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Member Since 02 Apr 2010
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#116898 Wedging Clay

Posted by Pres on 22 November 2016 - 09:14 AM

I used to teach ceramics in HS. I would do the standard demonstration of wedging at the beginning of classes on the first week. When doing the demonstration, I would tell the students that there were several reasons for wedging the clay:

  • Remove air bubbles from the clay
  • Mix the clay to an even consistency
  • dry the clay out somewhat
  • align the particles in an organized direction

Now I also had an anterior reason for doing the demonstration that included rams head, and cone techniques. I really wanted to know several things about the students in the class at the time:

  • Who didn't like to get their hands dirty
  • who had physical strength
  • who had coordination
  • who listened, and could use the above to match the same movements if not in the same efficiency.

Some of you might wonder why I did not teach cut and slam wedging. . . really. . . . with 25 students doing the same thing! NOISE and MESS!


I wedge my clay out of the bag, as I store my clay outside, and it freezes over the Winter. So when using it I always wedge it. I also recycle clay using wedging. At the same time, I have had back issues, and wedging helps me with those. Over the years, I have also found that wedging helps me to stretch my muscles before throwing, keeps me in better shape, and gives me time to think about what I am going to do for the studio time.





#116641 Peggy Heer's Spooze For Mug Handles

Posted by Pres on 18 November 2016 - 04:59 PM

I am just as happy with magic water. When attaching handles, or stems to chalices, or assembling teapots it is the only way I go anymore. At the same time assembly of anything slab is easier and has less joint cracking with the magic water.





#116492 Studio Tips, Devices, And Throwing Aids

Posted by Pres on 16 November 2016 - 04:27 PM

About to open up another can of worms here, as I a sure the GG people pro and con will pop in. Many of us have used different devices to help us with trimming, throwing and other things in the studio. Heck I remember a thread not too long ago with a home made vertical slab roller. Right now there is a great thread going on about using laser pointers as a throwing aid for repetitive sizing of pieces. With the cost of laser pointers so low-makes sense. 


So I will start this off with a simple contribution, a trimming chuck made of common plumbing parts that can be used for a very specific type of trimming I have always had problems with-chalice stems. This is made up of 3" pieces, Pipe flange, pipe, pipe hub donut, and tank to bowl gasket. The gasket is very soft, but firm. This allows the stems to be inserted into the assembly and trimmed without marking or damage. You may not throw chalice stems, but if you throw bottles, you might want to give it a try.  If you want more information, try my blog. 




So what do others of you have to offer in the way of studio tip, throwing aid or other tool for the studio?



#116458 Qotw: What Coffee/tea Bowl Are You Using In The Morning?

Posted by Pres on 16 November 2016 - 09:28 AM

As my wife and I have settled into a ritual also of going to a local mom & pop for breakfast, I usually get a mish mash of mugs to drink my 2-4 cups of coffee. We sit and read novels, enjoy the coffee, and let someone else do the cooking. They usually serve me with a variety of LARGE mugs that they have there, some are mine, some are commercial. I am now doing up another set of my mugs for them as they really like that they hold a lot, don't look massive, last a long time, and keep the coffee hot. Some of the locals rave about them, and some won't even use them.


Oh well,




#115986 Cant Pull Beyond 12 Inches

Posted by Pres on 09 November 2016 - 07:52 PM

Getting higher than 10-12" usually is a difficult barrier to break for inexperienced throwers. Most of the suggestions here will help with your problem, but I may add a few.


