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How Do You Sit At Your Wheel.

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After reading Rebekah's post re. back ache after throwing some vases and having had to break up my day, when I get one, between throwing and handbuilding because of back stiffness, how do you sit at your wheel, level of wheel heat to seat etc.

I was struck, not only by his effortless throwing of 13.25 " on cylinder from 3 lbs of clay, but also Neil's posture, so supported.

i now endeavour to sit much more erect than before and keep my hands working closer to my body.


Just a reminder.


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It more about my posture and relationship to what I'm working on.


Sorry the answer isn't as simple as how do sit at wheel......


It's impossible to keep neutral posture in all our tasks but we can try. Also we have to account for preexisting disabilities.


You have to have to think about ergonomics, anatomy and physiology,


We must try to maintain a BALANCED neutral, aligned posture/ position as much as possible while doing our work.


And bring your work to where you can maintain a more neutral position. Most potters are not close enough to wheel!


Much of chronic back and neck pain (not caused by trauma) is caused by improper posture, and imbalanced weak muscular support systems. Which eventually lead structural faults.


Everyone here should spend some time googling posture. Asses your own posture and make appropriate corrections. In both sitting and standing, then re assess position when at work, and when at wheel, or hand building.


I could (actually have) write a paper about this. I'll just address the major issues.


Those of you at hare siting now....


Sit up straight , shoulders back head up, long back, string pulling head to ceiling.


Chance are you just made a bunch of corrections.


We need to remind ourselves of this frequently while sitting standing at desk job, standing job, and while at wheel or hand building.


Checking and correcting position works wonders .


As a good athlete trains so should the potter


Not just the potter but most people have weak core and or poor core activation.


When I queued you to sit up you probably sucked in gut (activated abdominal) stop slouching (engaged spinal effectors) pulled shoulders back............ You get the idea. I won't get into anterior pelvic tilt, but that's one if my favorite issues....


How do we train for posture. Sure there a lot,of complicated and torturous things we could do...


I'll leave you with a handful (you can google these for more tech info or pm me)



Change positions frequently

Take a stretch frequently


Waiter walk: Hold something water jug, ball of clay, book...... Over head (with good posture) with one hand and just walk.

Suit case walk: Grab something heavyish and carry like walking with a suit case. Again with tall posture

Plank: An easy plank is to place hands on sturdy counter or work surface. Walk feet back to until your body is 45 degrees to floor. Now do a posture check have a friend spot you to make sure head shoulders , hips, feet are aligned. Hold for a few moments..... Repeat frequently throughout day.

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I used to get a sore lower back after a long day of throwing. A few months ago I built some leg extensions for my wheel. I just raised it up a few inches, making the wheel head the same height as my belly button. Before it was the same height as my hip joint. No more back pain! I was surprised how much this helped, just by not leaning over quite as much.


I'm pretty sure I read the "belly button height" advice on this forum some time ago. Whoever posted it ... thanks!


I built the leg extensions out of PVC parts, spent about $20.


I also agree with biglou regarding core muscles. Potters can take a lot of advice from athletes. I am a runner so my core muscles are very strong. Pilates is also effective for strengthening your core.

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Hi Babs and All,


After years of taking slams on my snowboard and skateboard, and 20ish years of sleeping on my stomach, I started making pots. It was the perfect storm of low back issues. For a few years I just dealt with the aches and pains. Four years ago, a particularly bad fall on my snowboard landed me in a chiropractor's office having lost almost all movement of my neck. A few weeks of pretty intense massage+electrostim+adjustment and I was back on snow wth full range of motion in my neck. Phew.


Once my neck issue was triaged and dealt with, my chiropractor suggested we address some of the other spinal issues I'd been living with, primarily low back pain. Music to my ears. My work in clay had grown into a fullblown passion and small business, and simultaneously I'd begun coaching snowboarding... there were many nights where I couldn't stand up straight or walk without intense pain. I was 25 years old and terrified that I was going to have to give up the activities I was best at, and that made me feel the best while doing them.


I recognize this thread is about body positioning at the wheel, so I'll fast forward about two years, to the afternoon my chiropractor came to watch me throw to help better figure out solutions for my improved but ever-nagging low back pain. After about a minute of watching he voiced disbelief over how bad of an ergonomical nightmare making wheelthrown pottery is... or at least can be.


