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I once attended a workshop of the Mexican ceramist Gustavo Perez and saw him using a fancy tool, a bamboo stick with 3 knife blades sticking out of it. They were arranged one beside the other, with an interspace of approx. a quarter of an inch. His work often has parallel deep lines in it, and he explained that if he uses a knife, cutting a line, and then want to draw another line just beside it, the first cut closes again because of the squeezing out of the clay. So he made a tool with 2, 3 and also one with 5 blades side by side to get clean cut, parallel lines.

 

How about you? Are you too making your own tools if you can’t find the perfect one at the suppliers?

 

Evelyne 

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I make many tools for particular jobs. I made:

a right angle jig

 http://ceramicartsdaily.org/clay-tools/making-clay-tools/the-right-angle-for-approaching-geometric-ceramic-sculpture/

hump molds for bird baths or large serving platters

a horizontal support for painting decorations on birdbath stems

wooden texture tools made on a belt sander

jigs for support for trimming round pots

sprig molds

potter's wheel stool

cart for next to my wheel on casters

cart the same height as my slab roller,

 

Marcia

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I buy odd stuff at estate sales and using them as tools, I recently bought a wooden tool that is used with a sausage grinder, great for paddling.  The people who run the estate sales around here tell me I always but the most interesting items.   Denice

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I look at garage/yard/estate sales and thrift shops with a whole new eye these days. I love coming up with an inexpensive solution to the latest high priced gadgets that I see offered by the various artist/ceramist supply houses.

 

Mr. Lin once posted a video on how to make his trimming tools from old spent hacksaw blades. That's one of my favorites. Easy to make and even easier to keep sharpened. And if I have a need for a specific profile of blade, it's just a quick trip outside to the grinder to make it so.

 

I find that kitchen gadgets make some of the best pottery tools. They're readily available and often very cheap. One of my favorites is an old paring knife that I've repurposed as a fettling knife. It has just the right amount of flex to it and fits my hand perfectly. At just 50 cents at a yard sale, it's a great bargain! :D

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Marcia: that is a respectable list of self made tools! You could publish a small booklet with  "how to do" articles in it? I saw the pictures of your potters wheel stool, the one you saw at Pietro's. In my eyes, you are very talented in doing also wood work!

 

Denice: when you go to the estate sales, are you looking for something special to combine it with something other to get a new tool, or are you just surfing the tables?

 

Amy: I too use kitchen tools quite often in my studio (and most of the time forget to put them back in the end...). Who is Mr. Lin? Can you give us the link to this video please? Thank you.

 

Evelyne

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I have made a neat and inexpensive banding wheel from an old ceiling fan and a piece of 3/4" plywood. The bearings on the fan are pretty heavy duty and very smooth operating for almost anything you might want to put on it. If you don't have the fan lying around, you can usually pick one up at a thrift store for $5 or less. Then it's a relatively simple operation to disassemble it, cut off a few misc. pieces with a hacksaw, and reassemble it in a slightly different configuration, cut a round turntable from the 3/4" plywood, drill the plywood and mount it on the fan blade flange. Then you take the upper part of the fan housing, turn it upside down and screw it back on to the fan using the same mounting holes and screws you removed the housing part from. This provides a very stable base. Total cost for the banding wheel could be under $10.

I'll be making a short video of the fabrication for a future post if there's interest.

 

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Johnny: I see you are relatively new here. Welcome to the forum and a special welcome to the Question of the week thread. Your banding wheel sounds genius! I just wanted to ask you if you could post a picture? And yes, of course, we are very interested in a video of yours! Thank you in advance.

 

Paul: you know, you make it sound easy, but I think there's work behind self made carving tools like yours. Are you content with the loops?

 

Evelyne

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Evelyne  I just cruise the tables, we usually just go to see the older homes in town,  I know they are not very old compared to your part of the world,  we enjoy all of the detailed work and craftsmanship.   I have found some really old potter tools even some with bake-lite handles from the 40's, it's getting harder to find tools like that. They pull the unique items out of the sale and put them on e-bay or in a consignment shop now.  Denice

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Yes Evelyne, I'm content with the loops. I try to use the thinnest paper clips that are still rigid enough not to bend, however I just bought a Dolan carving tool which slices like butter so I'm using both.

 

Paul

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I have always thought about picking up different rocks/twigs to use as throwing tools but I have never arrived at a tool on the floor. To be honest I have never been looking so maybe that is why  :lol:

 

My favourite homemade sort-of tool is a plaster batt textured with tree bark. So much fun to take a semi-soft pot and splat it into the texture and see the forms it creates.

