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Centering Tips & Tricks


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Hi there!

I've seem to have gotten into a funk with centering my balls of clay on the wheel. I can get it pretty centered, but it's always about a millimetre off...Here's my technique:

Cone up by pushing inwards. 

Cone down with the meat of my right thumb pressing down and the meat of my left thumb guiding it down. However, I've been having issues with the mushroom effect. Any suggestions as to how to cone all the way down to the wheel without the mushroom forming? 

Once I get it relatively centered and in a puck shape, I'll try to fix the millimetre off by pushing inwards from the side using the meat of my left hand below my pinky finger and pushing downwards from the top using the karate chop of the outer edge of my right hand, also by the pinky finger. However, this usually pushes my piece ever more off center. So I've been sticking with coning up and down several times and starting to pull my piece with the millimetre off feeling. 

Any tips & tricks that might be helpful? Thanks!

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is your wheel going fast enough?    when you get to the bottom of the cone do you switch to your thumbnail and just a little pressure?   if the wheel is fast enough and the pressure light enough, the clay has some flexibility to move.

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I used to center in much the same as you are doing. However over the years, I have found that using my rt fist on the top of the cone with my ft hand working the side works better for me. I do both of these with the arms braced against either my hip or legs. I also find and adjustable seat works well to allow for larger/smaller pieces of clay. I start centering with the cone wedging,  thrown in to the center of the wheel, slow slap center the clay to adhere to head and center part way. This works especially well with larger pieces of clay. Then I cone up and down for centering, using my lt hand close to my right setting above the clay. As the rt hand pushes down, the lt goes down with it until it reaches the wheel head. I hold this constant.. braced into the hip on the lt hand, and fist at the top where the knuckles just touch the thump of the lt. Any time I remove my hands, I move them off of the clay slowly as too fast a movement will leave the clay uncentered slightly.    

Hope this helps,

best,

Pres

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sorry i am not more precise.   try speeding the wheel up a little at a time.   you can cone down as you do and when you have reached the wheelhead, gently change from your hand to thumbnail at the very bottom.    i do not have the technical, physics kind of explanation someone else would have to say that faster is easier, i just know it is.

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Another really sneaky thing that will keep you from being able to centre all the way is if you inadvertently trap even a tiny bit of air under the clay when you’re smacking it down. Make sure the surface of the clay that will go down on the wheel head has no wrinkles or bumps in it. (Took me a really embarrassing amount of time to figure that one out.)

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When coning up, make sure the bottom of the ball down by the wheel head is getting narrower. If not, that clay down there is not getting mixed.

When you cone up, squeeze, don't lift.

When bringing it down, push down with the right hand in a karate chop fashion. Push in on the top corner with your left had to prevent mushrooms and wobbles. The left hand should be just slightly tilted over the top so it's focused on the corner. Go slowly with the right hand, focus on the left hand. Anchor your left elbow in your leg or hip. Make sure your left wrist is bent so you're pushing away from you, not from the side. The pressure should be right in the crease of your left palm and down your arm to your elbow.

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1 hour ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

Thanks everyone! @neilestrick So I should be bringing pressure with my leg palm forwards (from my hip) rather than from the side? What part of the left palm generally is making the contact with the corner of the piece as you are coning down? I usually use the part of my palm below my thumb. Thanks!

Yes, we're much stronger pushing away from us than from pushing from the side. And with your elbow braced your arm won't have to work as hard. Get the top corner of the cone right into the crease of your palm, right in the pocket, not on the heel.

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10 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

Yes, we're much stronger pushing away from us than from pushing from the side. And with your elbow braced your arm won't have to work as hard. Get the top corner of the cone right into the crease of your palm, right in the pocket, not on the heel.

I tell my students, that if they are centering correctly, their arm shouldn't really be getting tired, since they should be bracing and using their body weight.  I always say, that a couple pounds of clay, shouldn't be able to push back on at least a hundred pounds of you.

When I was in my Ceramics course in college, there was a Graduate student working on his Masters.  He was also an Education major, and was extremely helpful to the rest of the class.  He showed me how he centered, by using both hands to pull the clay towards himself.  It worked great for him, not so well for me.  I should note, he was also a "thrower" on the Track and Field team, so kind of a big, strong guy.  He also had to make and use special bats to accommodate the large bowls and platters he made too.

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