Take Pottery For A Spin With A Pocket-Sized Wheel

If 2020 can be remembered in any positive light, it would be that this has been the year of the hobby tryouts. Why not pottery? Sure, throwing pots won’t fill your belly like homemade bread. But we would bet you can see the value in having a bunch of expendable objects that are easily (and quite satisfyingly) smashed to smithereens. The best part is that between the workbench, junk box, and recycle bin, you can probably build [Jadem52]’s pottery wheel for ants with stuff you already have. Bonus!

Pottery wheels aren’t that complicated. They’re honestly kind of expensive for what they are — a motor and a belt driving a rotating platter. It’s like a record player, but less fussy. Where they really get you on expense is the kiln to heat-treat those pots into sturdy vessels. But you could always use air-dry clay, especially if you’re making these things just to smash them whenever you need to let off some steam.

So anyway, you don’t need much more than a motor, a jar lid for a wheel to throw on, and a bearing to make it spin smoothly. Store-bought pottery wheels have a foot feed to control the motor speed, but this pocket version is either spinning on nine volts or it isn’t. The great thing about a project like this is that once you have the general principle down and use the thing, you can iterate and upgrade to your heart’s content. Take it for a little spin after the break.

If you want to hack together a more conventionally-sized wheel, an old ceiling fan motor should be more than sufficient.

23 thoughts on “Take Pottery For A Spin With A Pocket-Sized Wheel

  1. Moist wet clay getting into a motor running on a 9 volt battery? No problem. Just get a new motor when you need to.
    Moist wet clay getting into a ceiling fan motor running at 120 V? Now you learn about electrical current, paths of least resistance and the importance of insulation.

    1. Some of those fans are grounded and when upside down seem to be able to shed water. Some at least have no holes on the down side of the dome, the rotor is quite well covered in metal. It’s when they have a hole in the middle for a light fixture, that messes it up.

      Clay is virtually fine grade abrasive, ready to use.

  2. Awesome- this reminds me somehow of the power drill lathe attachments- or even a bodging treadle lathe, but for clay not wood turning. I wonder if a dremel fitting might be alternative to the battery version- but maybe, moist wet clay + dremel = shockingly bad idea?

  3. There is a professor who built a 3D printer that uses clay. He also makes miniature ceramics wheels. I’ll find his twitter and report back, I am having a hard time googling it. But he ran a poll to see if he should open source his mini ceramics wheel.

    1. There are many types of foot or hand powered wheels, theres korean, japanese stick powered one, traditional european kick wheels and there are Leach treadle wheels. Its fun but with engine you only need to focus on piece you are working not on powering it the way you don’t destroy your work.

      1. WTF! Brilliant, man! That’s the kind of hacks I read Hackaday for.

        I’m inspired to build one (or two) for my friends who do a bit of pottery. What RPM is a nice value to work at? I’d like to aim for slightly larger motor than in the original article, or even what you have in your miniature turntable. But then… I think 3000 RPM would sling all the clay onto the walls, so I have to get the reduction in the right ballpark beforehand….

        1. Glass frit will melt in pottery kiln. If you do normal firing then glazes for cone6 need temperatures around 1024 degC and cone10 need around 1240 degC so your kiln and control needs to survive up to 1300degC.

  4. As amateur potter of 10 years:
    1. constant speed is ok-ish at the begining but later you’ll wish for speed and direction control 60-200RPM
    2. with this tiny thing for kids or hamsters torque isn’t issiue but get normal sized wheel and throw few kg on it (when you throw “off the hump” or bigger multiple section pieces) and you’ll soon find out why pottery wheels have much stronger engines. i tried smaller like ceiling fan, sewing machine engines but what really works for full size wheel is washing machine engine. With larger amounts of clay you use your whole body to lean on the lump and move it.
    3. electricity has to be really sealed off we use buckets of water(more like slurry depending on your clay some can take buckets and don’t loose shape and some like very little), pan under wheel face has to be able to drain safely away from engine and other electrics.
    4. Construction it has to take on weight of clay and full grown up leaning on it with weight and muscles.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.