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Chris Campbell

What are your favorite pottery tools - the ones you don't share? | Feb 20, 2012

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One thing we clay folks have in common is a love of tools ... store bought, handmade, re-purposed, 'borrowed' from the kitchen or garage ... if we find the shape, size or fit we need, we want it. Our studios and clay spaces are full of them but in this whole array there are super special ones ... perfect ones we do not share. We seldom remove them from the studio ... we hoard them if we do need to take them to a public spot and wince if someone asks to borrow them.

 

I have five. A perfect smoothing tool made from driftwood that fits my hand perfectly and is long enough to get into slim vases. A right angle cutter that I don't want to have to try to find again. Two Bison tools that cut through clay like butter but would instantly break if dropped on a hard surface. One handmade brush that I was crazy enough to spend way too much for ... yeah, you know that guy who sets up his booth of ultimate brush temptations at most NCECAs!

 

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What are your favorite pottery tools - the ones you don't share?

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One thing we clay folks have in common is a love of tools ... store bought, handmade, re-purposed, 'borrowed' from the kitchen or garage ... if we find the shape, size or fit we need, we want it. Our studios and clay spaces are full of them but in this whole array there are super special ones ... perfect ones we do not share. We seldom remove them from the studio ... we hoard them if we do need to take them to a public spot and wince if someone asks to borrow them.

 

I have five. A perfect smoothing tool made from driftwood that fits my hand perfectly and is long enough to get into slim vases. A right angle cutter that I don't want to have to try to find again. Two Bison tools that cut through clay like butter but would instantly break if dropped on a hard surface. One handmade brush that I was crazy enough to spend way too much for ... yeah, you know that guy who sets up his booth of ultimate brush temptations at most NCECAs!

 

Share!!

 

What are your favorite pottery tools - the ones you don't share?

 

 

Dear Chris,

 

My favorite pottery tool bar none is my Giffen Grip. I know that must sound lame but it is my favorite. My life got better when I purchased my own individual GG.

 

The other tool I love is a CD. I use CDs to make perfectly round bowls. You begin by making a bowl with a fairly substantial base. After you have thrown to the height you want, you gently insert the wet CD into the bowl form and this creates a perfectly round shape at the bottom. Again, I know it is cheating but my bowls look great with this technique.

 

The one thing I do not lend are my trimming tools. I like my tools sharp...if they become dull it is my fault and not the other person who tries to borrow it and has a really dry or old pot they are trying to trim (i.e., inadvertently ruining my sharp edge).

 

Nelly

 

 

 

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Nelly,

I use a ping pong paddle the way you use a cd. Nice round bottom. A good size for a cereal bowl. I got one at a sporting goods super store that was really cheap, and just plain wood with sandpaper on the sides, which pulled off easily. I like that it has a handle.

 

Sylvia

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I tried hard to think of a tool that I wouldn't let someone use, and I couldn't come up with one, I guess. As long as they return it, unbroken, they are all okay to borrow.

Two good ideas here, I think, the CD idea is good, and if it is giving you what you want and like, then DO IT. I don't think anything that gives you what you want and like is cheating. I have a bowl rib that will give me the same results, so I don't need the CD, but if it works for you, use it.

The ping pong paddle is a good idea too, I should get one to turn into a clay paddle for hand building.

I like my Giffin Grip as well, it has allowed me to trim many pots that are troublesome to trim other ways.

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Nelly,

I use a ping pong paddle the way you use a cd. Nice round bottom. A good size for a cereal bowl. I got one at a sporting goods super store that was really cheap, and just plain wood with sandpaper on the sides, which pulled off easily. I like that it has a handle.

 

Sylvia

 

 

 

Sylvia,

 

Very interesting using a ping pong paddle!!! I remember being at a workshop with Randy Johnson and Jan McKetchie and learning that they used pool cues to help them form nice spouts for tea pots. I thought that too was a good idea. I have not tried it yet but it is on my list of things to do.

 

Thanks for your response.

 

Nelly

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Chris I love your favorite tools if I owned them they would be my favorite tools. I couldn't find a favorite tool I covet them all, I don't like to share or loan them. I keep some cheap brushes around for when my husband wants a small paint brush to ruin. I also have some tools for children or beginners to use when I find myself drafted to do some teaching. My favorite tools to work with are wooden thumbs and ribs. Denice

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I tried hard to think of a tool that I wouldn't let someone use, and I couldn't come up with one, I guess. As long as they return it, unbroken, they are all okay to borrow.

Two good ideas here, I think, the CD idea is good, and if it is giving you what you want and like, then DO IT. I don't think anything that gives you what you want and like is cheating. I have a bowl rib that will give me the same results, so I don't need the CD, but if it works for you, use it.

