Electric potters wheels and kick wheels are often too expensive for the average person. Small hand-turned decorator wheels may be used for building pottery. The technique is similar to the coil-built bowl except that tools are used to help shape the piece while the wheel is spinning.

The rim covers part

PLATE XXXIX. The rim covers part of the earth in the box.

Place a ball of well-kneaded clay in the center of the spinner top. Press it down flat with the hands. It should be fully 1/2 inch thick when flattened. Select a potters tool and hold it like a pencil in the right hand. Spin the wheel. Bring the right and left hands together and brace the tool with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Place the point of the knife gently onto the center of the clay base. Holding it steady, draw it gradually to the outside of the base. The tool should always be held directly in front of the potter. The clay will tend to drag the tool to the right. Use an even pressure with the left and right hands to hold the tool steady.

Hold the knife to the right

PLATE XL. Hold the knife to the right of the piece.

The spiral which is formed by drawing the tool from the center to the outside will indicate the size of the base. Hold the potters knife in a vertical position with the sharp edge toward the potter. Steady the knife with the left hand. Support the arms by pressing the elbows against the ribs. This is the only time a tool is held at the right of the piece. See Plate XL. The tool must be held firmly or the circle will not be cut. The beginner usually tries to cut through the clay too fast. It requires some practice to be able to cut the base.

With a wire loop tool

PLATE XLI. With a wire-loop tool, cut away the high places.

To make the base level, spin the wheel. Holding a pointed wooden tool lightly against the surface, mark the uneven parts on the base. Plate XLI. With a wire loop tool, cut away the high places and continue to level the base.

The essential tools

PLATE XLII. The essential tools.

There are a number of tools one may use for pottery. The ones pictured in Plate XLII are the essential ones. A loop tool was made by wiring a piece of a saw blade to a dowel stick. Corset stays make excellent metal loops for tools.

A small bowl should be made as a practice piece. After the base has been made, bevel the edge with a wire loop tool for the first coil. Roll out a coil of clay on a zinc-covered board, a smooth table top, or a slab of plaster, marble, or slate. A painted surface is not satisfactory, since the clay will pick up the paint. Use the fingers for rolling out the coil. If the coil develops a flat side, pat it out with the hand and continue to roll. Flatten the coil slightly. Cut one end of the coil, and, after a generous amount of slip has been brushed upon the beveled edge, place the coil on the base. Press it down but do not distort the shape. Cut the end of the clay at an angle and add slip; then press the ends together.

Support the walls with the fingers

PLATE XLIII. Support the walls with the fingers.

Using the thumb, slip some of the clay from the coil across the opening to the base. Plate XLIII shows how the walls are supported with the fingers. Do not pinch or squeeze the clay.

Spin the wheel. Holding a wooden tool firmly with both hands and bracing the elbows against the waist or against the edge of the table, let the tool touch the high spots on the clay as shown in Plate XLIV. Use a wire loop tool to remove the uneven parts. When working on the outside, always work with the tool directly in front of the bowl. Holding the tool firmly, work until the piece is perfectly round. The inside is tooled in the same way that the base was smoothed.

Mark the high spots on the clay

PLATE XLIV. Mark the high spots on the clay.

If it is necessary to retard drying, cover the piece with a damp cloth while rolling out the next coil. Continue to add coils, using slip to cement them, and smooth the walls on the inside and the outside. Air spaces between the coils will cause a piece to break, so smooth the coils together carefully. Spin the wheel and tool the walls of the piece smooth after adding each coil. Care should be taken to allow the walls to stiffen slightly to support the succeeding coils. If a piece becomes hard before it is finished, no new coils can be added, since the fresh clay would shrink at a different rate and cause the jar to crack in the drying or the firing.

Cut the top of the coil off straight with a potters knife. Cut just enough off to make the coil even. Grasp the handle of the knife in the right hand with the sharp edge of the blade to the left. Bracing the elbows against the ribs, hold the tool firm with the left hand. Spin the wheel. Bending forward from the waist, gradually force the point of the knife into the wall of the clay. Do not let the knife waver. With some practice a coil can be trimmed so that the excess clay is lifted up with the knife in one continuous piece.

Make spouts, handles, and decorations of clay the same consistency as the body of the jar. The thickness of the clay should not change suddenly. The rim of the piece should be smooth and rounded. A sharp edge is unpleasant to touch, and the glaze will not adhere to it properly.