ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Make Pottery - How to Make Ceramics – Potter’s Wheel and Wheel-Throwing

Updated on March 27, 2011

Invention of the Wheel

Having covered pinching, coil, and slab handbuilding techniques, its now time to look at wheel-throwing techniques in building pottery and ceramics. The invention of the wheel by man was during the Neolithic Age which was 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in northern Syria. The invention of the wheel marked the end of Stone Age and the beginning of technology development by humans. During Stone Age, man could only build clay pots and figures using pinching, coil, and slab handbuilding techniques. The invention of the wheel was such a significant invention that man must have immediately tried its use on clay. Man must have found it very fascinating to watch clay pots being made on the wheel. This has remained so even today where a potter wheel-throwing clay pots will not fail to fascinate you – if you are looking for a fascinating hobby to do, then try throwing clay pots using potter’s wheel.

Learn and Practice Wheel-Throwing Everyday

Watching someone else making clay pots using a potter’s wheel is fascinating but learning the process of wheel-throwing is a practical process that need you to learn and practice everyday, at least for a number of weeks. The best way to learn how to work with the potter’s wheel is to seek guidance from an experienced potter or a teacher.

A Treadle Pottery Wheel - a potter wheel-throwing clay pots will not fail to fascinate you . Image Credit: Pearson Scott Foresman, Wikipedia Commons
A Treadle Pottery Wheel - a potter wheel-throwing clay pots will not fail to fascinate you . Image Credit: Pearson Scott Foresman, Wikipedia Commons

Pottery Wheel

A potter’s wheel can be a kick wheel, a treadle wheel or an electric wheel. Today, unlike in the past when electricity was not in every place, potters should buy electric potter’s wheels rather than trying to build manual kick wheels or treadle wheels on their own. But still, some potters and ceramists still believe its better to build one's own tools arguing that by doing so potters gets deeper and more intimate connection with the pottery they create.

A Potter’s Wheel Should Have a Strong Motor

As a beginner in pottery, you may want to get yourself a pottery wheel. You may decide to buy a used potter’s wheel in which case you may as well be inheriting someone’s problems, or you may decide to buy a new potter’s wheel. Whatever you decides to do, make sure your potter’s wheel meet the following conditions:

  1. The potter’s wheel should be an electric one
  2. The potter’s wheel should have a variety of speeds
  3. The potter’s wheel should have a smooth flow which turns easily and is quiet.
  4. The potter’s wheel should have a strong motor for heavy lumps of clay
  5. The potter’s wheel should be clean and presentable if you are buying a used one.

A Modern Pottery Wheel - Electric. Image Credit:
A Modern Pottery Wheel - Electric. Image Credit:

Focus On Learning the Techniques

Learning the process of wheel-throwing is a practical process that needs you to learn and practice everyday, at least for a number of weeks. The trick to learning how to throw with the pottery wheel is that during the first lessons you should focus yourself more on learning the techniques rather than on the final pot/figure. Never mind repeating the same thing over and over again for several times.

Different Clay Bodies Behaves Differently On the Wheel

The plastic clay that is used for wheel throwing is a little bit softer that the clay you use for handbuilding pottery items. The clay should not have any lump and should have a smooth consistency in its particles. Bear in mind different types of clay bodies behaves differently on the wheel. As a beginner, its better you specialize with one type of clay body before moving on to another different clay body. And when you work on the clay with the wheel, the subject clay should always be lubricated with a clay slip or water which you squeeze out from a sponge.

The Three Basic Forms

There are three basic forms that a beginner will need to learn to wheel-throw first. They are:

  1. How to wheel throw a bowl – rounded open form
  2. How to wheel throw a cylinder – vertical form
  3. how to wheel throw a plate – the flat form

How to Center Clay on Potter’s Wheel

Centering the clay on the centre of the wheel head is one thing you have to learn, otherwise your clay lump will be thrown off by the centrifugal force that is created by the spinning wheel. By centering the clay on the wheel head, you are actually allowing the clay to spin on the same axis as the wheel head. Below is a video on how to center clay on potter’s wheel which will teach you how to centre a lump of clay. Watch it.

Video on How to Center Clay on Potter’s Wheel

How to Open Up Clay to Make a Figure

Your clay is now centered. You will start by making a cylindrical form as it’s the easiest. You already should have in your mind that the thickness to the base wall of your cylinder should be equal to thickness of its vertical wall upon completion. Using a potter’s needle, estimate the thickness of the base wall to about 1 cm. With your thumb 1 cm to the base, from center top, and the wheel spinning at slow speed, cup both hands around the clay and push the clay away from you until you form the appropriate width of inner base. You can learn this better by watching the video below on how to open up clay which has all the practical details.

Video on How to Open Up Clay on Pottery Wheel

How to Lift or Pull-Up the Walls

You have now opened the clay and the base is ready. Between the fingers and thumb of your right hand, hold the walls at the base. And with the fingers of your right hand applying pressure directly opposite the fingers of your left hand, lift the walls in a continuous motion. At no one time should you hesitate and adjust the position of your hands for this first pull. And then the second pull is achieved by slightly changing your hand position. This is continued until the cylinder has grown sufficiently tall to what you want.  You should be able to understand how to lift a wall by watching the video on how to lift or pull-up the walls of clay figure as shown in this video.

Video on How to Lift Walls on Pottery Wheel

Trimming the Base of a Wheel-Thrown Cylinder

The first thing you do is to cut any excess clay at the base. Then remove any water at the base using a sponge when the wheel is spinning, then trim the cylinder from the base using a wire held at the base and pressed by index finger of each hand. To cut the cylinder free from the wheel, pull the wire towards you, and you are done.

Look For Pottery Classes in Your Area

Once you are through with making a cylinder, you should then practice again and again on making different cylindrical figures. You can practice with 75 cylinders and then after that go and practice with 75 of each of the following - a bowl, a vase, a plate, etc. Remember that if you apply more pressure from the inside, the cylinder will curve outward like a bowl and if you apply more pressure from the outside, the cylinder will curve inward like a neck. You may not be able to train yourself alone, in which case look for pottery classes in your area and learn wheel-throwing. Wheel throwing can be very enjoyable if you have interest on how to make pottery and ceramics.

The next article is on Slip Casting and Plaster Mouldings.

If you have liked this article, and you would want this page to keep up and improved, you can help by purchasing some great items from Amazon by following Amazon links and widgets on this page. A free way to help would be to link back to this webpage from your web page, blog, or discussion forums.

The Author’s page is designed to help beginners and average readers make some money as an extra income to supplement what they may be earning elsewhere - details of which you can find in My Page, if you will.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      Nquerco...This was like a walk down memory lane. When I was in college I took pottery making for two years and loved it. It was challenging and frustrating but once I got it, I felt a real sense of accomplishment.

      I have shared this hub in one I wrote, How to Decorate Clay Pots for Fun and For Gifts. I have also pinned it.

    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      This hub was full of good information. I love to buy pottery and would love to try making something sometime. One of these days I am going to take a class and see how I like it.

    • vydyulashashi profile image


      8 years ago from Hyderabad,India

      What a beautiful guide.

      God bless you.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, that was absolutely fascinating. Thank you.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)