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How Do You Select The Equipment You Want To Purchase?

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#1 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 12:33 PM

Many times people post requests for helping decide which wheel , kiln, slab roller they should buy. What is or are the most important consideration(s)  to you when you are selecting a purchase of a specialized piece of equipment?



Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita,Montana State University-Billings

#2 Pres


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Posted 11 August 2014 - 04:28 PM

I have over the years purchased a lot of equipment for in the classroom. When I first started teaching, we had a kiln, and one potters wheel-Amaco 2c I think. Over the years with purchases, I followed certain parameters.

  • Number one was a reputable manufacturer. I figured that if a company was in the business of making pottery equipment, and had been around for a while then they would have reliable equipment.
  • I also would look for the specs on the equipment. Type of motor, frame construction, adjustments, and other items that would make the piece of equipment durable under the duress of the classroom. Here sometimes good pictures in the catalog or brochures would be helpful.
  • In the earlier years if I could get to a conference or store to check out the equipment first hand, that was really helpful.
  • Word of mouth in the early years helped. If something was a good buy or not, usually word got around, especially when sitting in grad classes comparing notes about different school equipment.
  • In the later years 80's and to present, I follow a lot of internet reviews of equipment. Not just ceramics, but almost anything with a big ticket. Problem is multiple sources and at the same time weeding out reviews that might have an ax to grind or pushing a brand because of personal gain.

Big ticket purchases are difficult decisions, and you really need as much information as possible to know whether a product if worth the big money. I have stepped out on a limb at times, like when I bought the Bailey wheels when they first came out, but I figured other things that they had were good, and the price was excellent, so I bought one to see. Ended up with 4/6 in the studio. So in the end, you make your best choices hoping you don't just get a pretty face. :blink:

Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . . http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/

#3 Benzine


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Posted 11 August 2014 - 05:31 PM

For my wheel at home, I went with what I knew, a Brent.  I used Brents in college, and in my second classroom.  I knew they had a good reputation.  Plus, I got it used, so the price is right.


In regards to my classroom, I have not had the opportunity to buy any big purchases.  There were several wheels already, two of which, I've given away because of wear, and the space they took up.   I was used to Skutt kilns, and was used to using those.  I got to my new classroom, and found a L&L.  I had honestly never heard of them before, and if I didn't frequent these forums, I would have no idea, how fortunate I am to have one there.


I would still like to get a large clay extruder.  I'm still kicking around the idea of making one, using the video on this site, for a guide.  If I could, I'd buy a Scott Creek.  I had one in my first classroom, and loved it.  I like the notched ladder design, for the plunger.  I've never been a fan of the yolk design, that Brent and others use.

"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#4 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:50 AM

what about how it fits? Kiln height? Wheel? etc.

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#5 Denice


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Posted 12 August 2014 - 08:35 AM

My last big purchase was my slab roller, that was 17 years ago, my local ceramic supplier didn't stock them, so I had to order one sight unseen.  Forums were new but I happen to find one posting about slab rollers and what they liked about it.  Bailey's got about 90% of the vote, I built my own table so I got it the right height, been a big fan ever since.   Denice

#6 TJR


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Posted 12 August 2014 - 09:09 AM

I have a big Cone Art kiln in my art room. It is 10 plus years old and working great. I got scared yesterday as I dropped off a box of art books to my room. Hadn't been there all summer. The custodians had piled all of my kiln shelves on top of the kiln! At least they had polished the floor! They hadn't done that in 10 years.[ it's a small separate room for the kiln].

I also bought Bailey ware carts which I use for large drawings. I have one Brent wheel between two art programs. Needless to say, we don't teach throwing.

I haven't made a major purchase in a long time.Might get my big paper cutter sharpened this year.


#7 Stephen



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Posted 12 August 2014 - 12:02 PM

We ended up buying everything new. Used pottery equipment is widely available in my area, since its a large metro, but I buy new because of the added value of being able to match the equipment to the task as exactly as I want to research it and starting out with no miles on anything. I've learned over the years to buy new cars if you can as well.  


I will say that once I have figured out exactly what we want I always check to see if there is a used option at a cheap enough price not to start out new. I  have yet to find one on my purchases but I will always check. I think its because at that point I am just being specific right down to the model number so it would be unusual for it to be available. 


Now we were in our late 40's when we really started seriously outfitting the studio and have been transitioning into clay from professional careers so dough has not been the biggest factor in any of our decisions.


Now if we were in our early 20's with our milk crate bed side end tables I would probably find the biggest kiln I could find that would fit on my dryer plug, a couple of the best running electric wheels for cheap and steal a few things like rolling pins and such from the kitchen and start potting.


My advice is buy the best and most expensive stuff you can afford. If it cost more, it is more than likely better in some way, not always, but normally.They say youth is wasted on the young and money is wasted by the old <_<



At the end of the day isn't it really just a small factor? Whether you work in a nicely outfitted 15-20k studio or a piecemeal $500 one what comes out of the kiln is 95% potter, right? Don't let money hold you back and don't get stuck thinking you are limited because you can't afford something.


There's always a way to make do.  

#8 Mark C.

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 02:55 PM

I talk it over with fellow professional potters-we all have our own ideas.

Lets talk the test of time and production-for hobby use its less about durability

Certain brands are known for super performance 

Like Bailey slab rollers-he has been making them for so long(Jim Bailey)-no plastic parts solid construction-well thought out

or Geil gas kilns-well known for state of the art

or Electric L$L kilns known for element replacement ease and solid ahead of the curve ideas

Or well lets just say when it comes to wheels its like chevy and ford-so many cooks

I love my CXC brent

Extruders the best are Brents and Baileys again

This is my list of best of others will vary.


