4 Items You Can Make in a Potter’s Wheel + 11 Tips for Using It

Translated by Nick R

Using a potter’s wheel to lathe ceramics is one of the most satisfying things in the world. And if you don’t believe us, try it out yourself by making multiple pieces with the help of a potter’s wheel.

Handling the lathe is a bit challenging, it takes many days or, for some people, months of practice to get it to perfection, but don’t worry, by following our tips on how to use it, it will be a piece of cake for you.

Throughout the blog, we will give you 11 tips to make your experience using the lathe more enjoyable. We will also show you step by step how to make 4 different pieces on this device.

Potter’s wheel 

At this point, we imagine that you already know what a potter’s wheel is, but don’t worry if you don’t; we can explain it in a really simple way. The potter’s wheel is the most popular tool in the pottery world: it helps you to give shape to clay.

There are two types of lathes that you can find in the market; manual and electric. Long story short, you can learn more in our blog about types of lathes and how to choose the right one.

Electric lathes are the easiest to use and that is why we will use one for making the items we will show you next.

11 Tips for using the lathe 

As we told you before, using the potter’s wheel properly requires lots of practice. It takes time to understand how it works, what you should and should not do, and even to figure out your own technique to use it.

To make the process of learning to use the potter’s wheel perfectly much easier, we have some tips for you. If you apply them, your lathe will be your best friend when it comes to modeling, rather than a problem.

1. Find a comfortable place, neither too hot nor too cold, because that may affect the clay and therefore, the modeling. The clay may be too hard or so soft that it is not manageable.  

2. The clothes you wear are essential for your comfort, so we recommend wearing soft, loose clothing in which you feel free and can get messy.

3. Avoid using accessories on your hands or wrists such as rings and handles because you can damage them or damage the clay.

4. Use a chair or swivel stool to adjust it to a comfortable height when in front of the wheel.

5. The sitting position is of paramount importance. You will notice that if one part of your body is out to one side, it will affect the way you model the piece.

6. It is well known that pottery is used as a technique for relaxation and mindfulness; however, the mood you are in when putting the clay in your hands and starting to spin the potter’s wheel is also relevant. If you’re in a bad mood, modeling a good piece will probably take a little more work.

7. Be patient and relax. Modeling ceramics on the lathe or with other techniques requires you to be calm and patient, for example, at some point while the wheel spins, the piece may get damaged or bent. It is a learning process, and over time you will make fewer mistakes.

8. Build a connection between your body, mind, and the clay to center the dough on the wheel with your eyes closed. This technique is well-known by professional potters, who achieve it by concentrating on their hands and the clay and on how it moves smoothly between their fingers or if it exerts pressure as if it were trying to escape from them.

9. Discipline is fundamental to making ceramic pieces and even more on the wheel. If you are learning, you must attend your classes or practice intensely. Practice several times a month to be the best and achieve flawless pieces.

10. Everyone learns at a different pace, do not compare yourself with others. It is your time and your way of learning, so do not worry if it takes you a little longer than others in your class or workshop.

11. Determine if you work better with or without music. If you do better with music, also look closely at which musical genres help you perform best.

4 Objects made with a potter’s wheel 

Many pieces can be made with a potter’s wheel but remember that is not the only modeling technique. There are four other techniques: pinching, slab, churros, and hollowing. The first three are straightly manual, so you don’t need any tools. And for the last one, you only need a mold to pour the barbotine.

You can master these modeling techniques very easily, and the best part is that they can be put into practice by anyone interested in the subject, from children to seniors.


Ceramic bowl


  • Clay
  • Cutter
  • Sponge
  • Scraper
  • Ribbon tool
  • Nylon or steel wire
  • Electric lathe

Step by step 

Step 1: The first thing to do is take a piece of clay from the block. You can cut it with a clay cutter; really useful in these cases.

Step 2: Knead that piece of clay thoroughly on your work table so as to model it on the lathe easily.

Step 3: Next, you can put the clay in the middle of the lathe and start centering the dough while forming a cylinder which is the primary shape from which almost all pieces are made.

For this step, you can apply a little water to your hands so the clay can slide easier between your hands, and you will be able to handle it much better.