  • Think about pulls as an amount of drag on the clay. Also understand that more water means more weakness in the vertical that you can get out of the clay. So part of your problem when throwing taller is two fold, lower the water to keep the form stronger to support the upper form, and lower the drag so that the pot does not get twisted in your pulling higher. I approach this by working with smaller contact points of my pulls. Inside hand only uses one finger against the side of the pot, outside hand much the same. I use the thumb and second finger to support and strengthen the pointer as my contact point outside, and the second and third finger supporting the pointer finger on the inside. Smaller contact, less drag. At the same time, slurry will help with drag without weakening the clay as much. However, I have found that I can throw pretty much dry without adding water after the form gets up to 10".
  • Also of importance when throwing taller is how the base side walls are in relation to the rest of the cylinder. Cut one of your tallest cylinders in half, and look at how much weight is in the bottom inch of the form. If you end up trimming an immense amount off the bottom then you are leaving that area to thick. When throwing your prime directive at the first part of the pull is to get a substantial amount of clay out of the base into the wall of the pot-evenly. Then as you pull higher you thin the walls evenly going upward. All too often I have watched successful throwers leave much clay in the base that could add a few inches of height to the form. Many will internalize defensively, saying they don't worry about it as they will just trim it. I postulate, that if you learn to throw minimizing the amount in the base you will end up saving much more time over your time on the wheel.



I hope that my rants have given you pause to think about your throwing, and can help you break into 14" and beyond.






#115665 Best Approach To Obtain Solid Blocks

Posted by Pres on 04 November 2016 - 03:20 PM

Test a batch of clay with 75-80% grog, then use a slip or glaze on the outside. This is the only way I could imagine you doing a "solid" block. Otherwise take the routes others have given you of cutting and hollowing, or slab building with thick slabs. Wooden forms would definitely help with the second technique in case you decided to use slabs.





#115554 Qotw. How Is Your Pottery Community?

Posted by Pres on 02 November 2016 - 08:12 AM

Around here very little in the way of a Community. I try to keep in touch with local potters, and some groups, but seems like many just run on their own. CAD has been a sounding ground for many years, and probably many more to come.




#115442 Can Heavy Hand-Built Forms Be Lightened?

Posted by Pres on 31 October 2016 - 03:42 PM

I believe that there are other factors to consider when throwing forms for functional use, whether a mug, lowly baking dish, or any other pot to be used with hot or cold. Is insulation important? How about the simple cup that is held in the hands, or a unomi, should this be thrown with with an eye towards insulating the hand? Baking dishes are another area where I question the logic of thinness, where being able to distribute heat evenly in the dish for the food in it is important. At the same time, I love to see paper thin porcelain lanterns used as decoration on tables or mantles. So really thinking through what your intent is as far as the usefulness of the pot in its functional state is important.



just my personal opinion,



#115350 Pulling Walls

Posted by Pres on 29 October 2016 - 08:15 PM



Just pull a few hundred cylinders and you will be on you way of being a pro at throwing.


Well well, only 280 more to go.

Mixed up 80lbs of custom porcelain, mixing a 100lbs of custom stoneware today: should get me another 50-60 cylinders.


Throwing is the same way, you need to feel it over and over.

I get this actually: have felt hard bits go by, as well as felt air pockets. Can feel the weight shifting prior to go out of round, as well as can feel thickness differences.


Nerd.. . . After your first pull, on the pulls where  you can, place your rt and left thumbs together right hand outside, left inside. While pulling use this positioning of the thumbs to help you gauge where your hands are on the inside and outside of the pot. Remember that your right, outside hand, with the fingers touching the wheel head will be a little below the left inside hand. So as you move your hands up in pulling if the thumbs stay together in the same position, your fingers will do the same when making the pull.


Another trick to try. . . I have mentioned it before here. . . Blindfold yourself, or throw in the dark from beginning to end. this forces you to rely on  your sense of touch not sight. It can lead to some revelations about centering, throwing, wheel speed, and feel for shaping. 



best of luck,



#115308 Pulling Walls

Posted by Pres on 28 October 2016 - 09:55 PM

Throwing for me is similar to a well tuned clock. As the wheel goes around, my hands move up a notch, the rhythm of hands and wheel equal. The motion of the hands going upward is always slightly leaning in towards center, the thumbs in the beginning locked to help judge depth and clay thickness. I begin with the basic donut, and use the lift of the outside fingers pushing harder than the inside on the first pull. Each pull starts off strong weakening as the wall and hands go up. This helps me to get the mass of the clay out of the base into the side walls. I always try to remember when starting what I am making, whether it is a bowl, plate or cylinder as each opening up and pulling is different to some degree-plate most different. I also remember to match the clay to the object-stiffest clay for cylinders, then bowls, and then plates being the least stiff. Working from a measured weight in the beginning and writing down that weight and the object and size in the beginning will help you become more perceptive of your progress, and set up a diary of sizes to start with when throwing specific objects. Measure what they will hold so that you know what a mug of 1# will hold, or a bowl of 3# etc. 


