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Guide for home studio setup: Wheel Throwing

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Guide for home studio setup: Wheel Throwing

Pottery enthusiasts keen to explore and grow should consider having a dedicated place to practice.  If you do not have access to a studio, you can set one up at your home.  This article provides basic guidelines to set up a home studio for practicing on a wheel 

Check out options below for various key components for the studio 

 

01 Wheel 

There are two popular types of wheels used by artists: a kick wheel and an electric wheel. A kick wheel is a non-motorized wheel been used for centuries which operates from a foot kick to spin the wheel. It’s a durable and low-maintenance option to go with. But it takes up relatively larger space than a typical electric wheel.   Variable-speed electric wheel is the most preferred option for a home studio since it is easy to operate, compact and noise-free. 

Good electric wheel should run trouble free for decades and it is a life time investment for an artist. Hence it is worth taking time to explore all key considerations listed below. 

  • Torque or power of the wheel, which determines how much clay can be centered without the wheel slowing down. All manufactures provide Horse power details 1/8HP - 1HP and this has impact on how much power a wheel has and hence how much clay can be centered. 
  • Speed of the wheel facilitates centering and creating forms on a wheel. The speed can vary from 0 to 250RPMs. Different speed is used for different purpose in the pottery journey. Hence purchasing a wheel with variable speed is an important feature to consider. 
  • Pedal or rotary switch for controlling speed. Pedal controlled wheel lets both the hands to be free for working on article being made. 
  • Wheel head is the plate on a wheel in which the clay is centered. This comes in size from 8” to 14” . Most common is 12”. The base size of the forms will depend on the wheel head size  
  • Built-in splash pan or removable splash pan. Removal splash pan in a wheel comes in handy if the artist would like to clean and dispose the trimmings near the cleaning area 
  • Portability of a wheel if the wheel needs to be moved and carried often. A light weight wheel provides option to move it around easily 
  • The wheel being an electrical equipment, might require timely maintenance and service every now and then. Therefore, after-sale service availability is something, one must consider  
  • Also consider features not dependent on the present skills, but should be based on future plans 

      For a beginner setting up a home studio space, Shimpo RK-55 wheel can be considered a good option. It is a belt-driven lightweight wheel which comes with a remote pedal, two-piece splash pan, workspace, 100-watt reversible motor, an automatic belt-tensioning system. 

      Wheel throwing process can be tiring and therefore a chair of comfortable height or a height adjustable stool should be used while working on the wheel. 

      Some tips on maintaining your electric wheel

       

      02 Wheel Bats 

      Bats are attachments to the pottery wheel head and they are extremely useful tool. An artist using a bat can easily remove the bat from wheel and transfer the piece without touching and hence no disturbance to shape or form.  Using a bat also prevents any corrosion to wheel head that could be caused by certain minerals in the clay. 

      Bats are available in MDF, plastic and foam material. Each has its pros and cons. 

      •  Plastic bats are more resistant to water damage. However, removing of articles from the bat is not quite easy.  
      • MDF bats are less water resistant, but easy to remove articles. If maintained well, MDF bat remains durable for longer duration. 

         

        03 Clay 

        Choosing the right clay plays an important role in your practice. Our recommendation is for you to use a stoneware or earthenware clay for wheel throwing. There are many brands including Claystation that offer different variations.  You need to look for a clay which has two important characteristics- plasticity and strength. Plasticity refers to how easily you can throw and more importantly the tendency of the clay to retrain the shape. Also, you can check if the clay bends without developing any cracks. 

        Strength is the next important factor and this refers to how much the clay can hold itself up once it is shaped. Clay that is strong will be able to support itself well and a less strong clay will buckle and slump. Most of the suppliers will provide these details for the clay they supply. So, you can try out different clay before you finalize on few to work with. 

