If you’re at all interested in the creative process of making pottery, you’ve likely heard of a potter’s wheel or otherwise also commonly referred to as a pottery wheel.
There are two common ways to make pottery, although pottery throwing has probably become the most popular, as opposed to handmade pottery. A potter’s wheel is a device that helps you in the process of creating the beautiful shapes that you want your ceramic ware to turn into.
Trimming the excess body is also a thing it’s able to do, or to help add decorative elements to the pottery. It’s been around for a long time, and they have helped making pottery creation a lot easier and faster too. In fact, they’re known to even have been used in the old world.
If you’re only just getting started making pottery, but you already have a potter’s wheel, we encourage you to read this guide on ceramic throwing.
The most common methods that were used pre-potter’s wheel included beating and coiling. Coiling is the process of creating rolls of clay and layering them on top of each other and you then slowly get the shape you desire when it gets built up. It can be used to make different forms, and as the coils are added on top of each other, they’re connected and smoothened to create a more a more consistent surface.
What Are the Advantages of Using One Over Making it Handmade?
There are a couple of advantages using a potter’s wheel rather than making pottery with your hands. To justify the fact that they easily have a price tag of $1,000, it can only be justified if they actually bring significant advantages. Well, for one they are a much more efficient way of making pottery. A potter can simply make more pottery using this method. You can probably imagine that having to make rolls of clay and stacking them on top of each other is a process that takes a significant amount of time with the different rolls having to be made individually.
The second benefit is that you can create things that have a much more consistent look too. While you’re able to create things that are fairly round doing so by hand, they’re likely not going to be as consistent and round as is the case when you make thrown pottery.
Thirdly, using a potter’s wheel, you can create pottery with thinner walls too than is possible if you make it handmade.
What is the History Behind Them?
Coiling was the method that was traditionally used to make pottery, and rolls of clay were pinched together, but being that it is a very labor-intensive. What they used to do before the introduction of this wheel is that the clay would be placed on top of large surfaces that could otherwise be spun around, rather than having to walk around them. This was commonly done by building it on top of leaves or mats, but having to physically turn it obviously did not offer the same convenience as making a wheel do the work, since both hands would still need to be in use.
Creating something that could automatically turn the pottery is therefore just a natural thing to follow from it. What followed was called tourneys or slow wheels, and they could be powered by either foot or hand, although it’s not certain how widely used they were, although they did help make it faster to produce pottery.
Around the 3rd millennium BC, an important improvement was invented – the fast wheel. The energy generated from kicking created a centrifugal force on the basis of the flywheel principle, having the clay stand on top a rotating stone. With this invention came what we today know as throwing pottery.
Rather than making and stacking coils, it now became possible to put a lump of clay on a rotating unit and press a hole in the middle instead. By strategically pressing the clay, different shapes could be made from a single piece of clay. It’s also easily distinguishable from handmade clay.
Although being a more primitive version, potter’s wheels have been around for more than 5,000 years with the oldest one found being from about 3,000 BC, although there have been findings of pottery dating back further that would suggest it being used for an even longer period of time.
Pottery Kick Wheels
Before pottery wheels became what they are today, kick wheels were the common, and they are even sold to this day. You can see one in action right here and see how it works.
Rather than having a motor do the actual work, it’s your kicking that does it. One of their advantages is that the lack of motor means there’s usually very little maintenance required for them. They also will last for a long time being as simple as they are, all you simply have to do is kick it to make it spin, and it doesn’t matter what foot you feel more comfortable using either.
There are also potters out there that will choose it because they think it provides them with a relaxing sensation to sit and have to kick the wheel around, and that it even feels more authentic than simply getting a motor to do much of the work. What you need to know is that they’re not very movable objects because of how much they weigh, so if that’s important to you, you should look at a motorized one instead. The lightest one we found when we were looking weighed 270 lbs which you obviously cannot simply bring with you where ever you want.
In comparison, you can easily find motorized versions that weigh less than 80 lbs which, although not light, makes it significantly more mobile.
What is a Potter’s or Pottery Wheel?
Pottery Wheel for Beginners
If you’re just starting out with pottery, you may not yet be willing to spend what it takes to get a quality pottery wheel, but that’s not an issue. There are ways that you can go about actually getting a pottery wheel cheaper than the $800-$1,000 that you will be spending, even if you go to the cheap section of Big Ceramic Store.
First off, you can head on over to eBay where you simply search for them and you can find some for $200-300 instead, which is clearly a lot cheaper. We can’t ensure that they’re quite as good, but it’s the simplest way you can get one without paying too much and not having to put in a lot of effort yourself either.
Alternatively you can make a DIY pottery wheel. There’s a bunch of guides available on the internet that explains how to go about it. We’ve talked about them in this article also. If you have either a treadmill, washing machine or ceiling fan motor that you’re not using, the guides that you need are available on the internet.
If you’re making it with the ceiling fan motor, here is everything you need.
- Ceiling fan
- Peanut butter jar
- Power cord
- Some lumber
- Wire knots
- tools to make the project
With those things together, you can put one together yourself for $50, although it does require the use of tools, and if you’re not traditionally a handyman, you might not have those lying around at home. With that being said, we hope that you go out and create some really beautiful pottery as a consequence!
Using a Treadmill for Your DIY Pottery Wheel
Treadmills are often bought with the ambition that you’re going to change all your habits and start exercising more. However, often reality is a little different. Maybe you just never got the level of inspiration you were hoping for, or work kept you busy. When you come to the realization that you’re just not going to use the treadmill as you thought, there’s a different purpose it can be used for. That is making you a pottery wheel instead. Rather than trying to figure out how to do it yourself, you can just go ahead and use this guide.
Don’t feel sufficiently inspired by that one? Then there’s yet another guide that you can make use of right here.
Getting Started With Pottery
When you have actually gotten the pottery wheel and you feel ready to get started, we encourage you to view this video on getting started, and how you go about pulling the clay in order to create the shapes that you want.