How to Make a $50 Pottery Wheel





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:

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41 Discussions

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!

1 reply

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.


1 year ago

Quick question:

What power specifications does the motor u used has?

Thanks in advance!

cheers Massimo


1 year ago

Great idea, thank you for sharing.

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?

1 reply

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.


2 years ago

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

1 reply

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.


2 years ago

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

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?

1 reply

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

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?

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

1 reply

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

1 reply

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.

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.

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.