Step 4: Once the cylinder is not very tall, as this piece is short, start putting your thumbs right in the middle of the cylinder and press until you get a donut-like shape.

Step 5: From there, with all your fingers or whatever is easiest for you, make the middle circle wider and wider while making the walls higher.

In this process, you are also thinning the walls of your bowl, so it’s perfect.

Remember to keep one hand inside the piece and the other on the outside to support the clay so it doesn’t bend and make modeling much easier, as you can see in the image below.

How to make a bowl on a potter’s wheel?

Taken from: Florian Gadsby

Step 6: As often the walls may show imperfections, for example, parts with extra clay, you can use the scraper to help you remove the surplus material.

Step 7: With that same scraper or one with a pointed end, you can make the base of the bowl. To do so, you must place the end of the scraper on the bottom of the piece and go on removing clay until you have a functional base.

Step 8: It is best to remove some water from the piece, so use a sponge to follow the piece shape while the lathe turns. By doing this, you will slightly remove some water from the clay.

Step 9: The bowl opening may not be as straight as in the image below, but don’t worry, there is a solution for this. To do this step, you need to turn off the potter’s wheel. Using a piece of nylon or steel wire, make a straight and neat cut, removing the uneven part.

Step 10: With the same piece of nylon, cut the piece flush to the lathe to remove the work from the lathe and move it to a space where it can dry.

Step 11: You need to let your piece dry for a few hours until it feels leathery-hard, which means that the clay has lost some of its moisture.

You will know it is leather-hard because it feels somewhat firm and looks different as if it were dry.

Step 12: Now that the piece has reached this state, you can put it back on the lathe to begin the process of trimming, which consists of trimming it with a ribbon tool for polishing the piece.

You have to place it upside down, the base facing up to make the process easier for you.

Step 13: Then, you must turn on the lathe and gently pass the ribbon tool so you can identify how much pressure you should apply to avoid removing too much clay and damaging the piece.

You can start from the opening. It is easier to hold your ribbon and gradually raise your hand so that you don’t stop and thus get an uneven shape.

Step 14: As the last step in the lathe modeling process, as there are more processes such as baking and glazing, you can stamp your workshop seal or brand name on the clay. It will help you to make your brand better known.


Taken from: Florian Gadsby

Water pitcher 

Ceramic water pitcher


  • Clay
  • Barbotine
  • Cutter
  • Scraper
  • Pourer
  • Nylon or steel wire
  • Electric lathe

Step by step 

Step 1: As with the previous piece, the first thing to do is to take a piece of clay from the block that you should have in your workshop or home, which you can cut with the ceramic cutter.

Step 2: A really important step is kneading the clay before you start modeling it, this way no lumps remain in the piece and thus it is easier to handle. So do it carefully.

Step 3: Turn the lathe on and place the clay in the center to make a cylinder while centering the clay on the lathe platter.

The clay must be centered because if not, you will have a hard time getting the shape you want, and sooner or later the piece will bend.

Step 4: Start pressing the center of the cylinder with your thumbs to make the dip from where the jar will form.

Step 5: Then start to enlarge the inner circle and gradually lengthen and widen the vase walls placing one hand in and one hand out of the piece.

You can choose the width of the vase, but to make it easier to model it, we recommend you make it a little wider than your whole hand. As you can see in the image, you will need to put your whole hand inside the piece to model the vase, which is very tall.  

How to make a jug with a lathe

Taken from: Florian Gadsby

Step 6: If you see that the vase is broader in some parts, you need to wrap both hands around it and raise your hands from the base to the opening. That will help you to get it all the same thickness.

Step 7: After that, you can use a scraper with one of its sides completely straight to make the piece smooth and uniform.

Step 8: Here is where the work turns from a cylinder to a jar. As you will make the spout, you must stop the lathe.

Put a finger inside the edge and press outwards a little bit, while on the outside, you hold both sides of the spout with two fingers of your other hand.

Step 9: In order to remove the jar from the wheel and allow it to dry for a few hours until it is leathery, you will need to cut the clay flush with the wheel and set it aside.

