Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pottery Tool Making - First Class

I wasn't sure what to expect from the "Pots and Tools" course when I signed up for it.  The instructor, Jay, is a really handy person, he does all the technical work and even some of the construction work around the studio, and has made many of his own tools.  But he is also amazing at throwing.  So I imagined that we'd start throwing, and then along the way we'd think of some tools which would be useful, and have some diversions to make or alter our tools accordingly.

Instead, our first class was a full-on woodworking class.  Jay showed us a large variety of pottery tools, made of wood and bamboo and brass and other materials, and indicated that we'd make many of them in this course.
That seemed pretty cool.  And he had the longest and widest piece of bamboo which I'd ever seen, which we were going to cut up and shape into tools.  That was even cooler.  And there were a few power tools set up around the studio, which we were going to use.  He demo'd a few items and then told us to get started.  Wow.  I'd never really used power tools like that before.  I was a bit intimidated, and even scared that I would hurt myself.  But I soon became very hooked on the raw power and the results that they could produce.

There was a band saw, with a very narrow blade, to cut out some hand tools from planks of wood (we weren't sure what types of wood they were, but they were very fragrant).  An axe for splitting the bamboo.  A very blunt hand saw, to cut bamboo strips in the mitre box.  A dremel tool.  And my favourite, the bench top belt and disc sander.  A few of us were so hooked on this tool, that we were talking about buying one.  It looks like I could get one for about $200.  Tempting.

[ Edit : I have since discovered that the special saw is called a scroll saw, not a band saw. ]

Anyhow, here are some of the throwing tools which we made :
This one is for throwing large pots.  I haven't needed something like that yet, but who knows.  When I do, at least I'll have it.
Instead of giving it a fatter handle, like the example piece we had, I narrowed both ends, so presumably I could use either end for throwing.
Look at this sweet little throwing tool.  I was able to get these pieces quite smooth on the belt and disc sander, so I don't think they even need touching up by hand with sandpaper.  We will apply oil to finish them.  And I'll write my name on them, in large letters.  Next week.
I already have a small tool I can use for paddling, but now I have my own large paddle.  It is also beautifully smooth to hold.  I will leave one side smooth, and texture the other side.  I haven't decided how to texture it, but I wasn't sure about making the saw cuts that others were making.  I could also apply some texture, like with hot glue?  Jay is also making one which will be wrapped in string, to create a texture.  I wanted to make that one, but he encouraged me to try this simpler one first.
With the bamboo, we made this trimming / cutting tool.  It apparently holds up better to moisture than the wood tool I have (from my little pottery starter kit).  Which I should remember to sharpen next week, on the belt sander.  I spent a lot of time smoothing out the bamboo, so it wasn't too sharp to hold, and made a comfortable indent on most of my tools, where I'd be holding them.  So cool.
I made two profile tools, using the dremel to make the jagged edge.  That part was quite tricky, and hard to produce the result I wanted.  But I think these could become useful to me.  This gave me the thought that I could try the dragon scale tool that I've looked at online (the one I saw was metal, and they were selling for something like $20!).  I was pleased that I could get a pretty reasonable result, even from bamboo :
I have started two more, because I realize I want to leave the hard bamboo shell all the way to the tip (which is the part which is likely to wear out or break first), and I want to make a few different sizes of dragon scales.  This tool could be really handy for me.  Jay suggests I make a metal one.  Awesome, I would like that.
We also made some cutting wires, from nylon, from very fine brass, and from string.  I still need to add the handles to them.  One of them will be a one-handled cutting tool, specialized for cutting off the hump.

I'm excited, and can hardly wait until next class, to play with more power tools, and make more pottery tools.  I think I'll research more ideas, different shapes of tools I may want, since I want an excuse to cut and sand more wood.  :-)  It occurred to me during the class that if I were organized, I could also make tools for friends, especially my good friend Mariana, but I also know Jay, he manages to stay way ahead of us, and I'll probably have a challenge keeping up with his ideas, never mind making extras along the way.  But we'll see.

Our class was supposed to end at 1PM, but I couldn't pull myself away from the sander and dremel until about 3PM.  Which left only 2.5 hours in the open workshop.  At that point, I was happy to get my hands into clay, but didn't want to make a mess at the wheel, and spend half an hour cleaning up.  So I did some hand building.  Mainly, I spent time making a coil pot.
I used a combination of spirals which I made from coils, with smaller discs of clay stamped with my handmade coil stamps.  I think that may look fun.
I've tried a pot made just from coils, and tried joining them together, but they split apart during the bisque firing.  So this one, I used fresh clay to connect all the coils together.  So it will be smooth on the inside of the pot (I'll glaze it in a bold colour, like green or blue, I think), and textured on the outside.
If I glaze it on the outside, I think I'll keep it clear or celadon, or something that will let the clay texture show really well.  One day I want to make one which is accented with iron oxide outside, and only glazed inside.  But I'm not sure this is the one.  I'm hoping that if this coil pot works out well, it will be the first of many, since I found the process of making it very therapeutic.  Funny that a lady in the workshop commented that it would drive her crazy, doing all that fiddly work.  She sticks to throwing on the wheel.  To each their own, I guess.  That's what makes life interesting.

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