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How To Make Big Handles

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Do any of you have experience with making tall strap handles for baskets? I know I can hand them over cardboard tubing to firm up some, but how do I stabilize them while attaching and support them for drying without having them pop off from shrinkage tension.

Of course, I made several of the basket bodies yesterday before remembering I was not sure how to proceed with handles. :-)

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My Dad used to make these, in his "Clay Days". He would use balloons, as a support. He used my studio, a couple years ago, to make one as a gift. So I saw the process. With the balloon, there were no issues with cracking. You kind of have to babysit them though, as if they dried enough, before you popped the balloon, it would crack.

 

On some of my work, as well as my student's, I like to use crumpled newspaper, for supports. It offers enough support, as to prevent sagging, but will give enough, to avoid cracking.

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I have made some large over the top loop handles for baskets and bowls. Pretty simple problem as I used a pulled handle, or two joined at the narrow sections some way draped over a rug tube or other large diameter tube. This was usually suspended between two supports on a 1X3 or some other board. After stiffening to about leather hard, the bowl was brought in below, and the ends joined to it while still suspended. When the handle was more leather hard at the join I would remove the rug tube . . . carefully. Remember this, when you support anything or when anything is taller, the water settles to the base leaving that wetter than the top. So finding the right time to join and the right time to remove supports is important.

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I have a large bin of sponges. I have them in all different sizes and shapes. I get the big cheap tile sponges from Home Depot. You can use them whole for large handles like drink carriers or cut them down smaller to the size and shape I need. I get them wet and wring them out really well so they are just damp then position them between the handle and the form. Since they are damp they won't overly dry the piece where they touch and are soft enough that as the clay dries and shrinks they give enough not to crack the piece.

 

Terry

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+1 what Neil said. Pull your handle, and lay it sideways on a soft surface like foam to set up. Once it can stand up by itself, attach it to the pot that is at the same level of hardness. If your clay has a tendency to crack, cover the piece for 3-4 hours to allow the pieces to marry, but other than that, it can be easier to work with stiffer clay. You leave fewer fingerprints.

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