You can perfect the spout when you remove it from the wheel. The idea is to make it slightly rounded, not triangular; it looks much better like this.

Step 10: When it gets leather hard, you can take it back to the lathe and start to trim it with the ribbon tool. We recommend doing this step with all your pieces to make them perfect and get a better finishing.

At this point, you can also finish forming the bottom by sunkening it a little bit in the center, for instance.

Step 11: Our example jar has a handle, so cut a strip of clay and glue it to the main piece using some barbotine, a mixture of clay and water.

To make sure it sticks together, you can lay thick clay chunks on both edges of the strip and then flatten them on the jar until the surface is even and the joints cannot be spotted anymore.

Step 12: Before sending the piece to the kiln and glazing it, you can stamp your brand on it or use certain decoration and texturing techniques that require the clay to be of leather hardness.

Ceramic jug

Taken from: Florian Gadsby

Coffee pouring machine or dripping cone V60 

Coffee pouring process on potter’s wheel


  • Clay
  • Sponge
  • Cutter
  • Scraper
  • Ribbon
  • Stick
  • Nylon or steel wire
  • Electric lathe

Step by step 

Step 1: First thing to do is cut a piece of clay from the clay block with the ceramic cutter. From this clay, you will make your coffee pourer. So, if you want a small one, take little clay, and if you want a medium or big one, take the corresponding amount.

Step 2: Then, you have to knead the clay on your work table very well so that it loses most of its hardness and can be handled on the lathe easily.

Step 3: Now you must place the kneaded clay in the center of the lathe and start forming a cylinder from which the coffee pourer can be shaped. This cylinder can be made by repeatedly raising and flattening the clay.

Step 4: When having a tiny, fat cylinder that looks like a donut, but with no hole in the middle, take the sponge and push it firmly over the clay from top to bottom, as if you were pushing the clay downwards. It should look like a hat.

That is to get the plate of the coffee pourer, which will be the base of the piece.

When the plate is about 1 cm high, using a sponge, you will push the clay of the cup part from the base towards the center to form a V with that clay mass. No need to add more clay.

Step 5: With the top clay, you will again create a donut shape, only this time with the hole in the center. And just like with the other pieces, use your thumbs to make a hole in the center and enlarge it gradually.

Step 6: Also, you have to lengthen the walls of the glass to form the V-shape shown in the picture below. Remember to always support it with one hand inside and the other outside.

Step 7: After shaping the glass, you can make the cool design you see in the picture. For this, you will have to place one hand firmly on the inside and the other on the outside. Then, you will use your index and middle fingers a little apart and press hard from bottom to top.

Ideally, as the lathe turns, you should raise your fingers slowly to mark a spiral pattern on the vase.

If you are not happy with the result, you may redo the cylinder and form the vase again and try one more time.

Step 8: Now refine the plate with the scraper and the sponge. You have to pass the scraper over the entire surface to verify that it is completely straight and to thin a little more the lower part of the glass.

Step 9: With the sponge, you will lift the edge of the glass a little from the lathe and push the clay inwards to create a rounded edge with the scraper.

Step 10: To get an even better design, as in the picture below, use a diagonal toothpick placed just over the wheel at the bottom to press while you hold from the inside with a finger to prevent the clay from getting too narrow and keep its flat shape in the center.

You can refine the resulting work by passing a wet sponge.

How to make a coffee pourer on a lathe.

Taken from: Old Forge Creations

Step 11: Using the nylon or steel wire, you have to cut the work, very carefully flush to the lathe and leave it somewhere else to dry for a few hours until it gets leather hard.

Step 12: In this state, you can place the work in the center of the lathe again, only this time upside down so you can trim the base of the glass and open the coffee pourer opening, which is the most essential part of this piece.

Step 13: Before drilling the hole, you can mark with a pencil or toothpick the cup center to make sure it will fit in the center.

Now, you can open the hole and remove the clay with the ribbon tool to make it wide enough for the coffee filter tip. The perfect width should be as wide as your finger. If it fits into the hole, so will the filter.

Use the opportunity to refine the vase base and the opening if you think it is not round enough.

Step 14: Before you put the piece in the kiln and glaze it, you can stamp your mark on the bottom of the glass.

