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Hawkbit

Which wheel for the rookie?

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After going through three years of forum posts and doing quite a bit of research on my own, I seek the wisdom of the experienced. 

It’s a unique situation with a tight deadline. After a 30+ year design career, I am ready to begin retirement as a potter. That’s been my plan for years. I’ve taken classes in the past, and even the recent past to make sure the fire was still burning. However, my retirement date came several months earlier than anticipated (which turned out to be a good thing) and my employer was benevolent and generous enough to present me with a certificate for “One Potters Wheel” at my retirement party today. 

The catch here is that the purchase needs to be made this year, like in the next nine days.  The good news is that there isn’t really a dollar amount on the certificate. Boss says that up to $2k is just fine. 

So after the opinions that I’ve read here, I’m leaning toward Soldnor (also recommended by a potter I discussed this with a month ago) or TS/Skutt or Bailey’s; and can certainly shop the higher end of any of those brands.  Each of those have certain pros and cons. 

I’ve read several opinions to “try them out” first, but not possible in this case. I can add the following that may help any who would offer wisdom:
> I will be standing when I throw. The last potter I took a class from convinced me that my back will thank me for this. 
> I intend to throw large pieces eventually. 
> My studio space is yet to be determined. I will design this winter and build next to my home in the spring, so equipment size is not a consideration at this point.

Thanks for any feedback you can offer.

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I know many hate the Pacifica wheels, maybe the one I got was good while the getting was good thing (early 2000's model), but Ive thrown probably 40 tons of pots on it in the last 20 years. Retail they are in the $900 range, so if you got a bigger budget, why not get what you can!

No experience on the thomas stuart wheels. However, I have a Bailey which has a oversized, but removable splash pan which is similar to the TS wheels. I hate using that wheel to throw and here's why; since there is no "dry deck" for my tools, water bucket, etc to sit on, everything I use to throw ends up sitting in the splash pan getting covered in slop. I like this design for trimming as I can trim 100 bowls without having to empty the pan, but for throwing I stick to my pacifica.

Ive used brents, models a-cxc. Id get the CXC if you end up on Brent. You cant make a bad choice with Brents.....soooo many of them are 30+ years old in institutions around the country which just keep on ticking with very little, or no maintenance/repairs. Thats a huge endorsement to build quality; kids and schools are rough on tools!

I used an old soldner that my previous employer had, didnt like it either. Biggest thing I didnt like about it, and maybe this was specific to her wheel...never used enough of them to know if this is universal on Soldners or not. The pedal had a spring in it which would return the pedal to "off" whenever you took your foot off. This is great if you have a pet which sometimes turns your wheel on in the middle of the night, or when you're out of your studio for numerous days (came home once to find the wheel had been on high speed for likely days...), but when your throwing it provided too much resistance to my foot and I was constantly fighting it to find my happy speed. This would definitely be a personal decision as some would likely love it, but not for me. Also, the one she has (probably 60's-70's model) was a BEAST to move; Id guess well over 150#...not easily brought up/down stairs.

When it comes to standing and throwing; Just about any wheel can easily be converted to throw standing up. In college, before I knew there were these new fangled steel tube leg extensions, a stack of concrete blocks and bricks brought the wheel to any height you wanted it. Not easy to move the wheel to clean, etc, but its an option. Thankfully practically all the manufacturers make leg extension kits which are a much cleaner and simpler solution.

Congrats on retirement and the free wheel! I wish my boss was that nice.....he's a real ########.......(self employed potter here)!

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Skutt/TS. Get the built in pan, it's heavier, super sturdy. The big splash pan will keep your studio much cleaner. 1/3hp is big enough for just about anything, but since it's in your budget go for the 1/2hp. The 1hp is completely unnecessary. The SSX drive upgrade isn't needed, but it is within your budget.

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Can you not talk to a supplier and get the bill paid for their best (most expensive) wheel and then go along and try some out before you actually take one home.  You could then get the refund paid back to your boss if you end up with a cheaper one.

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If quiet matters, the shimpo whisper is really nice but leaving about $700 on the table. Some here have claimed in the past that its under powered for big pots but not sure how reliable that claim is. I don't throw big heavy pots weighing 20-30+ pounds so wouldn't know. It's a 1/2 HP. I do know that I was seeing the power claims 10 years ago now so maybe its a long ago solved issue.  I know I still think of the 2nd one we bout 7-8 years ago now as the 'new' one so old assumptions can linger.

Anyway they are super quiet and I really like that because I'm hard of hearing and like to be able to both hear the background music or TV as well as have conversations easily. Oh and you can spend a few hundred dressing it up with a shelve kit :-) Oh and we bought stand-up legs for $175, don't use them but like a lot stuff we got'em.