The ping pong paddle is a good idea too, I should get one to turn into a clay paddle for hand building.

I like my Giffin Grip as well, it has allowed me to trim many pots that are troublesome to trim other ways.

 

 

Dear Prokopp

 

 

We must have both had the same thinking when we saw that posting about a ping pong racket. It IS a good idea. I must get one of these as well. It looks like they aren't very expensive if you buy a cheap one (i.e., e-bay). I have many ribs that I like to use but for some reason, the bottom of the bowl always looks really good with the CD.

 

Nelly

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I have a few...my absolute all time favorite is a long nail that's sharpened into a beveled edge that a visiting German potter gave me. Then, my Cynthia Bringle clay pick. One of my students borrowed it and I was jonesing until she remembered to bring it back. Oh, and a triangle shaped ribbon trimming tool; the best WAS my custom made Bison (which broke when dropped as promised) that I hope to replace soon.

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I also tend to let others use all of my tools ....with the appropriate death threats cool.gif for some ot them. But that is usually done in a "use this during this class time and give it back at the end" situation.

 

When I travel to give demonstration type workshops and when I'm away at artist-in-residence programs and such, I usually do not bring my "usual" regular use studio tools. I have the "B" set of tools for that purpose............just in case stuff gets lost (or TSA confiscates them).

 

In the real "favorite stuff" do-not-want-to-lose department:

 

I have an oak rib that I made way back in undergrad school.

 

I have a rope-wrapped paddle that I made while working at my first real professional studio in 72.

 

I made a large fude-style horsehair brush out of palimino tail hair years ago that is great.

 

One particular 4" long section of whipped rope (used for texturing).

 

I have a hanko-style signature stamp of stone that I carved in Japan in 1996 (with the help of a Japanese potter there and liberal applications of sake).

 

I have some bamboo glaze pouring ladles that I brough back from Japan years ago.

 

One particular size and shape of trimming kanna that I buy in Mashiko, Japan that I cannot find anywhere else (I stock up spares when I am there).

 

Can't think of anything else right now, off hand... but I am not in the studio to get my feeble old brian refreshed.

 

best,

 

.......................john

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My favorites are my custom small double ender Bison trim tools he made for me after I sent him a prototype.

I have really been liking my Sherrill Mud tools-ribs and raspers

Of course my homemade ones are my old standbys.

Mark

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I am glad to hear that someone else has a "B List" of tools for traveling. What I like best about only taking a limited amount of tools with me is that I am forced to look around and figure out what I can use instead to get the same effect. Often I find a new favorite tool ... on one occasion there was a wooded area nearby that had a recent fire and all the roots were exposed and singed ... what great textures we got from them!

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A scoring tool made from sewing machine needles sandwiched into a folded bit of card and taped closed. There're only five in my current model, thinking about making one with about a dozen. Sewing machine needles are very sturdy and have a thicker shank which is inserted into clamp end of a sewing machine.

 


Then a wispy traily liner made from a grey squirrel tail. A long gone ginger tom -- Samson -- hunted it down. (God, he was a demon, I recall looking around the living room, and seeing him hunkered down and a mallard duck resting beside him. I rescued the duck. All was well.) I clipped tail off with garden shears. Made a wonderful liner with it.

 


Then, after watching Bill Van Gilder Clips on YouTube using his cheese cutters, I modified mine by buying his <wiggle wire> and inserting a section of it into a cutter -- the remaining length is just fine for any wiring off bottom decoration. Not every pot is suitable for this wiggled wiggle wire wiring off, but some are and it's a stunning effect. Also did what he suggested and glued the roller shut on both cutters.

 


My oldest and most basic tool is a bit of popsicle stick cut down and then carefully beveled to 45 degrees; it's lovely and worn now. It is my teapot gallery rim template and tool.

 

My only death threat: change the radio station/lap top streaming BBC Radio 4 and die. They name streets after me: One Way.

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Guest The Unknown Craftsman

Diana, I wish I had read this type of post last year - I went out into my back yard and found a squirrel tail - and that's all. My cat must've dispatched the rest. I didn't even think of making a brush with the tail. Maybe next time - although my cat is getting a bit old, so there may not be a another chance.

Thanks for mentioning the beeb - I just got a chance to listen to the shipping forecast, which I have always loved. I am not near the sea, don't sail, but I've always loved the cadence, the "poetry" of any shipping forecast I've heard.

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Diana, I wish I had read this type of post last year - I went out into my back yard and found a squirrel tail - and that's all. My cat must've dispatched the rest. I didn't even think of making a brush with the tail. Maybe next time - although my cat is getting a bit old, so there may not be a another chance.

Thanks for mentioning the beeb - I just got a chance to listen to the shipping forecast, which I have always loved. I am not near the sea, don't sail, but I've always loved the cadence, the "poetry" of any shipping forecast I've heard.