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The tools that I seem to enjoy most are the ones that I have make.  The hacksaw blade formed (and sharpened) into a trimming & chattering tool is my favorite.  It isn't an original idea but is one that enjoy making:
trim-tool-small.jpg

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Marcia: that is a respectable list of self made tools! You could publish a small booklet with  "how to do" articles in it? I saw the pictures of your potters wheel stool, the one you saw at Pietro's. In my eyes, you are very talented in doing also wood work!

 

Denice: when you go to the estate sales, are you looking for something special to combine it with something other to get a new tool, or are you just surfing the tables?

 

Amy: I too use kitchen tools quite often in my studio (and most of the time forget to put them back in the end...). Who is Mr. Lin? Can you give us the link to this video please? Thank you.

 

Evelyne

I have published a lot of "how to do" articles in Pottery Making Illustrated. Right Angle Jig, How to make a bird bath, making oval hump molds, etc.

Marcia

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Why yes I do make alot of my tools.  I either make a prototype and improve on it or I take a commercial tool

and improve on it.  I re-use dull or worn out tools by taking out the blades of the trimming tools and

re-purpose the handles.  One of the first tools I made was to answer the question, "what did 17th century

southeastern Indians use to incise their pottery?"  In the lab there were typology examples of sherds in

different drawers.  I picked out 17th c. sherds because of the wide incising, and we examined the incised

marks under a high powered magnifying glass and noticed distinct raised ridges in the bottom of the tracks.

It wasn't bone, antler, sticks, or metal... so we considered split river cane.  Turns out it WAS split river cane

and the distinct ridges are actually the growth rings.  I make tools from scrap material, go to thrift shops, and

go to Lowes and ask myself, "What is this, and what can I use it for?"

I change materials and forms to get that elusive tool I'm happy with.  And then I share.

See you later.

Alabama

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Mark,

I had a potter friend, Dave Nelson , in Montana, who demonstrated different hair in brushed for different strokes. He demonstrated to my students. 

I admire good brush work, something I don't do. I love the expressive quality of lines of the artists and the right brush. Kudos to you for making the brushes.

I use to make tube liners from a baby syringe and a hypodermic needle. Now they are easier to come by. To improve my work, I just got an air pen during NCECA. Very hopeful it will clean up my application of lusted lines on my Raku drawings.

Marcia 

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I'am so happy to get so many responses. Thank you guys!!

 

Denice: it's of course the same here in the "old world". Eveything older than, say, 50 years, is going to antique shops to prices (!!) I couldn't pay. We don't have many garage or estate sales here, so you go and enjoy them! We have a flea market 1x/month, but the things you'll find there are mostly broken or badly repaired.

 

PaulR: I think self made tools like yours have also an emotional value! And the Doland tools are good, aren't they!!

 

HighBridge: what exatly did you want to do with the rocks and twigs? Use them for making marks on thrown pots? You should go for a walk in the woods and you'll find an abundance of throwing (markings) tools. Including tree bark.... ;-)

 

Paul: thank you for the picture. Did you make the tool by yourself or did you buy it? Nice chattering on the plate!! I have a set of self-made tools from Hsin-Chuen Lin and I guess he is using hacksaw too. Great tools for trimming. Very sharp!

 

Marcia: I though you could unite all the published articles in one book. It would sell, I'am sure!! (I love the ".... lusted line" comment in your last post)

 

Mark: any kind of brushes or are you making special designs? Could you maybe post a picture? Do you use bamboo for the shaft? And what kind of hair do you use? I once made a brush out of hair of my neighbours dog, and another out of horse hair....

 

Alabama: thank you for the story about the 17th C shards. That is very interesting. You seem to be a very curious potter, and I like that! Care to show us some pictures of self made tools?

 

Evelyne

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As a sculptor I think it is important to make your own hand tools. I have a degree in Industrial design, but it's not necessary to have a degree to make your own tools. That being said having a little knowledge about designing and fabricating stuff has often gotten me into trouble. It is important to set limitations. Currently for the most part, my tool making is limmited to the simple stuff like sculpting tools, stamps, texture pads and extruder parts.

 

I made my pottery wheel and the foot controller, but not the actual wheel head, it's made by Brent. I started with a good ergonomically correct design. The actual wheel head plagued me for two years, before purchasing the Brent wheel head. It's perfect now, but I will never ever build another. Some things are just better if you buy them.

