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.


5. Toothbrush

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!







  • Potato peeler
    Shower cap ( keeps smaller pieces damp)

  • I use an expired credit card to keep the bottom (inside) of my plates flat & smooth and a veggie peeler to shave large bowls to reduce their weight.

  • Love the wine glass and cheese slicer tricks! Thanks for sharing.

  • a lot of my cake decorating tools have found space in my pottery tool kit. They are cheap to replace if I need a new one for cake decorating. Pottery tools are hard to come by without going to Amazon, the the few that art supply stores tend to be more expensive than what Wilton has to offer in the cake decorating section at Walmart.

  • I recently joined a seniors pottery club with a shared kiln. Two weeks after I started, we embarked on a fundraiser to upgrade the kiln. We each had to make 5 chili bowls to a specific size with only a short deadline — intimidating for a beginner. Then I caught a cold and had to take my clay home to work on the project. No tools! I found an old orange peeler my dad had left behind when he moved into extended care. It’s great for carving and shaping the clay.

    Shelley Penner

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