How to Build a Variable Speed Pottery Wheel.




1. I am not a pottery expert. ( heck Im no good at all truth be told. So if after reading this you want to learn more about pottery work your going to need to ask someone else.

2. We well be working with electricity that is going to be around water. Please keep this in mind as you build it as I will not be responsible for turning you into a light bulb.

3. I will be walking you through the steps that I did with the parts I used. That being said this is not a one size fit all instructable.

4. This is my first instructable and mean comments will probably make me pout.

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Step 1: Some Goodies to Gather.

Alright here we go. This is my basic parts list.

3/8 drill bit

Hand full of drywall screws
Old sewing machine pedal
Old drill
Some wire nuts
Silicone caulk
�carriage bolt and nuts
12 lazy Suzan ( I bought mine at target for eight dollars.)
Extension cord receptacles

Step 2: There Is a Hole in My Bucket Dear Liza !

This is one of the easier steps as most five gallon buckets have a convenient mark where the center of the bucket is. Where the little moulding mark is drill a 3/8" hole.
Then about 3/4 of the way down the bucket drill a 1/2" hole for your cord to go though.

Step 3: Now for Fun With the Powered Bit.

Alright this is where things can go wrong.
The first thing you need to do is match the voltage and amperage of the drill and foot pedal from the sewing machine. The easy way to do this is look for the detail plates on them. Somewhere on there it will tell you this very important information.
Why is this important you may ask? Well if your foot pedal is rated at a lower amperage than your drill it is liable to overheat and release the magic black smoke from the peddle if not catch on fire!
In my case the peddle is rated at 25 amps and the drill is 2 amps leaving me a little wiggle room.

Step 4: Open Plug Surgery.

First mark the middle two wires with a piece of tape or a sharpy. these two wires will be rejoined later.

Whack chop time. Cut the old foot pedal plug end off that went to the sewing machine. This should leave you with two piles of goodies. One of them will be the power plug end and the other well be the foot pedal. Thread all the wires though the hole you drilled in the side of the bucket.

Remember those two wires I said to mark? Twist them together and wire nut them. Because there is the possibility that it could get wet I added a little silicon to seal the connection. Next take the last two wires and wire them into a water tight female extension cord plug. One wire to the copper colored screw and one to the silver colored screw. What to do with the poor green screw? well in my case nothing the foot pedal I was working with had no ground wire and also was not polarized.

This is where it is important to remember I am not an electrician. Because this circuit will be living under a bucket that may have water dripping down it is worth while to take extra care to seal your connections and properly connect ground. I thought about trying to wire in a GFCI switch but was not sure if it would work with the variable speed control. My unit at home is plugged into a GFCI.

So lets continue. Now is a great time to test to make sure that everything is working properly. Plug your new variable speed drill control into the wall and your drill into the new receptacle. Hold down the trigger and slowly step on or press the trigger. The drill should speed up and slow down as you work the pedal. If it does not check your connections and retest.

Step 5: Making the Spinney Bit of the Pottery Wheel.

Now its time to break out the lazy Susan. Once again there is a molding mark dead center in the one I am using also it turned out that the bottom part of the pivot is a cap. After you drill a � in the middle of the lazy Susan remove the cover plug.
From the top side of your lazy Susan push through your �carriage bolt. Turn over the turn table and you should see where there is space around the bolt down in the pivot. This is a good place to shoot a little silicone. Now slide the cape down the bolt and seat it back in its home.
Time to dig around the shop and find those two !/4" nuts you know you have. Put the first one on and tighten it until you sink the �carriage bolt flush with the top of the lazy Susan. Here is where I am trying to head off a small problem created by this old Craftsman drill I am using. It has no reverse. This means as the drill runs it will be trying to loosen the bolt. As far as I can tell there are a couple of ways to deal with this.
One- find a different drill.
Two- use a left handed bolt and nut.
Three- find some way to permanently set the nuts in place.

I went with three. After I put on the first nut I peaned it in place with a punch and hammer. Then added a second nut as a jam nut peaned it in place and then added a drop of silicon just for good measure.

Step 6: Putting It All Together.

Here is where anyone else doing this project is going to need a fair bit of ingenuity. Mounting the drill centered and at a right angle to the bottom of the bucket. In my case I got lucky and there was a mounting bracket in the drill case that I could use for this project. Some times its better to be lucky than good.

To line up the drill with the 3/8 hole that was drilled in the bucket earlier I simply used a short piece of 2x4 wood shim and some drywall screws.

Apply a liberal amount of silicone to the back of the lazy Suzan and place it on top of the bucket in such a way that the bolt goes into the chuck of the drill. Tighten the chuck.

Plug the drill into the peddle receptacle.

Pull the trigger on the drill and lock it in the full on position.

Step 7: Let the Fun Began!