 

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I love the Shipping Forecast if it comes on when I'm listening Live! When we sailed -- in the UK down around the Channel Islands, Cherborg, and off the Isle of Wight in the mid 80s, our mornings and evenings were determined by listening to Forecast, and there was a special log book where my late husband, Mike, would enter in the stats. Faithfully. A force 4 to 5 wind for just the two of us could be very, very tricky. Huge tides in that area. So wind over tide was crazy. Google The Alderney Race for example. We sailed a Contessa 32. The theme music Sailing always gets me.... I hope you find an opportunity to sail in a small boat, or be a passenger some day.

 

The Beeb has brilliant listening. BBC Radio 4, and Radio 4 Extra, and Radio 3 which usually offers up classical music and such, there's a 90 minute Sunday play which is fabulous. The Beeb is my other tool in my studio.

 

Well, squirrel tails.... Feathers are also good for trad slip trailing: strip down the feathery bits to the flexible pointy stem; I've got some swan feathers honestly come by when I lived in Stratford-upon-Avon I must add. Bunches of little feathers tied together for glaze trailing, slip trailing are lovely. As are pliable birch twigs.

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For me, there are many but I keep several of Kemper Tools K-23 clean up tools on hand. They're essential to the cutting and carving I do on clay. They get a little worn but they are easy to sharpen.

 

One thing we clay folks have in common is a love of tools ... store bought, handmade, re-purposed, 'borrowed' from the kitchen or garage ... if we find the shape, size or fit we need, we want it. Our studios and clay spaces are full of them but in this whole array there are super special ones ... perfect ones we do not share. We seldom remove them from the studio ... we hoard them if we do need to take them to a public spot and wince if someone asks to borrow them.

 

I have five. A perfect smoothing tool made from driftwood that fits my hand perfectly and is long enough to get into slim vases. A right angle cutter that I don't want to have to try to find again. Two Bison tools that cut through clay like butter but would instantly break if dropped on a hard surface. One handmade brush that I was crazy enough to spend way too much for ... yeah, you know that guy who sets up his booth of ultimate brush temptations at most NCECAs!

 

Share!!

 

What are your favorite pottery tools - the ones you don't share?

 

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I have a few...my absolute all time favorite is a long nail that's sharpened into a beveled edge that a visiting German potter gave me. Then, my Cynthia Bringle clay pick. One of my students borrowed it and I was jonesing until she remembered to bring it back. Oh, and a triangle shaped ribbon trimming tool; the best WAS my custom made Bison (which broke when dropped as promised) that I hope to replace soon.

 

 

Love to see a pic of your nail and pic.............

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One thing we clay folks have in common is a love of tools ... store bought, handmade, re-purposed, 'borrowed' from the kitchen or garage ... if we find the shape, size or fit we need, we want it. Our studios and clay spaces are full of them but in this whole array there are super special ones ... perfect ones we do not share. We seldom remove them from the studio ... we hoard them if we do need to take them to a public spot and wince if someone asks to borrow them.

 

I have five. A perfect smoothing tool made from driftwood that fits my hand perfectly and is long enough to get into slim vases. A right angle cutter that I don't want to have to try to find again. Two Bison tools that cut through clay like butter but would instantly break if dropped on a hard surface. One handmade brush that I was crazy enough to spend way too much for ... yeah, you know that guy who sets up his booth of ultimate brush temptations at most NCECAs!

 

Share!!

 

What are your favorite pottery tools - the ones you don't share?

 

 

Don't share? After 30+ years of teaching, I realized that if I had it, loved it, others wanted to use it, and did. I just had to learn how to let go.

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I'm with Dinah. You can borrow/use anything with a little persuasion. But don't change the radio station. I've had that radio for 24 years now, and last time I changed it, it took me 2 weeks to get it tuned back in.

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I no longer lend my silk sponges and chamois strips not since the day someone I lent them to could not find them. But I didn't know that until several days later. I had to go feel around in the large rubbermaid clay reclamation bin after dozens of folks threw their slop and failed pots in the bin. I had to go in deep down to see if they were there; they were.

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I no longer lend my silk sponges and chamois strips not since the day someone I lent them to could not find them. But I didn't know that until several days later. I had to go feel around in the large rubbermaid clay reclamation bin after dozens of folks threw their slop and failed pots in the bin. I had to go in deep down to see if they were there; they were.

 

 

Yes, and then when they go through the pug mill to be rewedged into the throwing clay-what a mess they make for the thrower!

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I guess I would lend most of my tools to someone I knew who would take care of them if they were kept nearby, but if I am going to an open studio environment the good ones stay home. Some are expensive, others are just shaped right and do a great job, some are home made ... if it cannot be replaced, keep em close!

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