Introduction: Make a Quick and Simple Pottery Wheel

Watching a potter throwing clay on the wheel is a magical performance.  Read on to find out how you can make a simple pottery wheel and begin throwing right away. If your aim as an artist is to create highly individual pieces this type of pottery wheel will be perfect for you.

Just grab a 360-degree rotating mop bucket and you'll be done in 10 minutes, using few items from around the house. It is inexpensive and works just as efficiently as any pottery wheel. I'm now able to centre, throw and turn quite well with this mop bucket pottery wheel. After fixing the wobbles, centering is now automatic thanks to the concentric circles on the pot plant tray.

Inexpensive, light-weight, portable and takes up little room. What's great it is there is no soldering involved and no heavy machinery and is run by foot-power.  The best part is no electricity necessary.  

Here is a short compilation of all my videos after learning to throw on the mop bucket pottery wheel after 50 throws in 14 days.




Here's my latest attempt throwing my found clay paperclay body



 

Step 1: Grab Your Materials

What you need is:

360 degree mop bucket
Plastic pots or bins to raise the height of your throwing wheel
Plastic pot drip tray
Strong glue such as polyurethane glue or hot glue gun
Spirit level 

Here's a video of the first day of construction and throwing attempts on the first design.
Everything was wild and wonky until I had some help with how to fix the wobbles.






Step 2: Glue Everything in Place

Surprisingly lightweight materials worked well together once I filled the bottom spin bucket with small stones. I placed the weights around the central hub and somehow this helped slow the spin down a lot as it was moving too fast and wobbling wildly out of control. Not all 360 hurricane mop buckets are created equal however. Some have better gears than other and work smoothly.

Glue all bucket and throwing trays in an suitable size order. Use a spirit level to check everything is level. Unless you intentionally plan to make wonky items - sometimes they have more 'personality' to them.

This pottery wheel contraption may be re-designed in many ways. Its up to your personal taste. You need to find buckets and flowerpot trays that will reach the height you feel most comfortable pedaling with. If you need to readjust your design the hot glues are easy to remove by spraying some lysol spirit and a pair of pliers.

If the wheel is below waist level, you can use leverage and your body weight to assist you when lifting the walls. This way it places your whole body more ergonomically and avoid back pain.


 

 

Step 3: Start Throwing - Examples

Initially I started with a firm lump of clay, it was really difficult to shape. Also the taller the wheel got the more it wobbled. I looked underneath the mop bucket and noticed the pieces were unevenly screwed together.

I removed the buckets and arranged the buckets differently and placed small stones and sand in the inner spin bucket. Now everything is more stable. The wobble is still there especially when going too fast - however my throwing is improving and it is working quietly and such a pleasure to throw with (day 14).

I used pliable and prepared brown stoneware clay from the pottery supplier to practice throwing the second time on the mop bucket pottery wheel. You may wish to dig for your own if its readily available in your backyard - here's avideo about preparing found clay the easy way.



 

Step 4: Coil Throwing Method

Asian methods of starting to throw clay are to start of with a thick coil pot built directly on the wheel. After watching the method used by Korean and Japanese potters, I decided to try throwing that way. Their method conserves energy, saves water and clay wastage.

The Coil Throwing Method:

1. Roll or hammer a round slab on the wheel
2. Join a very thick coil pot - about two rounds.
3. Spin the wheel slowly and begin to throw this way.

Below is an example of how I threw a biscuit jar lid and cup (Day 3).
I started with a coil pot and pinch pot and throwing on my mop bucket pottery wheel.






 


Step 5: Firing Your Clay

How can you vitrify your clay creations if you do not have access to a kiln?

A couple of inventors have sucessfully used a clay rocket oven to fire bricks.  A Rocket Oven uses little fuel yet is capable of maintaining temperatures up to 1200F (and greater) degrees. 

There is little smoke and your clay creations will become durable. (You could probably make this by lining clay in a bbq that has a hole in the bottom).

Watch below for how you can make aRocket Oven and use it as a kiln. (Notice that the inventors placed a deflector plate between the flame from the rocket stove below inside the cooking chamber to prevent scorching food).

A New Zealand Potter (named Peter) built seven different wood-fired kilns before finding success with design number seven. The first reached over 1000 degrees celsius within two hours, exploding all his pyrometric cones with the rapid firing.

Another option if clay which some might like to try is theRocket Barrel Bread Oven which can easily be used instead as a kiln. The materials include a metal rocket stove below a metal barrel and a chimmeny. It combines theInstitutional Rocket Stove chamber which uses very little wood to reach 1100 degrees celsius - hot enough for a glaze and bisque fire. (Watch how it's made here)

An extremely high powered gasifier type stove by Vuthisa (click on the Blog, then scroll near 3/4 end of page) which reaches 1300 degrees celsius (within 10 minutes) cone 8-10 fire stoneware! please wear eye protection, at this temps difficult to peer inside cooking chamber. The firebrick is made of grog, light coloured refractory clay, Al2O3 Aluminium_oxide / alumina, Fe2O3 iron (III) oxide, SiO2  silicon dioxide, also known as silica, Calcium oxide (CaO), quicklime.

A third idea might be using a collapsible metal camp oven over a bbq or rocket stove to bisque fire small items. 

A fourth idea is a barrel type kiln using sawdust and another example here 

The heat chart is below for reference taken from here

 

 

Step 6: Top Clay Tips & Techniques

I've compiled over 100 pages of videos which help me re-learn to throw and get back into clay.
Its a time-saver where you can print out all the videos and glance at them in minutes rather than having to watch hours of video.
It's helpful for visual learners as well.

Comments

author
ChristinaM108 (author)2016-09-08

pretty clever

author
JJisblue (author)2015-12-17

Thank you so much for posting!!!!!! I am disabled and have been looking for something to help my hands and be creative. Pottery came to mind but the tools to do it were too expensive. You posting this has made it possible for me to start. Thanks again :) oh, and the pictures of products needed help a lot!

author
Deepford_UK (author)2013-10-06

I could sing of His love forever too! So blessed you posted this, and with such a fabulous song. I am involved in "messy church" which is held after school on Fridays and I shall make these one week and we shall use them from then on.
In spirit and truth,
Anna.

author
ladyskelton (author)Deepford_UK2015-09-19

I love that song! Such a great reminder in the middle of my day of Jesus' love! also this idea is a little genius! i hope it works well for your church functions! have a blessed weekend!

author
Gomi Romi (author)Deepford_UK2013-10-09

Thanks for your comment! I was so glad that this bucket worked so I chose a really upbeat lighthearted song. I'm looking at designing a different design next after learning about and building spinning wheels.

author
dominika.crhlik (author)2015-04-16

Hi there :) I really like your idea and would like to make one of my own but your video is quite artistic so I couldn't really understand what you actually did. If you have a clear step by step video for dummies like me, it would be so helpful! :)

author
Art1980 (author)2015-04-12

This idea is amazing. I have found a plastic pot drip tray and a glass chopping board that fits perfectly inside the tray. But before I buy the mop bucket do you think that the glass chopping board would be good to weigh the tray down to make it more steady?

Thank you for sharing this!

author
Gomi Romi (author)Art19802015-04-14

I think the glass chopping board would crack. How about bricks or stones? They work for me. However, I'm thinking of another design that doesn't need a mop bucket. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKgQKv7qs1Q) Other options would be a banding wheel for pottery. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGKqvZAD5u7WMldBjUXEiU_yX8mA4YK0m

author
redzepplinrob (author)2014-01-21

what makes it spin?

author
Gomi Romi (author)redzepplinrob2014-01-31

When you pedal the mop bucket it spins!

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