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Tools and Tool Making for Porcelain
Alistair Whyte describes the procedure he uses for making tools and throwing porcelain

In a medium such as hand-thrown porcelain, the use of tools can be major part of the making process. Unlike throwing in stoneware or earthenware, porcelain is less plastic and this requires more precise skill and understanding of its qualities. In this article I consider:

  • The initial design process
  • What tools are required?
  • Which wood to use?
  • Making tools the right size – measures and shrinkage considerations
  • The making process
  • The making of firing pads for glaze firing  to fit their purpose
  • Molds used in association with throwing
  • The making of molds
kote and hera tools
kote and hera tools

My experience comes from years spent in Kyoto, Japan, where porcelain is finely potted and where each shape has its own distinct set of tools. In the workshop of my master, Katsuno Hirokuni, in Kyoto, I began with the task of making the firing pads (tochin) which are used to prevent warping of fine wares in the glaze firing. This was a vital exercise because I learnt the use of the bamboo knife and the basic throwing principles of porcelain. As my experience grew, I was given other shapes to make which involved making the tools used in the forming process. Because I had originally learnt my throwing in Australia, I had used the potters’ wheel anti-clockwise (the opposite direction to the Japanese) so this meant that I had to remake any tools I needed to suit my direction of throwing. It was a great training period because I had the opportunity to learn tool-making from the masters of this art. Many hours were spent making tools before I was able to embark on a new shape. Beauty comes from within.

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