Introduction: How to Make Interesting Mug Handles

I have been throwing pots for over 20 years, and have particularly enjoyed making mugs of all different styles and sizes. I was taught a method of making handles that spoke to me-easier and quicker than pulling handles, and offering a great deal of variety. No two are exactly the same! I sell my pieces, and give some as gifts, and these handles always seem to draw attention. This Instructable is intended for people who are already fairly proficient at throwing, and will not contain techniques for mug throwing or styling. It is strictly for the designing, making, and attaching of unusual handles.

Step 1: Tiles

At my pottery studio, one of the potters created these two tiles that are about five inches across. They were made with symmetrical ridges and the two are identical. I like to lay one on a bat with padding so they don't slip when I use them. These types of tiles may very well be accessible from Home Depot or a garden store. The main feature to look for are the ridge lines on the back.

Step 2: Get Your Mugs Ready

These mugs have been slowly dried to leather-hard over a two-three week period. They have just been trimmed and each has a nice foot. They are ready to have handles added to them.

Step 3: Prepare Your Clay

Take a small piece of clay, as seen in the picture, and roll it into an egg-shaped ball. Be sure it is compressed enough so that there are no air bubbles in the clay.

Step 4: Roll a Cylinder

Roll the clay on a table to be about 4"-5", and slightly tapering at one end. This will be a bit longer than the final handle. If you have trouble rolling it evenly, don't worry, just start again.

Step 5: Getting Ready to Roll

Place the cylinder on the tile in the position that you please. Different orientations of either tile will make different patterns emerge. There are four basic patterns (sorry I don't have pictures of all of them), a spiral, stripes, and two types of criss-crossing.

Step 6: Rolling Technique

I like to roll the cylinders about two times with even, steady pressure. If you do it too hard, you will lose the roundness, and too soft, you won't quite get the depth of the pattern. Try to maintain a bit of the taper.

Step 7: Flatten the Underside

I like to throw the patterned handle onto a table, which flattens the area the will eventually be on the inside of the handle. This makes it a bit more comfortable to hold when it is completely done.

Step 8: Cut the Handle to Size

Use a needle tool to cut both ends of the handle. The size would depend on the size of the mug, and your preference for the final look. Generally 3 1/2"-4" works for me.

Step 9: Score the Mugs

Use a needle tool to score your mugs at both points where your handles will attach. Add a bit of water to each spot to make a nice slip.

Step 10: Shape and Score Your Mugs

Pre-shape your handle to approximate the final look. Score and add a few drops of water to both ends of the handle.

Step 11: Attach the Handle

Firmly attach the top and then the bottom of the handle to the mug. Look at it from the side and make adjustments to the shape in a way that suits you. Add a few drops of water to smooth around the the two attachment points for strength and to avoid rough spots.

Step 12: Additional Tips

When I use porcelain, I sometimes have issues with shrinkage and cracking. The handle wants to shrink faster than the mug. To avoid this, I usually brush wax onto all parts of the handle and cover with plastic loosely, for another one or two weeks. This tends to slow down the shrinkage and minimize this problem. I haven't had this issue with other types of clay. Once they seem dry, they are ready for bisque-firing and then glazing. You will discover which glazes highlight your handles best!

Step 13: Enjoy Your Beautiful Mugs With Exotic Handles!

Have fun experimenting with all of the possibilities. I don't know how to make the tiles, but they seem to be manageable with a slab roller and something with a simple ridge-like pattern that could be pressed into it. I really enjoy them, and on a good night of pottery (what other kind is there?) I can trim and add handles to 12-15 mugs in a four-hour period. I wold love to find out if anyone makes tiles with different lines to expand on these possibilities!

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