Syllabus: Wheel Throwing Skills
Step by step from beginner to advanced potter.
Each step can be accomplished in a 3 hour class.
Each step should be revisited often.
Once a week – average time span is 2 years.
Finish the syllabus to receive a certificate for your resume.
(this syllabus does not include decoration or glazing)
1 lb Bowls – Beginner Potter
Weigh out a pound of clay and knead it using the “ram’s head” method. Prepare the wheel and throw down the clay. Center the clay, drop the hole, open the bottom and raise the wall. Finish the form into a half circle so that it is as wide as it is high on the inside. Smooth the lip, trim the bottom with a stick, then wire cut and lift your pot to the table. Make another one.
1 lb Cylinders
Weigh out a few 1 lb lumps of clay and center as you did with the bowls. When the hole is dropped the bottom is opened flat and compressed. Raise the wall straight up to a height equal to the width of the bottom. Smooth the rim, remove the water inside and wire cut and lift off the wheel.
Trimming Bowls and Cylinders
Dry pots to the “leather hard” state and place upside down on the wheel. Center and steady the pot with soft clay. Trim the excess clay from the bottom of the pot as the wheel spins. Remove the pot, feel it, and trim again if necessary. Take your trimmings home and recycle.
2 lb Bowls
You can mix your recycled clay with new clay if you wish. Weigh out a few lumps and knead well. Improve pressure and hand positions skills and raise the wall with three “pulls”. The inside of the form is more important than the outside.
2 lb Cylinders
Continue to learn to knead and center your clay better with each attempt. Drop the hole, widen the bottom and compress it with your fingers before you raise the wall. First “pull” raises the wall most of the way up, second “pull” to make it thinner and higher, third “pull” to define the desired form. Use a potter’s rib to smooth and straighten the outside of the wall.
Trimming 2 lb Bowls and Cylinders
Weigh your pots before and after trimming. Recognize the range of hardness due to drying and improve your hand positions to steady the tool and the spinning pot. Trim the outside and bottom to match the inside of the form. Trim a foot ring in the bowls and a flat bottom for the cylinders. Recycle your clay at home.
1 ½ lb Mugs
Knead a few 1 ½ lb lumps of clay and throw the cylinder form. Change the cylinder to a mug form you desire on the last pull. Mugs are the most commonly useful and desirable pottery made by hand. Everyone has a favourite mug at home.
Trimming and Handles for Mugs
Learning to “pull” handles from a lump of clay. Bending them to form and allow them to dry a little while trimming your mugs. Attach handles. Understanding the relationship between the handle and the mug in size and comfort.
4 lb Bowls and Cylinders
Continue to improve your skills with double the clay. Learn to “spiral knead” your clay. Bowls can be wider and rims can be flared as desired. Cylinders can be pressed out to form a belly and rims can be defined in various ways. Explore variations of a form.
Trimming 4 lb Bowls and Cylinders
Make a clay “cookie” for the wheel to help keep the pots in place and prevent damage to the rims. Try using a larger trim tool. Weigh your pots before and after.
Throwing bowls “Off the Hump”
Knead a 4 lb lump of clay and center it on the wheel. Learn to throw small bowls from the top of the spinning clay.
4 lb Lidded Jars
Knead a 4 lb ball of clay and center it. Throw a lid “off the hump” and throw a cylinder jar with the remaining clay. There are a variety of ways to fit a lid on a jar, Make a few.
3 lb Plates
Learn to attach a wooden bat to the wheel with clay and throw a plate. Centering clay on a bat is more difficult than directly on the wheel head. Removing a thrown plate from the wheel is easy when using a bat. Wire cut the plate from the bat before it dries, but don’t remove the plate from the bat until it is “leather hard”.
Trimming Lidded Jars and Plates
These forms are more difficult to trim than simple bowls and cylinders. Be careful to dry to the correct state of hardness before trimming. Try to keep an even thickness of wall when finished. Make sure the lids fit the jars and add a knob if needed. Weigh your pots before and after.
4 lb Jugs
Throw the cylinder, give it a belly if desired..Pull out the lip to form a spout.
Trimming Jugs and making Handles
Weigh before and after. Pull a handle and let it dry while you trim your jug. Center the upside down jug on the wheel and steady it with soft clay. Attach the handle.
4 lb Bottles and Vases
Throw a cylinder, widen the belly and close in the neck to form a bottle or vase.
Trimming Bottles and Vases
Make a “chuck” with soft clay to support the pot while trimming.
4 lb Teapots
Spiral knead your clay. Throw a lid and spout “off the hump” and throw the body of the teapot with the remaining clay. Teapots come in a variety of forms.
Teapots – Trimming, Handles, Spouts
Pull a handle and let it dry while you trim your pot. Use soft clay to support the pot while trimming. Trim the lid to fit the pot. Cut the spout with a knife, attach it to the body and finally attach the handle. The teapot is the potters greatest challenge.
5 – 10 lb Pots
Pound by pound work your way up to throwing 10 lbs on the wheel. Make a variety of forms including the bowl and cylinder. Throw the pots as large and thin as possible. Improve your spiral kneading, centering. dropping the hole, opening the bottom and raising the wall with 3 pulls.
Trimming 5 – 10 lb Pots
Weigh your pots before and after trimming. Use a soft clay cookie on the wheel to support and cushion the large pots for trimming. Trim your forms to evenly match the contour of the inside of the forms.
Altered Forms – Advanced Potter
Throw some forms and alter them. Pinch the lips, or press in to make it oval or squared. Bend the forms, twist the forms, cut the forms. Attach forms together to create sculpture.