Introduction: How to Make a $50 Pottery Wheel

You can use a ceiling fan motor and a plastic bucket to make a pretty decent pottery wheel for under $50.  The most expensive part is the ceiling fan, and you can pick those up, on sale, for $30, or at a garage sale for even less.

History:  My kids were both into pottery, and really wanted a wheel.  Decent wheels are pretty expensive, but luckily a friend of mine had a Clay Boss pottery wheel, and loaned it to us for a few weeks.  We had a lot of fun with it, but alas, had to give it back.  I recently picked up an old ceiling fan that one of my neighbors was throwing away, and I realized I could use the motor to make a pottery wheel, similar to the Clay Boss.  Here is a link to my original inspiration:


got2bskilled (author)2013-09-23

I love the work and thought you put in this! ~ So, don't take this as a knock on your project-Because I am going to make a few mods and give this project a go, thanks to your inspiration!! But, I question just how safe this wheel is. And being that your kids use this, you need to know there will be a fair amount of very WET clay slip that will make its way under the wheel head and on the motor. The motor will need to be sealed somehow from the wheel head. Electrocution is not cute, lol! And I would be concerned about a finger or clothes getting hung up under the wheel head. You got my "wheels spinning" none the less!

HowToLou (author)got2bskilled2013-09-24

Hi. Thank you for your kind wording and constructive criticism. I actually did consider the proximity of water and electricity in this build. Although it may seem unprotected, the motor is covered by a "spinning umbrella". When stopped, you can pour a glass of water on the wheel and not get the motor wet, because it drips off the umbrella, and down the sides. When the wheel is spinning, the protection is even better, because the water is flung out (centrifuged) against the sides of the bucket, where it harmlessly drips down. After some use with water and slip, my motor is bone dry.

Also, ceiling fans use induction motors, which are safer around water than standard motors, because they have no commutator and brushes that segment the electrical wiring. That is, induction motors have one continuous wire, through the entire motor, so the electricity always has a good path to ground. If you look closely, inside the back end of a running hair dryer, in a dark room, you will see that it occasionally generates tiny sparks, inside the motor. This is where electrical contact is being made and broken, hundreds of times per second. You will never see these sparks inside induction motors. Incidentally, this is also why induction motors are so quiet.

I will make two safety recommendations: 1 - Plug this wheel into a GFI outlet, such as in a kitchen or bathroom or basement for extra precaution. 2 - Drill a hole in the side of the bucket, 3 inches from the bottom, to provide an overflow, should the bucket ever start to fill up with water. This is unlikely, because it would take almost a gallon to get 3 inches in the bucket, and water should evaporate between uses.

I never considered fingers getting caught. I suppose that could happen with any pottery wheel, as they all have splash shields. In the video, my wheel was a little off center, after I mounted it. I fixed this by drawing a pencil line, at the very edge, while it was running, and then trimming to that line, with a saw. This consistent edge should reduce the risk of caught fingers, because there is nothing to "grab" you. You might also want to sand and round off the edges of the wheel, so they are even less likely to catch anything.

mr_oz (author)2017-03-14

Quick question:

What power specifications does the motor u used has?

Thanks in advance!

cheers Massimo

RonW45 (author)2016-09-01

Great idea, thank you for sharing.

Emeraldharpist made it! (author)2016-05-20

I took a pottery class and was interested in making this (as budget pottery wheels cost $400 - ish). I can tell you how this will work for centering clay & etc. on my post, here,

HowToLou (author)Emeraldharpist2016-05-21

You need a more powerful fan. Also, that scraping screw takes a lot of energy from the motor. You need to get a ceiling fan with a really large wingspan. They typically have the most powerful motors. As you demonstrated, it wouldn't even start itself on the low setting.

One more thing. On your next build, you might want to include a foot controlled on off switch. These cost about $20 and are typically used to control wood router tables. You put the motor on the highest speed setting, but only turn it on with the foot switch, when your hands are on the Clay, so it doesn't spin up too fast.

Emeraldharpist (author)HowToLou2016-05-21

Thanks - I intended to put a pedal on it, but wanted to check the speed and capability/speed first. It's true -the fan I used was a smaller one. I will try an XL fan next time!

