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QotW: What would your basic tool set be for handbuilding, or throwing?

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There was not a recent QotW question in the question pool, so I will pose one that I have been thinking of lately. What would your basic tool set be for handbuilding, or throwing? I have been throwing a lot lately, simple things, mugs and honey jars. I find that I use only a short list of tools: water bucket,  sponge, needle tool, a bamboo spatula blade(handle cut off) with a pointed edge with a notch for foot establishment, and a pair of calipers for the jars.  This short list is supplemented by a bunch of odd stamps and textured surfaces for pressed in pre-shaping decoration. A rather short list I believe, but all I really need to do to throw @1# mugs or honey jars. 

For handbuilding, there is another short list: slab sticks, rolling pin, fettling knife, a bevel wire( used to do this with fettling knife angled on table edge), and some magic water with tooth brushes and regular bristle brushes and a round wooden rib to work edges. Again, I would supplement this with the texture tools, and often decorate before final stretching of the slabs.

So I will post the same question to you: What would your basic tool set be for handbuilding, or throwing?


best, Pres

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My basic throwing kit, after buying and making all sorts of tools: 

1) pointy asian style trim tool

2) small wooden kidney

3) whatever junky sponge is around

4) chamois

And last but most important and versatile......

5) metal rib

And here's what I use them for:

1) trim tool - I use it to clean up the "buttress" or skirt on mugs'n'jugs and to pull my bats off.  Thing is a champ and that's why it's on my bench. Cost me 99 cents at the ole pottery shoppe

2) kemper small hardwood kidney rib - it has a flat side, it has a curved side, what's not to like.  But really I use this for compressing the bottoms of plates and as an inside compressing rib when doing a tall form (with the metal rib on the outside).

3) junky sponge - now I don't want to name any names, but after trying some fancy name brand sponge pack I have to say I wore them out in short order and moved on.  I use chunks of tile sponge, Hydra sponges (the cheap round ones in the kits), etc.  If you're married to the mudtools ones, try the foam from a box of cones, it works great.  

4) chamois - ok I'm gonna ruffle some feathers here, but you can take your paper towels and bag plastic and you can go ahead and put them in the garbage where they belong.  Nothing feels as good as gripping that slimy little piece of lambskin and pulling it down over a rim.  Nevermind the beautiful, perfect, compressed, strong, and incredibly smooth surface it leaves behind.  That's great and all, but I mean actually just holding the thing and letting it slide in your fingers, when you wring it out, when you slap it onto the side of your water dish... It's all magical!  It almost feels ethereal and lighter than air.  Anyway, chamois are great.

5) metal rib - ok, metal ribs, let's be honest... They're cheating, right?  No one tool should have all of this power.  I use my metal rib for so many things, I will begin describing them now.  I clean my bats with one, I shape pretty much everything I throw with one, I scrape slip off of clay, I decorate with one, I burnish with one while trimming, the list goes on forever!  Definitely my favorite tool.


Beyond those for throwing I also now rarely use a needle tool, pretty much just for scoring, though still occasionally use one to level off the top of an uneven rim.  The other occasional use tool is a large cooking chopstick from daiso.  It serves as throwing stick, and general all around stick for doing stick stuff.

For trimming I pretty much use a thin dolan pear and a screw cap from a gallon milk jug.  I'll tap whatever I'm trimming into center, put the milk cap in the middle and apply gentle downward pressure on the milk cap to hold whatever I'm trimming on center and just hack at it with the pear tool.  I occasionally use an Asian style trim tool but I can't keep them sharp enough for them to be of any long term use whereas the dolan tools are hardened steel and the edge lasts quite a while, even on groggy stoneware.  


Welp, that's about it and probably far too detailed, but you can go tool crazy if you aren't careful.  For mugs I'm down to sponge, chamois, metal rib and trim tool, and I get into a pretty good rhythm can pump one out every 2-3 minutes to the gauge.

Speaking of which, I've got 30 out in the shed that need to be thumbed off and handled... Toodles!

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I use pretty much the same basic tools as others but also a section of a metric tape measure. I make all same type pots with lids have a standard size lid, I set the callipers to the measurement for that particular type pot or just use the tape measure. (I find metric is so much easier to measure with than imperial)

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I seem to have started to really use less tools these days 


needle tool

wood stick with point

screwdriver to pry plaster bats off of clay pad

I rarely use a cutoff wire unless the pot is over 10 #s as its thrown then on a plastic bat and need one vs not using one on plaster bats.

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On 6/12/2019 at 11:29 AM, Mark C. said:

screwdriver to pry plaster bats off of clay pad

I rarely use a cutoff wire unless the pot is over 10 #s as its thrown then on a plastic bat and need one vs not using one on plaster bats.

Yeah, I use a trimjin to lift my bats, as years ago made a happy mistake and cut some of the aluminum wheel head edge. . . so bats lift easily that way. 

I also used to throw on plaster bats in college and love them but my present situation does not do well for the storage of the old thick bats, and I really like larger area, not tile size.




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My basics list is the same as everyone else's basics list, pretty much. In addition, my essentials include a variety of wood sticks (chopsticks, skewers, round/square/triangular rods, pieces of thin decorative molding etc.); also scalpels, dental tools,  and, mostly, my fingers.

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