Two more years later I have gone from two chiropractic adjustments monthly, to one or two tuneups annually. I still deal with some low back pain, particularly when I get sloppy, but for the most part I live and play quite comfortably. Here's my list of fixes/preventative measures for taking care of your back while throwing:


1. ELEVATE. Raise your wheel and your seat. I have found that my body likes my wheelhead to be a few inches higher than my seat. In this configuration, I have had to learn to rely more on my hands and arms while centering rather than using leverage from my back, so I tend to throw softer clay than what I had been. Ideally, my stool is just shorter than standing height and my wheel is way up on cinder blocks. This is how I keep my wheel at home. Most often I'm throwing at work where the set up is lower than this (6.5" lift using Pacifica's leg extension kit), but the wheelhead being higher than the seat is the most important part.


2. POSTURE. Sit with your pelvis pulled forward to keep it in line with your spine. Once you hunch, you pelvis shifts back and the the spine is unsupported... like the rim of a plate that's been pulled out too far from the base. If it's hanging way out there in no man's land, it's probably going to warp under stress.


3. ENGAGE YOUR CORE. This one is probably the hardest to keep up with, but treat throwing like an ab workout. Just as you would tighten your core muscles to do a crunch, do this on the wheel. Keep your core muscles engaged the whole time you're seated at the wheel. A little trick to help is to envision touching your belly button to your spine. This will help every aspect of your life, especially getting ready for beach season. ;)


4. PROP THE BACK LEGS OF YOUR STOOL. Put a ware board or two under the back legs of your stool to help make steps 2 & 3 easier. I have a length of 4×4 board that I sank 1" deep holes into for the back legs of my stool to sit in.


5. STRETCH. FREQUENTLY. Before you sit down, stretch out. Take breaks to stand up, stretch out and keep your body loose. Do a cool down stretch.


Take care of your back. You only get one.



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When I was 19, the car I was driving got hit by the rear duals of an empty flat bed on a wet road. Back then, no shoulder harnesses just lap belt which I had fastened. I got what was a common seatbelt fracture of 2 lower vertebrae. I also pulled all of the ribs out of the sternum, and broke some of my eye socket. Over the years I tried all sorts of things to deal with it, and in the end found out a few things that worked. First, exercise to strengthen muscles around effected joints if able to do so is paramount. One of the best ways to ease my aching back in the earlier years was to wedge the clay. Wedging hurts some folks, but for me the constant pushing/lifting from the shoulders, the rocking motion using the body from the ankles on up, and the regular rhythm usually would relieve my back pain which some days would be so bad the only way to get out of bed was to let the weight of the legs lift me. I also took to doing push ups, side plank dips, and pull ups to strengthen the back and core muscles even more, this has allowed me to become pain free over the last 10 years.


When sitting at the wheel, I adjust the height of the CI seat to the size of work I am doing. If throwing off of the hump, the seat is higher so that lower arm  is at a 90 angle from the upper arm. As I get smaller and smaller piece of clay, I lower the seat. When throwing single items less than 10# I like to have the seat so that my crotch is almost at the wheel head. When centering a large piece of clay I am usually mid way to the height of the clay with the crotch. I like to throw about 10 to 15 pieces smaller at a time, get up off the wheel , mess around a bit, then return for more. Walking around is helpful. Don't dally, but stretch and walk a bit.

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Thanks, Babs. If you notice in the video, I use a regular ol' wooden chair that I got from Target. I prefer a chair with a back rather than a stool because it allows me to sit back and rest. I've put rubber furniture feet on the back legs to lift them up slightly, since the chair seat slopes backward a bit.


As mentioned above, the most important thing is to keep your back straight, with your pelvis rolled forward. Also take lots of breaks. Only prepare enough clay to last 20 or 30 minutes. That way you're forced to get up out of your chair and prep more clay. Prepping for 30 minutes and sitting at the wheel for 3 hours is not good for your body. Keep moving. If that means only prepping one ball of clay at a time, so be it. I sometimes prep enough to throw for an hour, but I can't remember a time when I actually got to throw for an hour uninterrupted by a student or the phone.


Technique and body position are very important to throwing. With good technique you can compensate for lack of strength, which means less stress on your body. Work smart.

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anyone throw standing?


The studio i take classes at usually has one Brent wheel up on blocks with someone standing and throwing at it.   Id say wheel head was about bellybutton height.  I know videos of Guy wolf show him standing throwing really large pieces.   Although he does mention he has a little box he stands on to get more height once he pulls up the larger pieces.     

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