Emeraldharpist (author)2016-05-01

Is there any instructable on how I would go about attaching a sewing machine pedal plus a variac (variable controller) to control the speed? I know nothing about electrics, so I don't even know the right words to search, and I want to make sure that I'm doing the right thing! Anyone know?

HowToLou (author)Emeraldharpist2016-05-01

Actually, all you need is an on/off foot switch, and those are really easy to use. You just plug them into the outlet and plug your wheel into the switch. Look for a "momentary" or "deadman" foot switch. They cost about $20, and are typically used with power tools such as wood routers. Here is one I just found on Amazon.

This wheel runs at a good speed, if your hands are on the clay, but too fast, if not. Simply press on the pedal, when you are working, and let off otherwise.

HeatherA45 made it! (author)2016-04-13

My first project like this, it went perfectly. Thanks for making it so easy Lou

HeatherA45 (author)HeatherA452016-04-25

Motor not strong enough to work clay...

HowToLou (author)HeatherA452016-04-13

Great job!!! That looks perfect :)

Here is another way to use a ceiling fan motor, if you ars interested.

mk00 (author)2016-03-13

Is there any way to control the speed of the wheel? Great instructable! :)

HowToLou (author)mk002016-03-13

Thanks. A sewing machine pedal will work. Just a plain on/off pedal switch can work too. You want it full on when you are working the clay and slower or off when you are not.

NylaC2 (author)2016-03-01

i am 12 years old and i am going to make this tomorrow and it looks like it works we will see tomorrow #loveit

cdstudioNH (author)2016-02-04


Desert Rat (author)2015-12-14

it was going great until I tried to pull the wires through to the other side and all 4 of them pulled loose from inside the motor. now what do I do?

HowToLou (author)Desert Rat2015-12-14

Sorry, there is no way to fix that. You have to get another fan motor. Check CraigsList. Often they go for free.

Desert Rat (author)2015-12-14

it was going great until I tried to pull the wires through to the other side of the motor and three of them came loose from inside of the motor. Now what am I supposed to do?

АндрейА7 (author)2015-11-30

автор красавчик! весьма оригинальное техническое решение, приятно порадовал, спасибо.

HowToLou (author)АндрейА72015-11-30

спасибо !

Vickiboo120 (author)2015-11-09

Is their any way you could put a sewing pedle on this to control the speed

HowToLou (author)Vickiboo1202015-11-09

Yes, but it works differently than a store bought wheel speed pedal. Set the fan at it highest setting. With no hands on the wheel, it spins too fast. Adjust the sewing pedal to slow it down. As you put pressure on the clay, also adjust the pedal to give full power, so you have maximum torque to work the clay. You are not using the poedal to "set the speed". You are transferring the power from your foot to your hands and back.

FranciscoM17 (author)2015-07-29

rbusch (author)2015-06-30

excellent idea and execution of the project! i might try this and see if i cant attach a foot pedal or dial for variable speed control. other then that looks fantastic! i have thought about building one before but never considered a ceiling fan motor.

pattiemelt (author)2015-04-14

Great 'ible. I haven't thrown in years & have been trying to figure out how to build a 'portable' wheel that doesn't cost a fortune. This may be just what I need.

For foot pedals, you should be able to attach one with no problem. If you don't want to ruin your sewing machine pedal, you can buy them pretty cheap at places like Harbor Freight.

HowToLou (author)pattiemelt2015-04-14

Good idea. That should work.

hollyharlanwho made it! (author)2015-03-26

I did this one and the "how to" video was great! I never felt lost, all the important steps were there! It was a joy to build!

HowToLou (author) hollyharlanwho2015-03-27

Thank you! It looks like you did a great job!

Bren54 (author)2014-12-04

Any thoughts on using a sewing machine foot pedal to control the speed of the spin? My 11 year old granddaughter is wanting a pottery wheel and in looking for one, they are either too juvenile or toy-like, or way too expensive for a beginner.

HowToLou (author)Bren542014-12-05

A sewing machine pedal might work well, actually. When you set the wheel at a low speed and put pressure on the Clay, it tends to stop the wheel. With a pedal, you will be able to start at a low speed and push on the pedal to increase the power as you press on the Clay. If you try it, please let me know how it goes. Thanks.

susan.pinckney (author)2014-11-27

Great video, Lou. Very clear instructions.