        Claystation’s Sandalwood, Coffee Brown and Ivory clay can be used while exploring wheel throwing. These clays have a certain level of strength, which makes working with them enjoyable and the process quite creative. They can take a little bit of rough usage and won't lose their plasticity quickly. 

        Once you have identified and purchased the clay, below are few tips for managing the storage. 

        • Store the clay away from direct sunlight in a cool dry place 
        • After every use, try and remove as much air from the bag as possible 
        • If you feel your clay has become hard; add 0.20% by weight of water (Eg. If 9 kg of clay is left in the packet; add 180 gm of water and let it rest overnight) you will observe the clay is much softer and workable the next day 

        04 Wedging table/board 

        A heavy wooden board with a canvas cover is ideal to wedge clay and you can use C-clamps to secure the board from any movement while wedging. Alternatively, you can purchase premade wedging boards. Claystation offers in two sizes 1.5 ft X 1.5 ft and 2 ft X 2 ft. 

        It is advisable to weigh the clay lump before throwing it on the wheel. You can use a weigh scale  (can be purchased from Amazon) to weigh your clay and then wedge it into lumps for throwing.  

         

        05 Basic Tools 

         

        Choosing the right set of pottery tools could be daunting as there are so many options available. Here is a list of basic tools you might need for wheel throwing. 

        • Pottery toolkit: First and foremost, on the tools list is a beginner pottery toolkit. This includes a wire cutter, needle tool, a sponge, metal rib, wooden knife, trimming tool and a loop tool. 
        • Mug/bowl: a regular bathroom mug or a big bowl can be used to hold water to be used while throwing articles on the wheel 
        • Slip box: a plastic container with airtight lid can be used to store the slip produced during the throwing process. This stored slip can be spread into a plaster bowl or on a plaster bat and can be reclaimed again for future use. 
        • Hand-towel: always keep a hand towel nearby to wipe your hands whenever required

               

              06 Storage 

              As you start making articles, a regular open rack can be used to keep the covered articles for drying. Choose the shelf size according to the article size and the board holding the article as well. Try assigning different racks or shelves for fired and unfired articles to avoid any confusion while handling. 

               

              07 Plumbing 

              t is quite important to avoid clay and other ceramic materials to go through your home plumbing system as it could clog your drain. The best way to avoid clogging is by cleaning your hands and tools thoroughly in a tub or a bucket of water first. The clay particles will settle down overtime and the water that remains in the top can be removed. The clay that settles down can be recycled. 

              It is advisable to rinse the apron and the hand towel thoroughly to remove access clay before putting them for machine wash to avoid the clay particles settling in the machine. 

               

              08 Other Essentials 

              • Apron: you will experience clay slip splashing all around while throwing on the wheel, as some clay bodies leave stain on work clothes even after a wash, it is essential to add another layer of an old clothing or ideally an apron while working with clay. A split apron helps to cover both the legs individually which is ideally required specially while working on the wheel.  
              • Plywood or MDF boards: Boards are used to transfer thrown articles from the bat/wheel to the storage. Boards also help in easy transfer of the articles from one place to another.  
              • Newspapers and plastic sheets: Always keep some newspapers and plastic sheets handy in the studio. Plastic sheets are widely used to cover the articles specially during the slow drying process. Reuse the plastic sheets as far as possible keeping in mind the effect it causes on the environment. 
              • Cleaning workspace: As breathing clay dust over longer duration can lead to various lung related issues, it is extremely important to clean your workspace as you go along which makes the transition even smoother from one process to another. Spray some amount of water on top of the canvas surface before scraping it off to avoid inhaling clay dust in the cleaning process. 

                 

                09 References 

                https://potterycrafters.com/home-pottery-studio-set-up-guide/  

                https://www.homesteadpottery.com/articles-homestead-pottery/setting-up-a-pottery-studio/  

                https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/set-up-your-pottery-studio-2746268 

                https://www.thestudiomanager.com/posts/best-throwing-bats-for-the-pottery-wheel 

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