Edited by Stephen

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2 hours ago, Chilly said:

Can you not talk to a supplier and get the bill paid for their best (most expensive) wheel and then go along and try some out before you actually take one home.  You could then get the refund paid back to your boss if you end up with a cheaper one.

Thanks, Ann -

Though that sounds like a great idea, I don’t think I have a nearby supplier that stocks all the wheels I’m considering. Plus, and this is the most important one - my skills are somewhere between beginner and intermediate, and I really won’t have a feel for ‘what I like best’ without more wheel time; which I hope to get through local classes over the next few months. 

I feel my best bet here is to get a high quality versatile wheel that has variable speed operation, is relatively quiet, and will handle heavier jobs with ease.  If that is MY primary wheel, then I am pretty sure I can adapt to it over time. 

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OK my 2 cents. Thomas Stewart pro with the leg extensions. When you start making large pieces the extensions can be removed and with the large motor nothing will stop it. I actually looked at a new Brent 2 days ago and I could grab it and stop the wheel head! With the TS pro if you try that and can by some miracle succeed the earth will spin backwards. ..other things I noticed was the actual wheel head.   First the TS head is removable making it by far easier to install bat pins and to clean. The wheel head is a SOLID 1/2 to5/8 inch thick whereas the Brent and most others are thin cast with gussets.  just  my 2 cents.

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Brent CXC will hold high value and if you want another down the line .Then sell the CXC as will be high value and you can buy a cheaper hobby model later if this is too much wheel. I do not know how or what that would mean. And buy a ton of clay with the difference . You will never look back after getting a CXC. 

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The TS/Skutt wheels have more controller adjustments so you can dial it in to your needs, and run they smoother than Brent wheels IMO. And you get more torque for the money. Plus the small splash pan on Brent, Pacifica, and Shimpo is pretty worthless compared the large pans on TS and Bailey.

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Looks like you're in Greenville, SC.  Clay King is close by in Spartanburg.  I'd buy the Skutt Steven Hill model from them.  This is a combo that includes the fixed pan 1/2 hp skutt, leg extensions, the SSX controller and the shaft extension for ~$1,410.  

http://www.clay-king.com/pottery_wheels/skutt_thomas_stuart_pottery_wheels/skutt_thomas_steven_hill.html

If the budget is $2k, an expanded definition of a wheel could include a nice stool, some bats .... :)

Edited by S. Dean
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This rookie would like to thank everyone who posted with input and advice.

The research isn't quite done yet, and it's been an enlightening experience. Seems that most, if not all wheels are very reliable, and last 10-20 years and more. Nearly everyone that I've spoken to in person recommends (strongly) the wheel that they own and use, especially if it's the only wheel they've ever thrown on. Nothing wrong with that, but makes comparisons a bit difficult.

Today I visited Clay King, the local supplier, and did a test spin (dry) on a Brent CXC and Skutt Premier with the SSX motor. The latter felt marginally smoother, and I did like the larger pan. Do I need a 1hp motor that will "center 400 lbs"? Doubtful, but that option is included with that model. The potter there did recommend that one over the Stephen Hill because of the more powerful motor; including the SSX option and the extension legs as an add-on. His recommendation was either that one (or the heavier Skutt Pro) or the Brent EX.  The Brent also carries a 10-year warranty while the Skutt's is a 5-year.

Both wheels sounded relatively quiet in the shop. Anyone have any experience with increasing noise over time on either brand / model? Thanks again for any feedback.

 

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I throw on 5 Brent wheels-one since 1970 when I bought it new. Its still spinning in my shop.

I bought my CXC in 1982 still my #1 wheel every week for throwing.I'm a production thrower. Noise is the same since day one.Never increased or decreased.

I do not like the huge splash pans that they make with some wheels today. I rarely clean mine and if it was huge what a mess to clean out.

I have thrown on many brands at doing workshops etc. I'm still a Brent fan since the 70's-I liked the Thomas Stuarts when they came out but Skutt bought them  out and I'm really not a Skutt fan as they are on the cheap side of kiln making(or that what I have seen in the 3 skutt kilns I have had)-hopefully they do not do that with the TS line of wheels but my guess is they are cutting penny,s on steel screws over stainless ones..

I'm not a shimpo fan and have thrown on many of their wheels-the whisper is quiet but gutless for larger forms and slows when you center 8#s-this I learned when I was presenting at a workshop.The older cone drives killed my foot.