I would like to know if there is any way to connect a foot pedal to the controller.

Do you have any ideas for creating a shroud? This is helpful in preventing the clay slip from flying off and making a mess of the surrounding area.

Once more thing if anyone is interested in taking this to the next level I might suggest adding pins for using bats (removable plates). You could make your own out of plywood or a weatherproof composite like Azek.

HowToLou (author)susan.pinckney2014-11-28

Hi Susan. - I have not tried to connect a foot pedal, but I have found that a variac (variable transformer) is the best way to control the speed without losing power. I think a foot pedal would have to be mounted to a variac, so you could tilt it with your foot. Here is a mock up picture.

Part of the design was to put the wheel a little below the top edge of the bucket, so that the slip would hit the inside of the bucket and drip down. I had no water or slip fly off, as I used it.. The removable bats is a great idea, and could easily be done. Thanks.

Shoyun (author)2014-05-11

Wow, thank you very much. Your instructions are very clear and sensed ! I will try this as soon as possible ;)

longwinters (author)2013-09-15

If motor speed is a concern check into a pulse drive speed control they are not expensive
They work by supplying full voltage in pulses instead of just lowering the input voltage so you maintain full torque at a lower speed instead of lower speed and lower torque
Ramsey electronics sells kits because of the high power low RPM of those motors I think they would respond well to that type of speed control

HowToLou (author)longwinters2013-09-16

longwinters - Thanks for that idea. I searched for ceiling fan speed controllers, as I knew they would be a sure match. I found several, but none specifically say Pulse Width Modulated. Still looking...

rimar2000 (author)2013-09-13

Isn't it too fast the motor?

HowToLou (author)rimar20002013-09-14

There are 3 speed settings. You can also get a variable speed fan control, if you like.

rimar2000 (author)HowToLou2013-09-15

Yes, I know that. That I said is i think that the lowest speed is too fast for pottery, but I am not sure because I never did it. ¿What is the nominal wattage of the motor? I ask it because maybe it could be suitable for a wood lathe.

HowToLou (author)rimar20002013-09-15

I think it is a little fast, but I have used it several times, just fine. Actually, my first thought was to make a lathe, but both my kids are into pottery, so I did this, first. The motor is only 100 watts, so it would make a pretty weak lathe, but for a $30 motor, it is better than nothing.

carlos66ba (author)2013-09-14

VERY NICE! (I saw it first in the hackaday site). A few suggestions:

1) Ground the body of the motor.
2) Use a GFI device.
3) Make a few holes in the bottom of the bucket so that any water can drain out.
4) Add a fan speed controller to change the motor speed.
5) As the wheel spins, consider using a lathe-like tool to scrap the outer rim of the wheel so that you end up with a "perfect" circle (will avoid wobbles in the long run).

1+2 will improve safety tremendously.
3+4+5 are quite useful, potentially

Now I really want to make it (even though I know nothing of pottery!). :)

HowToLou (author)carlos66ba2013-09-14

Excellent suggestions!
1 - Yes, I agree. Use a three wire cord and ground to metal plate on spindle.
2 - I think the "spinning umbrella" above the motor will keep it dry, but GFI can't hurt.
3 - Maybe drill holes 3 inches up the sides. Most water will just dry out. There is no point dripping all the time, if you don't have to.
4 - Cool!
5 - Already did that! Actually, I ran a pencil on the outer rim, while it ran, and then band sawed it to a perfectly centered circle. I tried a dremel, on the fly, but it was taking way too long.

jjdebenedictis (author)2013-09-13

Freakin' brilliant! Fantastic video, too; very clear and helpful and yet concise.

Lectric Wizard (author)2013-09-13

Great idea, but might I suggest you ALWAYS plug it into a GFI outlet since your using water on top of an open motor.!!

HowToLou (author)Lectric Wizard2013-09-13

Since the wheel spins and centrifuges the water to the side of the bucket, it it pretty safe, but sure, a GFI outlet is a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

TheMrCOOLguy2 (author)2013-09-13


lostbord999 (author)2013-09-13

Simply amazing! Thanks for the Video!

FletchINKy (author)2013-09-13

Very slick! Great planning and execution!

Great idea using the fan motor since it has the variable speed and all the mounting points.

azharz (author)2013-09-13

I am going to make it! Very nice

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