Here are 6 tools I can't go without when sitting down to throw (as well as my pottery wheel of course!) I'll let you in on my tried and true favourites. All of these products are available online if you think they might help you throwing those clay shapes.
1. Ribs - These ones aren't made out of bone but instead wood, metal and plastic. My favourites are the mud tools ribs that come in a variety of shapes and colour-coded flexibilities. I use the The 'Very soft' Red Shape 1, The 'Soft Flex' Yellow Shape 2 and The 'Medium Flex' Green Shape 4.
The Red one is great for the initial pulling and shaping, this super flexible rib is easier to work with the soft clay.
The Yellow one is more rigid, I find this better for cleaning up the shape of the thrown shape and removing all that clay slip. That sharp right angle lets you clean up the base as well.
I find the Green one is better to use when trimming, the harder polymer can actually scape the clay and act as a trimming tool to clean up and smooth the surface. I even use it as a burnishing tool on leather hard clay. Buy directly from Mudtools or most clay suppliers including Bath Potters and Scarva.
I've also used wooden ribs which depending on the type of wood, can swell and degrade. I find the best way to avoid this is to steer clear of ribs made of 'Boxwood' and instead go for a hardwood or bamboo.
There are also ribs that can create some fun textures and shapes. I use a bamboo throwing rib from Bathpotters that gives a neat and clean bee hive shape.
Also you can use Cake decorating cake scrapers, used to scrape icing away from the surface of a cake to create patterns. I bought a set from amazon and the result can be very good. They are almost awkwardly too tall but the variety in one set is fun to play around with.
2. Diddler - A strange name for a sponge on the end of a stick but there you go. Diddlers are helpful because they allow you to remove water from a vessel when the vessel is too narrow to remove it by hand with an ordinary sponge. They also allow you to remove some of the clay slip from the internal wall. Yes they are a simple design, but sometimes the best tools are. Here is the one I use.
3. Callipers -
These are great when your'e creating lidded vessels like jars and teapots to accurately measure the lid to fit the rim or internal gallery. There is no need to remember measurements like would need to do with a ruler as the measurement can be screwed tight in place. Also if you're aiming to throw multiples and you want them to be a specific width or height, go ahead and use callipers. There are several types available online at varying price points.
4. Needle tool -
5. Mirror -
Any mirror will do! Put a mirror up in front of you when throwing. Angle it so that you can see your hands on the wheel, so that when throwing you have vision of the side of your pot as well as your bird's eye view from above. This way you don't have to move your body too much when throwing to look at the side while pulling and shaping. You can just look to your mirror.
6. Hand cream -
It's easy to dry out your hands when throwing as a potter. The constant rinsing of hands, as well the silica and grog in clay is lightly abrasive. Glazes as well can act as an irritant on the skin, due to the dust, acids and alkalis that can be present. This can lead to 'work-related dermatitis' which causes painfully sore skin (so try to wear latex gloves when glazing). I use hand cream before I start working, as needed during the day and then at the end of the day. O'Keef's Working Hands Hand Cream is my preferred choice at the moment. I find it moisturises my skin well, soaks in quickly and doesn't feel oily.
Many thanks for reading!
By Christina Goodall