay. Then when this starts to happen, I bet you are trying to apply even more presssure with both hands making it worse. The closed fist on top is kind of a clue that you are fighting with your clay. :-)

 

I would suggest putting a small ball of clay on your wheel as close to center as you can ... then relax and slap it to center for a few minutes ... when the ball of clay seems mostly centered brace your hand on your leg and gently push the side ... add a little water and just relax with no pressure to make anything from that clay. As it lifts up place the baby finger side of your other hand on top and gently push it down. Move it in and out ... try to forget about making anything and just feel the clay move in your hands. Mostly relax and feel the motion.

Hope it helps!

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Centering is a state of being, not just a position on the wheel. Pushing it into center will get it so it's not wobbling, however as soon as you open it up it'll be uneven and off center. Coning is essential to getting it centered, and you have to make sure you get the bottom of the ball moved inward as you cone it up, otherwise the bottom won't get mixed well and it will throw everything else out of whack. As you bring it down, don't let it mushroom or you'll develop layers of clay and slurry which really messes things up. Lots of pressure from the left hand is required as you bring it down.

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Neil, That is so metaphysical.

If the others could not center the same piece of clay, did they try after wedging it or unchanged?

It could be a hard lump or edge or it could be an air bubble.

If the clay came out of a box, it is a good idea to thump it on all sides onto a concrete floor. You'd be amazed how this gets rid of the hard edges.

It could also be just an off day. It happens. Go to a park or glaze some pots.

 

Marcia

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thanks everyone for the advice. Chris/Marcia - they tried to center the same ball of clay on the wheel that I was struggling with. Perhaps I should ask someone else to wedge and then try throwing that and see if its any different. Although when my tutor couldn't center my ball of clay, she stopped the wheel, took a wire and cut through 3 sections of the clay at different heights to see if there were any air pockets. There were none  :wacko:  Its a serious mystery this. I will try what you've suggested and see if it works. 

Neil - Agree with you on the state of being. Unfortunately when i get frustrated trying to center it only makes the whole 'be centered within' much more harder. :D my entire ball of clay isnt homogenous. the wobbly pots that I have managed to throw with off center clay have knots/lumps in them. I can tell when I trim because my tools keep getting stuck in a particular spot or area. But I dont feel them when I wedge. Somehow they show up when I throw.

 

Still not having any luck. Ill just keep trying I suppose.  :(

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Here's a quick and dirty way to centre😉. Take the foam roller from a paint-roller (They sell them in DIY stores in packs of 4). Roughly pat the clay into a sphere, and centre it a bit. Then lay the roller on the top off the clay. Hey presto, This surface is centred. Next press it steadily against the side. It will automatically centre it. Repeat on the diagonal between the top and side. Just use the roller like the blade of a lathe, to impose centrality on the clay.

 

 

It works quite well on big pieces of clay.

Anyone know a dirtier centring trick than this?

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I get that whenever I get in a hurry. Pretty sure its from pushing down too hard at an angle. I'll try once to cone up and dowm and then toss it into scrape bucket and grab a fresh ball. Its not worth the efort to keep jerking around with it. I've also noticed it more when I'm throwing to wet, That lump will make centering complicated to impossible so ur just fighting a losing battle. You'll get it back on reclaim. If it is happening a lot I bet you've developed a motion that is becoming a habit. Try breaking down ur steps and click through each step. Good luck and whatever you do dont bull through it and open and pull up with even a slight wobble. You can actually throw offcenter pots but trimming them sucks.

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@britpot - oh that sounds like a unique way of doing it. Definitely going to try that. Dont care how dirty it may be as long as it gets my clay centered.  :P

@stephen - I agree. trimming wobbly pots is very depressing. I am probably rushing through it and worrying too much about not being able to center. Im going to take a video the next time I sit down to throw and see where im going wrong. thanks for all the advice.

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since you have had others see what you are doing, this is probably a silly suggestion.  you need speed to center.  not the top speed of your wheel but sufficient to make the mass spin quickly.  speed and softer clay could help if you are trying too slowly.   if you press on a faster spinning lump, it can only take the pressure for so long before that section you first touched is gone around out of the way.  slowly spinning clay can be pushed and prodded out of round more easily.  this is hard to explain but close your eyes and imagine what is happening.

 

once opened, slow down the wheel to pull walls up.

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I am a relatively new potter and I have to agree with Mark C here. I was having a similar issue as you with difficulties getting centered. I watched some videos and noticed they were all spinning much faster than I was. Upping the speed has helped a ton. I can still get a little wobbly when opening if I have nor processed my clay properly or wheel wedged it enough but this is becoming more rare.

If you continue to have issues I would suggest videoing your process and let the experts here see what you are doing, or not doing, correctly.

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