Don’t forget to glaze your coffee pourer, which will make it more resistant and waterproof, just what this type of piece needs.

Coffee pourer 

Taken from: Old Forge Creations

Mug with spout

Cup with spout

Taken from: Old Forge Creations


  • Clay
  • Barbotine
  • Sponge
  • Cutter
  • Scraper
  • Ribbon
  • Drill
  • Nylon or steel wire
  • Electric lathe

Step by step 

Step 1: The first step is to cut two pieces of clay with the cutter and then knead it thoroughly so that the pieces can be easily shaped, and to get them free of air bubbles, which could make them burst in the kiln.

You will use two clay pieces because two objects will have to be modeled in order to form the spouted cup.

Step 2: When the clay is well kneaded, you put one of the pieces in the center of the lathe and turn it on. Little by little, you will form a cylinder to shape the main piece, which will be the cup.

Step 3: Then you will press hard in the center of the cylinder to form a donut-like hole of about 1.5 cm. From the edges that were left, stretch out a bit and drag the clay up to mold the mug’s walls.

To help you enlarge and thin the sides of the cup, you can use the scraper and a slightly damp sponge until you obtain the shape you want.

Step 4: That would be all for the main part, and now you will focus on the second. So after cutting the cup off from the lathe with the nylon, you would add the other piece of clay.

Step 5: For the other part, and as a complement to the spouted mug, you need to make a small bowl. The difference between the cup and the bowl is that the bowl gets wider towards the top.

To let you know how small the bowl should be, we will give you a hint. The cup spout in the pictures below is the bowl split in half. From that, you can tell the difference in size between the two. It is less than half as high and almost the same width.

Step 6: Once the bowl has been shaped, with your index fingers over the sides in the middle of the piece, you will press towards the inside, as if you were pinching it with both fingers like in the picture.

How to make a lathe bowl?Taken from: Old Forge Creations

Step 7: Now that the bowl is folded virtually halfway, you have to remove it from the lathe, the same way you did with the mug, in order to trim it.

Remove unnecessary clay with the ribbon tool to refine every part of the mug. You can place the work upside down to fix the base and improve the round shape from the bottom upwards.

Step 8: Now it’s time to figure out how to attach the bowl to the cup to form the spout. You need to take the bowl and cut one of its ends in half. The cut must be straight, and before gluing it on the mug, you can check if it fits by holding it in its intended spot.

If you see that the edges do not meet perfectly with the cup, you need to trim them until they fit perfectly.

Besides, as you can see in the pictures, the mouth of the bowl must be diagonal, and not straight like the mug. The genius of this mug is that it can be used as a pitcher to serve tea or water at family gatherings.

Step 9: Before gluing the spout to the mug, you have to make the holes where the drink will go through. For them to be set in perfect position, you need to mark on the mug where you intend to place the spout, within it.

Step 10: Then, use small dots to mark where the holes will be drilled and then make the holes with a drill. Try to make them as neat as you can see in the image below. They are a crucial part of this piece.

Cup with a spout on a potter’s wheel

Taken from: Old Forge Creations

Step 11: Once you have made the holes that will make your muggy cup very special, it’s time to glue the spout to the mug with a bit of barbotine. You can apply it to the edge of the spout, although as you have already marked on the cup the place, you can also apply a little bit there to hold it safer.

Step 12: Another essential part of the piece is missing, but don’t think we forgot it. It’s time to make the cup handle; you can cut a strip of clay and turn it into a small thin long cylinder.

Step 13: The handle can be glued with barbotine as well; it’s such a handy mixture. Don’t you think?

Step 14: You can make tiny touch-ups with the scraper or mark your piece with the name of your workshop with a stamp. To make it look as good as the one in the picture with the finished spouted mug, don’t forget to bake it and do the whole glazing process.

This magnificent and versatile piece accompanies us to the end of this blog in which we hope you learned a lot about the lathe: some tips to make the experience more enjoyable, and how you can make some pieces that, although looking common, you can add your special touch to make them unique.

Let creativity soar and put your knowledge to the test by making piecework that you will amaze yourself with. A lathe is a great tool that, over time, you will love: we assure you.

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