If you are experienced with pottery and want to get better, it’s a no-brainer to get a pottery wheel.
More importantly, you have to make sure that you purchase a wheel that matches all you needs.
Some wheels are more tricked out than others, which may throw you off if you’re just beginning your journey in pottery making.
So to help you navigate your way through the the choices that are available to you, here’s a primer on how to buy a pottery wheel that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
The All Important Wheel Type
Pottery wheels come in two basic types;
- electric wheel
An electric wheel is typically more powerful and faster than a kick-wheel, which of course is subject to your own strength.
If you’re at an advanced skill level, an electric wheel may make more sense because you’re likely trying to create as many works as possible in the shortest period of time.
But even if you’re a beginner, you can still benefit from an electric wheel.
Instead of trying to learn how to kick a wheel properly, you can focus on wheel throwing techniques.
Electric wheels are compact, so they’re easier to move than the kick-wheels, which are quite heavy. You also have to control an electronic wheel with a pedal which is difficult to get used to because it is very sensitive.
On very small hobby style potter’s wheels, it may not have a pedal to adjust the speed.
It may require adjustments with a knob which can be difficult itself because if you are in the middle of throwing ceramic tea light holders or something else, you have to lay off it and adjust the knob to the proper speed and then resume.
Now, an electric wheel is also noisy but innovations have made them quieter than in the past. But still a factor if you like to work in quiet conditions.
The good ol’ kick-wheel is the traditional wheel that you’ve probably seen on TV shows and in movies.
It’s much heavier than an electric wheel, but it’s also more tactile. It’s your strength and power that controls the turns so you can complete control.
The big advantage with kick-wheels is that it is much cheaper than electric wheels and won’t break because there are no mechanical parts.
But they also weigh a lot more.
Some as many as 300 pounds, which means that wherever you position the kick-wheel, you have to leave it there for a long time as portability is limited.
Kick-wheels are extremely durable and are built to last a lifetime.
The Wheel Design is Also Important
Some wheels offer a table attachment that provides you with more room while you’re working.
Other wheels also include areas where you can place water buckets and clay containers.
Think about your needs all the time. Don’t just buy something because you like it or because it’s a pretty color.
When you are throwing clay, the last thing you want to do is constantly get up to get tools from here and there, simply because the wheel wasn’t designed for your needs.
Space is also important. Decide what kind of space you need so that you can buy a wheel that offers you the characteristics you need.
For example, some work tables are built in front, and others are off to the side.
Depending on how you like to work, you may find that a side table is more ideal for your creative process.
Other considerations are whether you want a splash plan to catch water when you throw the clay.
A table with a height adjustment that can allow you to work even while standing and a reverse rotation function is also a neat feature to have.
This is where the can spin clockwise and counter-clockwise depending on what’s most comfortable for you.
The Wheel Head Size Makes a Huge Difference
The wheel-head is the flat metal surface of the wheel that holds the actual clay.
If you’re going to be throwing large pieces of clay, you definitely want to buy a wheel that has a larger diameter size.
Again, it comes down to knowing your needs.
- Are you doing this just for fun and for visual ceramic arts projects?
- Are you making big gardening pots?
- Just planning for craft days with your children?
The diameter of the average wheel-head is 12 inches, which can handle most small-scale pottery.
But if you’re throwing 35 or 40 pounds of clay, you’ll probably need a wheel-head that’s 14, 15 or 16 inches in diameter to meet your needs.
Bats are Great
Not a batman type bat, or a baseball bat.
Bats in pottery are plates that you place on the wheel head and when you can throw the clay.
Bat discs allow you to remove your pottery from the wheel damaging it.
If you’ve tried removing a centerpiece that you just spent 3 hours creating, it can be very difficult. When you try to remove it off the wheel head, it’s heart breaking if you accidentally break or crush it simply because it wouldn’t come off the wheel head.
Bats are also handy when it comes time to return the pottery onto the wheel for further work.
The majority of wheels are built with bat-pin holes to hold the pan in place. You can also buy pins to more securely hold the bats in place, though in the absence of pins, you can use a bit of clay to do the job as well.
Bats are available in different material such as plastic, wood and plaster. Common bat sizes are 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch.
Determine your needs by deciding what size pottery you’ll be making.
If you’re not certain, you can always buy two different sizes just to ensure that you’ve covered your bases.
Quick Video Overview
Here’s a quick video introducing you to potters wheels.
Find this Pottery Buying Guide Useful?
By considering these factors, you’ll be much better equipped to know what kind of wheel is ideal for your use, while also taking into account budget and available work space.
I hope you find this guide useful in helping you determine the best pottery wheel for your needs.