My Favourite Pottery Tools That Aren't Pottery Tools...
My studio is bursting with tools. In fact every time I make my twice yearly trip to my clay supplier, I always come back with a few new tools that I didn't know I needed, but just couldn't resist. There's just something so satisfying about a fully-stocked tool rack!
But for all the traditional pottery tools I have, I have just as many that are a bit more out of the ordinary. They may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of what a potter needs, but for me they're indispensable!
1. Hem Marker
This is a seamstress' tool – designed to puff a neat, horizontal chalk line to mark where the hem of a skirt needs to be.
I use if for marking out horizontal lines on a pot before I carve it. This is particularly important for sgraffito work, where a line marked with a needle, or other tool that leaves a mark in the clay, would spoil the crisp look of your piece. Just pop your pot on a whirler, line up your marker and away you go. The chalk line burns away in the kiln and you're left with a neat, horizontal pattern.
2. Wine Glass
No, I haven't resorted to a glass of wine to get me through the day; I keep wine glasses in the studio to keep my mugs spherical.
A mug has to be handled quite a bit before it gets into the kiln – taking it off the bat after it's been thrown, trimming, handling etc. And this can lead to the rim of the mug becoming distorted. Shaping it with your hands will go some of the way, but to get it perfectly spherical again, inserting an upside wine glass into the top and giving it a twist does the job perfectly. I usually do this after trimming and handling then it can be left to dry out in it's correct shape.
3. Cheese Slice
This has got to be one of the most satisfying tools to use on leather-hard clay! I use it for faceting and when you get the clay in the perfect state – not too wet and not too dry – it slices through it like, well, cheese!
4. Metal Ruler
This is a definite favourite for me when it comes to throwing tools. I use it as a rib to create a crisp exterior profile to a piece and then again as a cutting-in tool to get that perfect shadow gap at the base. The length of it means I can run it down the height of a pot easily, and its sharp edge gives a perfectly clean line.
This is a great one for carved pieces. Carving into a pot removes lots of tiny pieces of clay and, particularly if the pot was on the wet side when it was carved, these tiny pieces have a tendency to stick around. You don't want to accidentally smudge them back into your beautiful new pot so brushing them away when the piece has dried a little is the best bet. The stiff bristles of an (old!) toothbrush are perfect for this as they will also remove those tiny burrs that are often left behind and will prevent the need for a lot of sanding later on.
So there they are; pottery tools that aren't pottery tools at all! What do you have in your studio that's a bit out of the ordinary? I'd love to hear about it!