I will add that Brent stuff is spendy but rarely need replacing.Still a big fan.

Edited by Mark C.

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If you plan on using the TS wheel at a sitting position, it used to be that the 1hp was taller than the others due to the size of the motor. I don't know if that's the way it still is, but it's something to check on. 2" extra height can be a deal breaker. Also, it's just way more motor than anyone needs. The TS motors have plenty of torque at the lower HP. I've never had my 1/3hp or 1/2hp bog down.

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You can't go wrong with either the Brent or Skutt.  Both brands are well made, high quality machines that are backed with great support from company's that have been in the pottery business for a long time.  Enjoy your choice, whatever you ultimately decide.  

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As far as buying a 1hp vs a lower hp motor, think about wear and tear over years, and the whims of someone who finds they can throw larger now that they are doing more throwing. 1HP if price is not an issue is the better bet.

My own two cents. . . .CXC. . . . use one constantly, not as much as Mark, but it has never had a belt change, or any other upkeep other than cleaning.

 

 

best,

Pres

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I'm like Pres I really do not care about 3/4 or 1 HP what I care about is its made to last and does the job-that job being whatever I ask of it.When I was younger I asked it to throw big stuff now I ask it to throw tons of smalls. Its the top of the line so it does whatever. If its not a Brent get the TS top of the line-as those are the best -they will last -resale value is high if thats ever needed. Some day I will sell some of my wheels and the CXC will be the last one  for sure-I'll sell my model A's B's and C 1st

The TS wheels have large built in splash pan. the wheel heads come off. Thats about all I know about them except Skutt bought them out.

 

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I'm waiting for an old TS or brent to show up on craigslist now that everyone has opened their new wheels haha.  My dinosaur 1968 shimpo rk-2 works really nice, but it has lost the ability for the pedal to stay put so I have to constantly have my foot on it.  Not a big issue until I have to stand up to do a pull.  I tried the vl-whisper which is I guess shimpos version of a DC motor wheels, and I could stop it with my hands with downward pressure.  I can't do that with my ring and cone rk2, I wonder why they abandoned that design.  Anyhow, merry Christmas!  

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On 12/24/2018 at 7:39 PM, Hawkbit said:

This rookie would like to thank everyone who posted with input and advice.

The research isn't quite done yet, and it's been an enlightening experience. Seems that most, if not all wheels are very reliable, and last 10-20 years and more. Nearly everyone that I've spoken to in person recommends (strongly) the wheel that they own and use, especially if it's the only wheel they've ever thrown on. Nothing wrong with that, but makes comparisons a bit difficult.

 

Really, I don't get that impression at all. My read here is that many here, if not most, have used numerous wheels over the years and they explained why they ended up where they are. I think you're right that most of these wheels are built well and will last a long time if taken care of. It's all in the details described that sets them apart from each other.  I'd give it another read. 

Good luck and hope you like what you end up choosing.  

Edited by Stephen

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re wheels.
Something to think about: 
Evaluate carefully the type of splash pan on the wheel.  I strongly dislike pans that can not be easily removed with a pot already on the wheel.  Large platters require a bat that is bigger than most splash pans, and creating bat for the platter is easier when the splash pan is removed.  As the pot gets bigger, your hand will become closer to the edge of the splash pan and pan may become an annoyance or a safety issue. 

LT
 

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Good point!

I prefer the built in (heavy cast aluminum, as Neil points out, above) pan, however, it's not for everyone.

Although the wheel head can be lifted using the supplied (comes with Hill model) shaft extension, that's not for everyone either.

The heavy fixed pan is surely a safety concern, should one's body part be pinned between the moving wheel and the pan, where the plastic split type would likely give some... I'm hitting the switch to off, else keeping myself out of the pinch zone - onna right for me, clockwise I go.

I'm resting on the casting, it's more secure and stable than the plastic (for me); I hang handles from the edge of the casting; I like the room; I like alla tools and bucket inside the voluminous pan.

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25 minutes ago, Magnolia Mud Research said:

re wheels.
Something to think about: 
Evaluate carefully the type of splash pan on the wheel.  I strongly dislike pans that can not be easily removed with a pot already on the wheel.  Large platters require a bat that is bigger than most splash pans, and creating bat for the platter is easier when the splash pan is removed.  As the pot gets bigger, your hand will become closer to the edge of the splash pan and pan may become an annoyance or a safety issue. 

LT
 

With 2 piece splash pans, they can easily be removed. With the TS 1 piece plastic splash pan, you pop off the head, and the splash pan lifts off. With the TS built in solid aluminum pan, you can get a shaft extension. That's what I use.

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