 

My hand tools are often made of exotic hardwoods because the hold up the best. Sometimes the tools are solid wood other times they have metal tips. The metal cutters and loops are made seperate, inset and glued into the handles, then the tips are wrapped with copper wire to creat the ferrule and coated with epoxy to keep the wood from splitting.

 

I have a lot of texturing tools made from odd types of foam, latex, silicon, plastic, super sculpty or what ever looks like it might do the job quicker.

 

I have a big box of hand tools, but I usually only use three main tools. The others are used for a specific purpose, their purpose is usually for the fine details.

 

Making your own tools is often a simple and quick way to solve a problem. Many of those tools, if well made, will travel with you throuout most of your lifetime.

 

At times I'm shocked at the prices that people pay for a set of home made used sculpting tools on Ebay. I think the more used they look the more monetary value they have. I could probably make and age tools for a living.  I think it would be easy enough to write a book about well made jigs and pottery tools.

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I use a cut end of a chop stick to sign my pots. I mark chop sticks with lines to measure for production work. I use free paint sticks to stack bonsai pots and rolling pin guides. I don't like messing with plaster so all my hump molds are made from recycled clay.

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This thread has run before, and to repeat, yes I do. I often adapt other things, like bamboo spoon/spatula sets that are so popular now, buy a set, cut off the handles make some modifications to the left over piece to make it easier to hold or make a foot decoration etc. and  use it. The handles get turned into knife edge ribs.   I use hacksaw blades in the 50 pack to make parabola cutters by tying a string between holes to make a arch to cut nice even curves in thrown cylinders for candle lanterns. I use rasps and saws to cut wooden stamps, shape plastic and wooden ribs that I have hand carved. 

 

When teaching at the HS I had a drill press, band saw and belt sander in the studio. If I needed it, I made it. Lots of tools for handicapped students came about like that.

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Making your own tools is often a simple and quick way to solve a problem. Many of those tools, if well made, will travel with you throuout most of your lifetime.

 

At times I'm shocked at the prices that people pay for a set of home made used sculpting tools on Ebay. I think the more used they look the more monetary value they have. I could probably make and age tools for a living.  I think it would be easy enough to write a book about well made jigs and pottery tools.

 

Mug: thank you very much for your detailed answer. It seems that you spend a lot of time making your own tools. What you wrote (quote) about the prices of tools one can buy at the suppliers etc. is also something that I noticed at NCECA. When I saw the prices of certain tools I was wondering how a potter can afford it. I always thought that Switzerland is expensive, but....

 

Chantay: I never heard of molds made out of recycled clay until now. That's a clever idea! Less plaster dust in the studio! Thank you.

 

Preston: it's always possible that a thread is coming again after some time, or the person responsible for the thread didn't know it already run. Anyway, you don't have to rub it in :angry:;):D

Thank you for the ideas for self made tools. I especially like the parabola cutters. Could you show us an example or two of such cutters? I don't understand the "by tying a string between holes to make a arch" part. Thank you!

 

Evelyne

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HighBridge: what exatly did you want to do with the rocks and twigs? Use them for making marks on thrown pots? You should go for a walk in the woods and you'll find an abundance of throwing (markings) tools. Including tree bark.... ;-)

 

I wanted to use them like a rib or throwing stick. I love the flowing landscape you can leave up the side of a pot using your fingers or wooden ribs. I have a favourite rib that is beautiful, I will have to take a picture and add it when I am down there later tonight.

 

Cone pack for scale

 

post-23281-0-28189000-1429993691_thumb.jpg

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I make my own ribs, turning tools, sculpting sticks and other bits and pieces as I need them, (I enjoy tinkering in the shed), I've also now finished the motorised turntable for glaze spraying that I started on about last September: if only I could find the time to get out there and make some pots! 

 

I've recently finished one very large roof and had hoped that that might be my last job before retirement (in June) but now I have two more to do. I'm just going to have to start saying no soon, it's all getting too hard - just look at these beasties - 16" X 7" ridge beams, man they were heavy.

 

post-7271-0-80331200-1429993507_thumb.jpg

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Rebekah: that's kind of Alabama! Did you know him already before you came to Potters Council? I ask because I want to get a feeling how many members got to know each other, and help each other, on this forum.

 

Highbridge: thank you for the picture. I like the rib with the teeth!

 

ayjay: awwwww, my back is hurting just for looking at those "beasts". Wow, that is some roof work. I hope you can soon retire (and say no afterwards!) and work with much less heavy clay and glazes. Thanks for the picture.

 

Evelyne

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