Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Making Your Own Pottery Tools Tutorial

Do you ever sit at your work table/wheel, WISHING you had a certain tool...but not having it??  Or needing a specific size/shape for sculptural work and there's NOTHING available that will work for your needs?  Well...why not make it yourself?!?  I've seen several different tutorials put together by other potters/ceramic artists and took ideas/suggestions from each one to create my OWN way of doing things.  Keep in mind this is my FIRST attempt at making my own tools...  Still a long ways to go before they look pretty...but I'm pretty sure they'll be functional. :)

SO without further adieu...

What you will need:
Strong wire (NOT too soft..I will explain why later..) (C) ~*~ Dowels, pencils, paintbrush, chopstick, or other sturdy surface to use as the base for your wire loop tools (B) ~*~ Wire Cutters and/or Pliers with Wire Cutter (A) ~*~ Glue/Epoxy (D) ~*~ Craft Knife (E) ~*~ Mandrel/Hard object to help achieve desired shape (F)

GETTING READYGather all your supplies!  Both wires that I used were 18 gauge, however one was MUCH softer than the other.  The brown wire could EASILY be bent and formed with my hands.  It ended up being too flimsy and would break when I tried tightening the twist (you'll see what I mean further down) or was just WAY too flimsy after the shape was formed.  There's no way it would have scraped clay away while sculpting.  So you want a wire that can be easily manipulated with pliers, but once the shape is formed doesn't have a whole lot of give.  For the glue, I used E6000 epoxy.  It works well for attaching magnets to my ceramic tiles.. so I figured it would work well for this too.  Any craft knife or sharp scissors will work.  I had these mandrels on hand and this was the perfect chance for me to play with them and see how they worked.

 **NOTE - If you're not using a dowel, feel free to skip these first two steps**

STEP 1:  If using a dowel, use your craft knife/scissors to score it where you want to break it off.  I decided roughly 5-6" of dowel was plenty long for me.  Didn't want it TOO long because these tools are for detail work and I wanted to have a lot of control.

STEP 2:  Break your dowel along the scored line.  Scrape off the jagged ends if you desire.

STEP 3:  Use the pliers, or knife to "dig" a little hole in the middle of the dowel.  On hindsight..I realized this WAS NOT the best option for me.  Perhaps if I had used my Dremel to drill a deeper hole in the middle, it would have worked better.  When this didn't work, I cut 1/2" slits perpendicularly across the end of the dowel.

STEP 4:  Set the dowel aside.  Pull a length of wire and cut.  For these small loops, I found 1.5" was plenty long enough.

STEP 5:  Using the mandrel (or other hard object...or free form it if you so desire! :) ), shape the wire.  Do NOT twist the wire all the way to the ends.  You will use the ends to wrap around the dowel to help secure it.

**NOTE - DO NOT twist the wire tight on the mandrel if it is plastic.  I did...and it created indents in the mandrel.  To tighten up the twist/form, it was better to use 2 sets of pliers.  One to grip at the base of the twist, and one to grip the ends to twist it tight. **

STEP 6:  Grab your dowel(s) and "Shimmy" the loop into the cross section.  At this point, I added some glue (E6000) to the base of the wire as well as the crevices created by inserting the wire loop into the end of the dowel.

STEP 7:  With your pliers, bend the ends of the wire around the dowel to help secure it.  

STEP 8:  I applied a little more E6000 to the top 1/4" of the dowel up to the wire loop and cut another 2" of wire to "tie" the loop to the dowel.  I threaded the wire through the loop and began wrapping the wire around the dowel, clamping the ends of the wire tightly into the dowel.

STEP 9:  REPEAT!  As you can see in the pictures, I made 4 different sized wire loops.  Two medium-small shapes, one oval and one triangular; and two small shapes, long oval and tear drop shaped.  

The brown wire proved to be too brittle for this job.  But I wanted to try and see if it worked in helping secure the silver wire to the dowel.  I have yet to use these (as of 29 Dec 2013) so I'm not sure about their effectiveness... But I do think the brown wire wrapped finish looks a tad better. :) 

For this being my first time making my own tools...I'm satisfied with the outcome.  Looking forward to making some more.  Next time I think I'll use my Dremel to drill a deeper hole in the middle of the dowel...I don't think I'd have to use the wire wrapping to secure the loops.  

Have you made your own pottery tools?  Paintbrushes?  If you have, I'd love to hear what you did and how it turned out!


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