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Hi all,

I am looking for any centering tips and tricks with larger amounts of clay! I have been pretty comfortable with throwing anywhere from 2-3 lbs. I just tried 4 lbs. for a larger bowl the other day and found it very difficult to center, and thus created a very wobbly bowl...Any tips or tricks for centering a larger amount of clay on the wheel? Ideally, I'd love to be comfortable with 4-5 lbs. for 1) centering and 2) pulling up the walls in an even and not so heavy/thick way. 

Thanks!

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1 hour ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

I might as well add that I have gotten into the habit of creating the "mushroom" effect when coning down. That's preventing me from getting the disc or hockey puck shape and also making centering/pulling up more difficult. Any ideas to avoid the mushroom effect?

What I do is apply pressure from the side and side of the top to cone down, using the top hand to push clay down into my bottom hand.  You really want to avoid the mushroom, you can trap slip under it and have issues with clay shearing off as you pull later.

As far as making bigger pieces, it's just something that comes with practice. Keep it up

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is the clay hard or soft when you start to center?  softer clay is easier to throw large as long as you are not a water tosser at every opportunity.  

 

(i actually use the mushroom or doorknob as a start for a bowl since i can get a finger under the edge and pull up more easily.)

Edited by oldlady
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37 minutes ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

@liambesawso you don't cone down applying pressure directly from the top? that's what I've been doing with a hand on the side. But maybe I need to cone down with a hand on the side, and the "top" hand pushing pressure from the top side/corner of the top? 

Correct, I don't push down on the top, I push the top diagonally with my outside hand guiding it

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To center large amounts of clay I pat center for a long time. Then place both hands on the opposite side of the clay and gently pull toward you while slowly increasing the wheel speed.  Now do your coning. The clay should be centered but may need  a little coaxing into center.

Assuming the wheel is spinning Counter clockwise - After opening the ball and compressing the bottom, place your left hand on the left side and your right hand on the clay directly in front of you with your fingers, I use my middle finger, at the bottom on the inside and your thumb reaching to the wheelhead. Find you a finger hold on the left side of the clay using your left hand. Now pull up using both left hand and right hand - this will get rid of the mushroom and pull your clay up into a nice thick cylinder. It can be an awesome first pull. Watch Robin Hopper do this - he uses a sponge in his left hand.

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On 10/8/2020 at 11:38 AM, ChloeElizabeth said:

you don't cone down applying pressure directly from the top?

It’s more like you’re pushing it over rather than pushing it down. If your hands are in a t shape, the top hand rests on the top of the clay and the bottom hand exerts the pressure. The top hand is a guide for stability only. 

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You can also try centering the first 3 pounds, then adding the second 3 and centering that on top. My ceramics teacher used to demonstrated this as an excellent strategy to employ for people with less physical strength.

I'm about the same threshold as you, and can center about 3.5 pounds at a time, and it works for me. 

hang on, I have a time lapse my husband took of me doing this: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17rbBUJJu33CIs3gwohvRBVg-x2klvSsR/view?ts=5f849db2 

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Hi @Callie Beller Diesel - 

Yep, for sure bracing my elbow into my body, and I guess I lean in? If you can center the first bit, that was a little over 3.5 pounds, you're in - you basically just do it again, then all together.

Definitely lean in to get it to flatten out, and clean up the slip so it doesn't get trapped underneath, but yeah, this is the only way I'll likely ever be able to throw larger. 

I'm just not strong enough to control a giant (to me!)  amount of clay all at once so I take it in steps. 

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Hi @ChloeElizabeth,

I often center larger amounts of clay for throwing off of the hump, and larger bowls, vases and jars. When working with larger amounts, realize that the amount of energy is also larger. . . energy on your part.  I start with well wedged clay that is slightly wetter than my mug, and small bowl clay.  I cone wedge thus ending in a nice cone shaped piece of clay that i throw down in the center of the wheel head. Then while the wheel is turning slowly I slap center the clay with both hands in a regular rhythm. This pretty much gets the clay even, not centered. Then with wet hands I start centering with left elbow braced into the hip, right hand pulling the clay to the left hand that is at about 7:30 on the wheel. I think of the left hand as a rock, never moving, while the rt hand pulls the clay in to it. This movement naturally cones the clay upward,  and my left and rt go up with it. Then I fist my right hand and angle it slightly upward braced against the lt hand. Pushing downward I apply balancing pressure from lt and rt to keep the clay going down evenly without getting a muffin top. As I reach the wheel head, again the lt hand rests on the wheel head while the rt hand and probably part of the wrist forces the clay to become a flat topped dome. I do this a few times until the clay becomes centered. Honestly, now I only have to do this once with 4 to 6#, but in the beginning it was more like 3-4 coning motions. There is not replacement for practice, as larger amounts of clay present greater stress on muscle memory, and the need to develop the steadying strength used in centering the clay. Keep working and practicing learning from each step and you will be throwing larger soon.  As you get there, try to start cutting back on water and using less contact point on the clay when pulling as this will allow you to  get larger forms without collapsing.

 

best,

Pres

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