Now that you have a fully assembled unit, test for operation. Then after your silicone dries unplug the unit and spray it gently with water and look for leaks. If there are leaks, fill with silicon.

Great, now that you have made a awesomely cool pottery wheel, go make something with it.

Edit 8/10/09

Tested unit using clay today and it worked very well but I would like to suggest a couple of changes.

1. A speed inhibiter in the way of a small block in the peddle other wise you can throw the clay a good 12’. While this is fun it dose not make good pots.

2. We used this for a good 2hr strait and when I turned the unit over to check for water the drill was very hot. I have put a couple of wood blocks under the bucket to allow for some air movement.

3. Using a drill heaver than a ¼ inch drive would probable be a good idea. This unit is working but when the wheel is put under heavy load you can hear it strain.

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    19 Discussions


    10 years ago

    This is a great Instructable, but you need to add a main image of the final project to the intro step. Please do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago

    Thank you for looking it over. I have added the pic and have it ready to be published


    Question 7 months ago on Introduction

    How do you slow the wheel down? My husband is building a pottery wheel with a treadmill motor. However, it goes very fast. Any ideas on how to slow it down?


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Curious question... If you put the silicon on the bottom of the lazy susan before attaching it to the bucket, how is the wheel spinning properly when in use?

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 7

    The bolt goes through the center to the top part of the lazy susan. Only the top part spins and the base is stationary.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 7

    Gotcha, that makes much more sense now. Thanks for clarifying!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a professional potter and I don't think your project, as shown, will have enough mass to overcome the friction of the hands on the clay. Try it, but don't use to much clay( 2-3lbs). Good luck

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You are correct that it will only do a small amount of clay. I don’t know the weight that it will do per say but id dose a nice job for large size coffee mugs and 8” plates.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic Instructable! - it actually looks like a portable potters wheel that sells for over $400.  I think I might try this, but I've got an old stand mixer that I took the head/gears off of - it works great with the foot pedal I have - and has a shaft that I think I can make up some kind of spin head similar to yours...
    I'll post whatever I end up with.

    Thanks so much for posting this!!


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 5

     This one is a 11.5" kitchen Pro from Target. If you use a different brand you may need to rework the arbor.

    Hopes this helps.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    I believe that the title should be "let the fun begin" :D, just so 's you knows

    That looks like an older non-double-insulated drill, that does require a 3rd wire for Earth, while double insulated drills don't need 3-pin power plugs. And as long as there is a GFCI, the best location is at the power point on the wall, so it protects the cable too, thats why such things don't get built into the power tool. But also, ensure there is the normal fuse or circuit breaker, as the GFCI does not protect you (or the motor being in short circuit) from being in circuit with the Phase and Neutral power wires, the GFCI can only detect current leakage to ground, for example, thru your body, its not going to save you if you have Phase in one hand, Neutral in the other hand, that it would see as normal, and it will try and drive your motor (Heart) faster, but Phase or Neutral in one hand, your other hand on a Earth, that will trigger a fault condition shut down. In NZ, its called a earth leakage detector, i.e power comes in on Phase, and if the same amount does not go back via Neutral, because its is going to Earth via your body, that is a fault condition, and it shuts down. If the body of the drill becomes live, and the Earth is disconnected somewhere on the cable, then the GFCI would protect you. The same if you cut the cable by accident, only if the GFCI is at the wall power point, will it save you from that mistake.

    2 replies
    Lateral Thinkerbeernut

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    My neighbour who is retired, worked his whole life repairing power tools, for Black and Decker, he then went to Singer Sewing Machines, then to a place that did all kinds of power tools. I met him when I was a store man in a pantihose factory, and he was the mechanic keeping 5 packing machines running.

    Tip, old power tools, keep for parts, somebody will always need a part, instead buy the new junk tools.

    As an Aspie, I have almost a photographic memory for information.

    I put the following on

    Start collecting power tools, for example, a electronic speed controlled electric drill. Remove the noise making speed reduction gear box, but ensue you retain the cooling fan, or replace it with other means of cooling.

    Without the noisy gearbox, use a pulley system to reduce the motor speed, and increase torque.

    I did this once on an older B&D, by cutting off the front casing of the drill, keeping the handle part and motor casing.

    The trigger on/off/speed-control became just a speed control, I wired in a separate switch.

    But always remember, this modification destroys the safety of Double Insulation, so find a way to add a earthing wire, and use the motor with a RCD safety device

    I used this drive motor, and various pulley system, to test home built odd ball generators for wind power.

    Use such such a motor for a SMALL lathe, such as for ornamental pen making, and dolls house furniture.

    Somebody, Anybody, Everybody, please feel free to create an instructable on such a motor. Try finding a way for universal mounting, so it applies to lots of different projects, with a very versatile speed/torque range.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    This one is being given as a gift hopefully I will be able to get a video of it being used. As a side not one of my friends was over and wants one to use as a cake decorating turn table.