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How To Use A Pottery Wheel For Beginners

Throwing your own pottery at home, as a hobby or for a business, can be a thoroughly rewarding experience. From vases through to bowls, the finished articles that you can create are many and varied. The key skill to master when creating your pottery piece is the use of your pottery wheel. In this article, we look at how to use a pottery wheel for beginners, to create your perfect pottery piece.


How to use a pottery wheel: A step by step guide

One key element to successfully using your own pottery wheel is through thorough preparation. The first part of this preparation is to ensure that your ‘bat’ (the flat disk attached to the head of your pottery wheel) is cleaned by scraping off any excess clay using a wooden rib or metal scraper. You should avoid using too much water, as bats are liable to warp over time.


Step 1

Spin the wheel and slightly moisten the center of your bat with your sponge.


Step 2

Place your clay on to the center of the bat in a gumdrop shape. Flatten the edges of the clay with the palm of your hand, turning the wheel manually until all sides are flattened down. Following this, use your index finger to press the edges of the clay, sealing the edge of the clay to the bat.


Step 3

Once you are satisfied that the clay is firmly in place, increase the speed of the wheel and put some water on to your hands. Before starting to manipulate the clay, ensure that your elbows are locked to your legs.


Step 4

Use your left hand to push the clay up (this is called coning up) and use your right hand as support. Use the palms of your hands to squeeze the clay inwards, allowing the clay to pop up between your hands. As the manipulated clay gets taller, maintain an ‘A’ shape with your thumbs.


Step 5

Following the coning up of your clay, you also need to cone down in order to center the clay and ensure that you can push the clay to where you need it to go. At this point you should add more water if needed. Place the fat part of your left thumb (where it meets the palm of your hand) directly on top of the center of the clay and place pressure away from you (not down on to the clay). The fingers of your left hand should wrap gently around the front of the clay.


Step 6

Your right hand should also be placed at the top of your clay but on the side and gently pushing the clay to the center. The fingers of your right hand should also be gently wrapped around the clay.


Step 7

Both hands should be pushed in the directions described above and then slowly slide your hands down the clay in tandem. At this point you should have created a ‘cone up’ position for your clay. Keep repeating this method, with more water if necessary, until the clay is centered. The best method of establishing whether the clay is centered is by placing your hands gently around the clay and slowly spinning the wheel. If your hands stay in place then your clay is centered, but if they move and wobble then you will need to repeat more coning.


Step 8

At this point, you will start to form the size and shape of your pottery. Rest your hands on the sides of your clay, with the right thumb knuckle placed over the top of your left thumb knuckle, keeping your thumbs parallel to the floor. Press the top knuckle into the bottom in order to create a small divot in the top of the clay.


Step 9

To make the opening for your bowl, plate or vase, the next stage is called drilling. Place your left thumb in the previously created divot and turn the wheel, waiting until your thumb is centered and not moving about. Use your right hand fingers to guide your left hand thumb down towards the bat.


Step 10

Now is the time to form your pottery! Insert the middle finger of your left hand into the divot. Put your right hand over the top of your left hand and slowly pull the clay back towards you to create your desired shape.


Step 11

Once you are satisfied with your desired shape, you can also add different elements including a lip or handle, depending on what you are creating. You can also use a wooden rib to clean the inside and outside of the pot.


Step 12

To remove your pottery from the bat, place a taut wire on the far side of your piece and slowly slide the wire back towards you.


When learning how to use a pottery wheel, it’s all about practice. Your first effort may not be perfect, but the more time and patience you use, the more successful you will be. Following the above steps is a good start and having the right equipment in place ensures a consistent finished product.


How to use your own pottery wheel - we have the equipment you need


If you want to learn how to throw pottery, we advise that you invest in a high quality pottery wheel.

Whether you are looking to buy a pottery wheel for a hobby or to use for a business venture, there are a range of pottery wheels available, from simpler models through to more advanced.

If you want to learn more about what to consider when buying a pottery wheel, please follow the link or if you simply wish to know more about how to make pottery at home, this guide talks you through all the materials and equipment you will need.

If you are keen to learn how to use your own pottery wheel or even to invest in your own, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help. In the meantime, you can view our range of pottery wheels here.


Additional resources on pottery

How to make pottery at home

How to fire pottery without a kiln

How to prevent cracks in pottery

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