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Pottery wheels are often seen as an essential piece of equipment when you are making pottery. For some potters, hand building is the perfect way to create unique, organic pieces.
However, if you are looking to create more symmetrical pieces, functional pieces, or are looking to make dishware, a pottery wheel is a necessary piece of equipment for your pottery studio.
The pottery wheel is steeped in history. For thousands of years, potters have used simple versions of this tool to create jars, vases, plates, cups, and basic tableware.
The earliest examples of pottery wheels were simple stone slabs that were turned on another slick surface.
As wheels became more advanced, they became powered by the user’s feet. This was the development of the “kick wheel”.
Kick wheels, are the basic wheel of today, and still look and function like the early wheels. The top surface is made for working clay.
The bottom wheel is made of a heavy stone or cement and is pushed or “kicked” by the potter.
Kick wheels often have an attached chair to sit on, that puts the potter in the right place for both working the clay and moving the wheel.
Some potters will attach a small motor to their kick wheel that can be started after the wheel is pushed to a particular RPM.
This can create a hybrid kick/electric wheel that combines the simplicity of the kick wheel with the ease of the electric wheel.
Electric wheels are the modern answer to the kick wheel. These wheels use a small motor to turn a light weight, usually aluminum work surface.
These wheels are generally smaller than kick wheels, and are more practical for a potter that may be using a corner of a basement or a small work area.
Electric wheels function using a small pedal, similar to that used on a sewing machine. The more the pedal is depressed the faster the wheel turns.
Electric wheels are generally more affordable that traditional kick wheels, so they are popular in school and rec centers where pottery classes are taught.
Which wheel you choose, kick or electric, really depends on how experienced you are in making pottery and how confident you are with your coordination.
While electric wheels require little coordination, kick wheels do require that you kick while you are working your clay.
This can be too much to think about for some beginners.
If you’ve used both types of wheels, and feel comfortable with both, then the type that you purchase will really depend on preference and cost.
In this buying guide, we’ll break down the pros and cons of the best wheels on the market today.
We’ll give you helpful hints about buying each, and tell you which come with the best features.
Then, we’ll look at some frequently asked questions about pottery wheels and making pottery.
To help you find the right wheel for your studio. We’ve done all the leg work so you don’t have to.
Our Reviews Of The Best Pottery Wheel
#1 Speedball Clay Boss Pottery Wheel
The Boss family of pottery wheels offers sturdy construction and a reversing plug that allows for quick change of wheel head direction, 2 free bats and a sampler of Speedball glazes.
Reversing plug allows for quick change of wheel head direction.
Very sturdy. Smooth wheel speeds.
The legs could be a little taller, splash pans have broke.
14 inch wheel head, 1/2 horsepower industrial motor.
#2 FLBETYY Pottery Wheel Forming Machine
Rated voltage: 110V, Rated power: 350W, Noise: <60dB
Compact structure, small footprint, good mud blocking, smooth speed, low noise.
A bit slow when throwing big pieces.
Forward and reverse switching.
It is designed as a tabletop machine so be sure to have a sturdy counter.
#3 Speedball Portable Artista Table Top Pottery Wheel
Combining convenience with quality, power and capacity, the Artista Pottery Wheel has it all.
The lightweight wheel and compact construction makes it portable and easy to store.
Its motor runs smoothly with very little noise, variable speed hand control (0 to 220 rpm) and a two part splash pan (included), the Artista leaves little to desire in performance, quality and value.
25 pound centering capacity.
Runs smoothly with very little noise, convenient, easy to store.
Pricey, not much of a warranty, no foot pedal.
11 inch aluminum wheel head and a two part splash pan.
Folding legs can be added and can easily be converted from hand operated to foot powered with a plug in foot pedal.
#4 US Art Supply LARGE Sculpting Wheel
The US Art Supply LARGE 12″ Diameter Sculpting Wheel has a heavy-duty all metal construction and a turntable with smooth ball bearings.
Holds up to 50lbs.
Lightweight, heavy duty, ball bearings are solid.
Manual, no pedal.
Non-skid rubber boot that holds the wheel firmly in place.
If you are a painter, sculptor or decorator you will find this wheel a perfect choice.
#5 National Artcraft Sculpting Wheel
If you are a painter, sculptor or decorator working in ceramics, pottery, floral arranging, model-making, clay design, cake decorating and other artistic work you will find the National Artcraft sculpting wheel a perfect choice.
Holds up to 40lbs.
Easy rotation, has a non-skid base.
The wheel sometimes not heavy enough to support the spin, slows quickly.
Weighted rim gives the wheel extra momentum.
For the price it is a great value.
Pottery Wheel FAQ’s
We’ve scoured the internet, looking for the most commonly asked questions about pottery and pottery wheels.
In this buying guide we’ve compiled a few of the most frequently asked questions, and provided you a one-stop-shop for these most asked questions.
That way you can get to making beautiful pottery quicker, and spend less time looking for answers to your questions.
Are pottery wheels expensive?
This question is sort of relative to the perception of the buyer. In general, pottery wheels are not an inexpensive purchase.
Sure, you can certainly buy a small, table-top wheel for around $100. However, you get what you pay for in the case of pottery wheels.
You’ll find that these small, table-top wheels, while inexpensive, also have some downfalls.
Most of these inexpensive wheels have a low horsepower, and a small centering weight.
For the at home potter, this means that you are going to be challenged with pulling a cylinder, and you’ll only be able to use small amounts of clay.
