Use The Best Tool For the Job in the Pottery Studio

This is post number 3 in our series: Make the Most of Your Time in the Pottery Studio.

choose the right pottery tool

You wouldn’t try to clean a mansion with a toothbrush or harvest a field with a pair of scissors. In the same way, you don’t want to spend a bunch of extra time doing something because you’re tools (or processes) are too small or ineffective.

Find The Right Pottery Tools

I make a variety of ornaments and other items to fill small spaces in the kiln. Most of the ornaments are flat and glazed on one side. The problem is that they come in various sizes. Now, I could just use a single brush to glaze all the different sizes. The brush would be just right for some of these ornaments but it may be too big and awkward for the smaller sizes. Or the bigger ornaments may need 3 or 4 strokes if the brush is too small.

brush size
hmmm… Which brush should I use for each piece?

If I can find a brush that is just the right size for each style of ornament, I can glaze the whole piece with one stroke. That probably doesn’t sound like much but if I’m making hundreds (maybe thousands over the years) that is a lot of time saved!

Think about the things you make and the tools you use. Is there a better tool to match your work? Or could you make your own tool or have someone else make a custom tool for you?

Making an investment in the right tool can pay off in a big way.

Refine Your Processes

When I was a younger potter I used to brush on glazes out of those little pint-sized bottles. As I started making more pots, and then bigger pots, I realized that this process was just taking waaaaaay too long. Buying glaze powder, and then eventually mixing my own glazes, allowed me to make enough glaze to fill a 5 gallon bucket. That way I could dip the whole pot into the bucket and glaze a piece in a fraction of the time it took to brush on the glaze. Learning how to mix my own glazes and taking the time to do it was a big commitment at first. But the time I have saved since then has made up for it many times over.

Think about your own processes. Is there a more efficient way to do something? Is there a different technique you could learn? In a future article we will explore some different ways to complete work in batches to improve efficiency.

Take Care of Your Pottery Tools

sharpenSo, once you have the right tool (or process) for the job, make sure to take care of each tool to keep it working effectively. One simple example is to keep your trimming tools sharp. Using a sharp tool makes trimming a foot on a pot or carving lines much quicker and easier. As I trim more pots, my tools start to lose their edge and become dull. It happens so slowly that I don’t notice it for a while. Eventually, if I’m not paying attention, it may take me twice as long to trim the same foot on a pot as it would when I’m using a sharp blade.

Spending a little time every so often to sharpen my tools actually saves me time in the long run. If my production increases in the future, I may even consider getting a tungsten carbide trimming tool.

Think about all the tools you use. What can you do to keep them in tip top working condition?

What Tools Or Processes Can You Change?

Think about the pottery tools and processes you use. Would a larger brush or carving tool cut down your decorating time? Would a pugmill save you hours of wedging or reclaiming clay? Would throwing off the hump instead of centering a bunch of small balls of clay be more efficient?

throwing off the hump

Would a bison trimming tool be worth the initial cost? Some of these ideas require a big investment in money or time. But if it saves you time every time you do something, the right tool or process will make you much more efficient in the pottery studio and pay off in the long run.

Check out the original article Make the Most of Your Time in the Pottery Studio to find out how. Or read some of the previous articles in this series:

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