Mark Cortright

#9 PSC


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Posted 17 August 2014 - 05:16 PM

I'm kinda on a budget so for my personal studio it is secondhand for me. I have two brent wheels both gotten for excellent prices, i also would have gone with a old soldner or a old creative industry hp(depending on the year built). My kiln is a scutt, it was in great condition and a fair price, i would have preferred an l&l or a paragon but skutt was my third choice, my old paragon got hit by a garage door being blown in by a cat. 4 hurricane so i needed a replacement. My paragon was older than me and i got it free from another potter after it had overfired, i replaced the kilnsitter prong and it was fine til that hurricane. One day i plan on getting a slab roller and i want a baileys...my college had one and it was ancient yet still worked fabulous...where i teach has a north star and its a lite weight comparitively...seriously i can move the whole table while trying to roll out a slab accidently. Eventually maybe i'll get an extruder...i think a baileys since it is the only kind i have used. I'd love a soldner clay mixer but thats a long ways from being budgeted.

The studio where i teach runs on donations...if it isn't donated we don't get it so we make due with 4 brents wheels(1 cxc, 2 c's and an a model), one shimpo wheel, and an old amaco. We are kiln rich and kiln shelf poor but they are mostly donated 240 kilns that are being run on 208 current of various brand, 2 skutts are my most used...btw way a 240 computer controlled kiln will not run of 208 current...the computer reports an error and shuts the firing down after a few hours...so we have a lovely donated kiln that won't work...anyone know a workaround?

#10 Pugaboo


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Posted 30 August 2014 - 06:32 PM

For me setting up a studio and deciding which major pieces of equipment were needed was helped by my husband and my other art revenues. Before I bought any of what I have though I weighed the cost versus the gains. I researched each piece of equipment to the best of my ability if you search you can read a lot on that here on the forum.

If I got a kiln would it help make me a better potter? I could have let the studio I belong to continue to fire my work and never learn what I need to about firing work, never have control over the schedule, etc. I had power limitations, a 50 amp max so that's where I started, I have serious back issues so ended something I could reach into with shelves and ware that wasn't too big or deep. I looked at all the brands, really wanted an L&L but Olympic kilns are made a couple hours from me, the owner is friends with people in the studio, and I got to tour the plan and try out all the different sizes and styles. I have not yet had to replace anything so can't say whether I regret not getting the L&L or not but my kiln has been great for the 1 1/2 years I've own it. It's the perfect size for me I can fill fairly quickly learn, adjust and fire some more.
Next purchase was a slab roller, I looked at how much hand building I do and whether it would speed up production and give me better quality slabs. Looked at several online, used the one at the studio and ended up getting the Clay King version. I have no regrets and am really pleased with it. My husband still covets my big control wheel in it says none of his stuff has a wheel like that.
I build boxes lots of boxes in all shapes and sizes. I have also find people really like little collector boxes so looked at an extruder, would it make me better faster more efficient. The answer was yes. I bought a Scott Creek Aluminum extruder without ever having used an extruder. It's a great buy I think I chose wisely. I am looking at getting the expansion box with future revenues since I really want the hexagon box plate.
At this point I was happy with my setup then my husband announces I can't be a real potter without a wheel and he is going to get me one for Christmas last year. Told me to research it and pick the one I wanted or he would just pick one. So researched and ended up with a Bailey. I love it. I did try out several different brands at the studio and decided on the one I preferred then in research discovered I couldn't afford it but found the Baileys and they are REALLY similar and had all the features I liked plus a couple more like the claning slot that I have come to really like that the other one didn't.
I haven't even considered a pugmill so that basically completes my major equipment. Medium level stuff I am waiting to earn the money to afford are as I said the expansion box for my Scott Creek, an Airpen Pro, and a silk screen set up. I like to do surface decoration so the last 2 would make me more efficient and expand my repetroi in clay. I have just started buying the stuff to experiment with mixing my own glazes, drill mixer, 5 gal 80 mesh screen, buckets, gram scale, an a small quantity of dry chemicals.
I approached each buy from a do I really need it, can I really afford it, and taking those 2 things into account which one can I get that will do what I need. Used really wasn't an option small town, limited mobility issues made getting new the best choice for me.

The world is but a canvas to the imagination - Henry David Thoreau

#11 oldlady


    single firing an electric kiln to cone 6

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 11:13 PM

psc, the lightweight slab roller fix is an easy one if you have the blue painted metal legs on the northstar.  get two  3/8 inch 3 foot long threaded rods from lowes or home depot.  get a slightly larger drill bit and drill holes so you can run the rods from the front to the back of your slab roller.  cut the 36 inch rod down so it fits through the holes and leaves an inch or less for the nuts that will hold them in place.  you do not want to have excess rod sticking out and hurting someone.  the rods form a solid support for a  thick shelf that will almost be the same size as your table top.


the good part is selecting the exact height of the rod location.  if you put it in the approximate center of the legs you will have about 12 to 15 or so inches of space on which you can put a 3/4 piece of plywood to hold kiln shelves, boxes of clay or anything else bulky and heavy.  your slab roller will no longer travel as you use it.  you could even put two shelves in that way.


sorry i cannot send you a picture of the setup i made that way.  in the stolen camera............ :(

"putting you down does not raise me up."

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