And always keep practicing and working to improve and throwing out those things that do not meet your expectations.




#115122 Who Of You Is Making Funeral Urns?

Posted by Pres on 26 October 2016 - 08:14 AM

Here is one that I finished lately as had mentioned before. The glazed piece had to be out so quick, I did not get a pic of it. Oh well.

Attached Files

#114900 Epic Fail Making Slabs

Posted by Pres on 19 October 2016 - 03:06 PM

I will admit there is a certain amount of addiction to the whole throwing thing. It is a meditation, a dance with the clay, a feeling of nirvana, a sensual exploration or so many other things. So much so that many do not return to handbuilding because of the need to . . . throw. However, there is something more defined about slab building and other hand building. 


When I taught classes in the HS, I stressed the idea of creating a sketch in an orthographic projection showing the front, right, and top view of an object. each in scale to the first drawing. This gave the basic plan for a 3 dimensional construction, could be a box, a house, a sculpture, or any other object with height and width an length. Measuring, decorating and assembling the slabs needed for this took several weeks, but in the end there was much satisfaction from the student. It was not immediate, it was not easy, but it was a steady process that you could get as lost in doing as you can on the wheel.


Slabs that are basically flat, are much a different story. However, even here one can get more than a little creative. Do you decorate just before shaping; or do you decorate, stretch and then shape. Do you add handles, or add in a thrown rim for a softer look; do you work with slips or engobes, or do some form of monoprint on the surface. Much of this can cause a simple platter project to become much more of a challenge. Sometimes it takes raising the expectations of where something as simple as a platter might go.




#114839 Qotw: Is It "hands Off!" In Your Studio?

Posted by Pres on 18 October 2016 - 06:57 PM

Ha! No one goes into my studio! This is not because I have a closed shop rule, It is because half the time they can't get in the door, as I will have moved something around to do something else, and the door is blocked! At other times, they can't stand to be in the studio because I turn the TV up so I can hear it, as I often take the hearing aids out to listen to it. Between the two, people don't visit.


Now when I was teaching, I always set a starting demonstration aside for students to look at it, I encouraged them to touch it, feel the wall thickness of the wet clay, and even lift the bat it was setting on to tell how the weight was from thrown to trimmed, to leather hard to dry to bisqued, to glaze pot. Crazy enough never lost a piece to student. . . sloppiness. At the same time I only kept about 10% of my thrown pieces to finish as most demos were cut for inspection right after throwing. Tools, I used the same as the students. equipment the same as them also.  Completely finished work was given to administrators, adult students as door prizes for the adult class, and as an occasional commemorative pot of a retiring teacher.





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#114391 Qotw: Are You Ransacking Trash Bins?

Posted by Pres on 06 October 2016 - 09:09 PM

Sad to say, but I have been forced to start. . . walking by. I have been a hoarder for so many years that I find my shop too crowded to get around in. I have old wooden boxes that came with the house, doors and molding over the rafters, an old car axle that I was keeping to build a kick wheel, bins and tins of all sorts of hardware, and a mess of other crazy things, including the female sweater manikin that hangs next to the bar clamps before you get to the kiln. Yep, been there done that, but not any more!   Oh wow Fall cleanout is coming up, maybe I'll take a walk around the block.







#114093 Qotw: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall?

Posted by Pres on 30 September 2016 - 10:23 PM

Never used a mirror! What a marvelous idea. this old dog can learn new tricks! Thank you Evelyne and all!


Now where do I mount the mirror?! In my studio there is . . . very little bare wall space. Maybe on a cabinet door, or elsewhere.