Monday, January 17, 2011


slab roller with two other essential tools
I use these tools so often I rarely think about how indispensable they are. 
One of our concerns when designing/building our studio was the potter's disease, silicosis, which is caused by dust inhalation, specifically silica dust. We installed a whole house vacuum because the unit containing the motor can be placed outside the studio, carrying the dust and particulates away without lofting all the tiny silica dust particles into my lungs. When I am carving clay I find myself constantly turning the vacuum on and off to suck up the bits of manganese and cobalt-coated slip that powder and float all about. I have had to replace the switch twice, but the trusty motor keeps chugging along. It has the additional advantage, being located outside in the shed, of quiet operation. Because I really hate wearing masks, I would probably be on a respirator by now without it.
The other tool pictured is a cutting bow. I have two sizes, this is the smaller one. 
there is a wire across the base of the bow
I take a block of clay and slice a uniform slab from the bottom by dragging the cutting bow through.
thin flat slab
Initially, I adjust the size and shape of the block to suit the size of the piece I plan to make. This saves on recycling scrap clay. The height of the wire can also be adjusted up or down to make a thinner or thicker slab.
thin square-ish slab
sheetrock tool
This is perfect for removing the canvas texture from the slab, although sometimes I leave it textured on purpose. I am currently obsessed with Japanese textiles and am putting fabric patterns on the blue & white tableware. I like the subtle play of the ghost of the canvas weave underneath the glaze and decoration, so I don't remove all of it.

hand-built plates


  1. Hi Barb, Neat to see some of the process and tools. I could use a vac. in my studio. That's a life saver for sure. Plates look great and thanks for the link to SriThreads. Wow!

  2. One other valuable tool I'd add in the effort to minimize dust is a garden sprayer. Before I ever sit down to throw pots I like to pre-moisten the area on and around the wheel. It's also handy for quickly spraying whole table and ware carts full of greenware.

  3. Another commentator on facebook said:
    Simon Leach sprays his apron several times a day to keep the dust down and away from being under his nose, a good habit to get into as well.

  4. Also, I think I meant to say 'ventilator' instead of 'respirator'


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