To be successful as a potter, you will want to be able to pull a cylinder easily, since this is the start of everything from vases and cups to plates and bowls.
Small amounts of clay, also mean your room for error is low, so you don’t have much wiggle room, and this can be a problem with a low horsepower.
Yes, you’ve saved some money on your wheel, but was it worth it?
For most individuals serious about making pottery, a cheap wheel is usually not worth the savings.
However, getting a good wheel doesn’t mean you have to take a second mortgage on your home.
There are plenty of great wheel options on the market today, perfect for beginners and experts that will cost you less than $500.
While not a cheap purchase, for around $500, you can get a good wheel, with decent horsepower and a solid centering weight, allowing to you easily do the most basic skill – pulling a cylinder, but also allows the more experienced potter to work with larger quantities of clay.
In general, for a good quality wheel, that will last you from beginner skills to advanced throwing, look to spend around $1,500.
For this amount you should be able to buy a great wheel, with a variety of helpful options, and basic features that will meet the needs of the beginner and the expert in your studio.
If that seems to be too much, consider purchasing a used wheel.
Often times, schools and colleges will sell their used equipment when they are ready to replace.
You can get a great deal on a great wheel, for not a lot of money.
What is the best pottery wheel for beginners?
There are a number of great options on the market for beginners.
However, you may want to consider buying a wheel that is more versatile, so that you can use it longer, as your skills grow.
When you are shopping for a wheel, there are a number of factors that you should consider:
- Diameter of the wheel head
- The splash pan
- Overall weight
- Pedal Sensitivity
- Centering capacity
- Changeable parts
Beginners should look for a wheel with a mid-sized wheel head (12 to 14 inches is great), a centering capacity of more than 25 pounds, and a responsive but not overly sensitive pedal.
This will allow the beginner to work with a larger amount of clay, on a larger work surface, with a machine that will be easy to control.
These are the basics that should be considered.
If you are looking for a wheel that will accommodate growing skills, look for these same basics, but consider a wheel that has at least a centering capacity of 75 pounds.
This will allow you to have a larger quantity of clay on your wheel, which means larger pieces.
We didn’t mention horsepower because centering capacity and horsepower usually go hand in hand.
However, we would recommend that even for a beginner, look for a motor that has at least 100 horsepower, or you’ll notice that your wheel lags while centering.
Splash pans are not essential to the function of your wheel, however, you’ll find that a splash pan significantly reduces the mess.
Pottery isn’t a tidy hobby, but it is made much messier if your wheel lacks a splash pan. When shopping, look for a simple to remove, round, plastic splash pan.
Material and weight go hand in hand, and are really a matter of preference.
The only material that really should be considered when you are shopping for a wheel, is the wheel head material.
You can get wheel heads in aluminum and ceramic. Aluminum is a great choice for beginners because it is durable and easy to clean.
As far as the rest of the wheel goes, plastic is a typical body material, as is aluminum or steel.
And which you choose depends on personal preference and how much you want to spend.
How much does it cost to start making pottery?
Pottery isn’t a low cost hobby, however there are ways you can save money if you are interested in making pottery at home.
- Wheel – As discussed previously, a wheel will cost you anywhere between $500 and $3,000. For most home potters, you can expect to pay $1,500 for a good quality, but simple wheel. And, don’t forget to check with your local college or school district for used options, as well.
- Tools – You’ll need some tools to work your clay. Look for tool kits (for our suggestions check out our tool buying guide), they will give you all the tools that you need to start. Kits can run from the most basic at less than $10, to kits with a large variety of tools, plus a bucket and carrying bag that can cost upwards of $50. For the beginner, look for a kit with the basics, plus a few extra wood tools, and expect to spend around $20.
- Classes – You can go super inexpensive here and rely on the internet to learn the basics. However, it’s often easier to learn from a live person, in an actual studio. Some colleges will offer non-credit classes, you can find pottery classes at some recreation centers, or find a local studio that offers classes. Rec center classes will generally be the most affordable, with a multi-week class costing around $100. Non-credit classes at a local community college can cost up to $1,000. Local studios will offer classes for around $300. What you spend really depends on what is available in your area.
- Wedging Table – This is a must for your home studio. Wedging tables are made of treated wood that you clay won’t stick to. All clay needs to be wedged before throwing or hand sculpting, to remove air bubbles. Look to spend between $500 and $1,000 for a good wedging table.
- Kiln – This is maybe an extra for some potters. If you can get in a kiln cooperative, this is your best option. However, if you are really into having a complete studio, a small kiln, that will hold one or two pieces will set you back around $500. Larger kilns can cost as much as $5000. You can also build a kiln, and costs here really depend on how large and what kind of kiln you are building. For a mid-sized kiln, look to spend around $2,000. And don’t forget about the added cost to your electricity bill.
- Clay – Clay will cost you around $40 for 50 pounds of basic, terra cotta, low fire clay. Different types of clay will vary in cost, but for the beginner, terra cotta is the most forgiving clay to use.
In general, and considering average cost, to start a pottery hobby, you should expect to spend around $5,000 to get started.
Of course there are ways to cut this cost, like using a kiln cooperative or buying big equipment like wedging tables, kilns and wheels used.
Pottery is a great hobby, and for some individuals, with enough practice, this fun hobby can become a money making side venture.
We’ve given you our thoughts on the best wheels on the market and answered some commonly asked questions about making pottery and pottery equipment.
Hopefully we’ve given you a great start to your wheel shopping adventure.
Did we miss something, or do you have a suggestion for another great wheel?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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