A pottery throwing wheel, also called a potter’s wheel, is a machine that is used by potters to create ceramic items such as vases, bowls, plates, and even lamps. The pottery throwing wheel has been used continuously for hundreds of years, and as a result there are variations in the wheels used by craftsmen.
Research has suggested that the first potter’s wheel was used anywhere between 8000 BC and 1400 BC. By 600 BC pottery wheels where used widely as a slow turning wheel that made crafting pottery by hand faster. The wheel got faster with the addition of mechanisms to “wind up” the potter’s wheel with tension to add more speed. This led to pottery being created much faster.
The potter’s wheel got improved once again in the early 1900s with the use of a flywheel on the floor that allowed the potter to use his or her feet to power the wheel’s rotations and keep their hands on the pottery. The most recent adjustment was to change the rotating floor that was essentially being kicked to propel it into a crankshaft foot paddle. The crankshaft is similar to that of a sewing machine.
Today’s Pottery Throwing Wheel
Machines that are powered manually remain popular with professional potters, however more casual potters may use electric powered pottery wheels to create their art. The manually powered potter’s wheels offer the professional potters the ability to set the speed of the wheel to precisely where they want it.
Electric powered potter’s wheels, however, only offer a limited set of speed options, but less experienced potters may lack the coordination necessary to monitor both the speed of a manual pottery wheel and work the clay.
How The Pottery Throwing Wheel Works
Every potter develops his or her own style and technique, but the basics are universal. To use a potter’s wheel, the potter will take a lump of clay and throw it onto either the top of the potter’s wheel head or a removable plaster bat. The clay is thrown so it will not move despite the wheel’s motion.
The potter then forces the clay into a cylinder using his or her hands. When the clay is a cylinder centered upon the potter’s wheel, the potter then will begin to create the vase, bowl, or other vessel by using their thumbs to drill down into the clay as the wheel spins it around for an even opening.