Ceramics Today
Home | Articles | Featured Artists | Contact | Search


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

egoto toolTo one side is the upright measure through which there is a threaded adjustable shaft of steel turned to a point on the end. To use this gauge you must measure the internal depth of what you are about to turn, then allow for the thickness of the base and the foot rim. Take this measure from the glass base to the point of the shaft of steel to measure the total height; this will leave a mark on the inverted piece pushed against it. When turning, the item, such as a bowl, is inverted over the chuck on the wheel using the middle finger of your left hand to support the bowl in the center as it is turned. It is wise to use a rubber finger protector otherwise you will soon wear away the skin on your finger. When you are satisfied with the thickness of the bowl, the final process is to use a wide brush dipped in water to smooth the surface while the bowl spins on the wheel head. This takes away the fine turning marks and leaves a clean surface that needs no further attention. If the piece is sufficiently thin you can see light through the piece held in front of a lamp after using the water brush. I like to use molded handles and spouts for cups and teapots and I make all my own molds I begin by carving the required shape and then proceed to make a slip mold. For handles I have started to make tree molds where the one mold. Holds up to four handles. This saves time. To be efficient I also make a master mold from which I can pour further molds when needed because molds deteriorate over time and must be replaced.

The making of porcelain, while precise and detailed, offers the ultimate challenge to a potter. It can use all the skills of tool making, throwing, turning and mold-making. The finished result is the ultimate reward.

Alistair Whyte is a potter from Victoria, Australia. His five-year apprenticeship in Kyoto, Japan, culminated with working under Katsuno Hirokuni during 1981–2.
Photographs by Terence Bogue, drawings by Alistair Whyte
Many thanks to Ceramics Art & Perception for the use of this article.


More Articles

© Ceramics Today