Improve Pottery Wheel Throwing: 5 Practical Clay Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Prepare your clay
  2. Control wheel speed
  3. Maintain even thickness
  4. Trim excess clay
  5. Take care of your tools

Are you a potter looking for ways to enhance your skills, particularly in the area of pottery wheel throwing? Then you're in the right place. This blog post is all about getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay. We'll share some practical clay tips that you can start applying in your pottery practice immediately.

Prepare your clay

Before you even touch the pottery wheel, preparing your clay is the first step towards improving your pottery wheel throwing skills. So, how can you do this effectively?

Choosing the right clay

Not all clay is created equal. Some types are more suited for wheel throwing than others. For instance, stoneware and porcelain are often preferred due to their fine texture and high plasticity. Moreover, these clays can withstand high firing temperatures, which is a big plus if you're planning to create pottery pieces for everyday use.

Wedging the clay

One common mistake beginners make is skipping the wedging process. If you're serious about getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay, you need to invest time in wedging your clay. This process helps to remove any air bubbles and aligns the clay particles—important for the stability and strength of your final product. To wedge your clay:

  • First, slice your clay into manageable pieces using a wire clay cutter.
  • Next, slam the clay down onto a wedging board or clean table. This action helps to remove air pockets.
  • Then, cut and stack the clay, repeating the process until the clay has a smooth, even consistency.

Conditioning the clay

Finally, let's talk about conditioning the clay. Conditioning is the process of getting your clay to the right consistency for wheel throwing. Too hard, and you'll struggle to shape your clay on the wheel. Too soft, and your pottery piece may collapse under its own weight. To condition your clay:

  1. Start by adding a small amount of water to your clay if it's too hard. Knead the clay until the water is evenly distributed.
  2. If your clay is too soft, you can leave it uncovered for a while to let some of the moisture evaporate. But remember to keep a close eye on it—you don't want it to dry out completely!

Remember, preparing your clay properly is the foundation for getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay. So, take the time to choose the right clay, wedge it effectively, and condition it to the right consistency before you start throwing.

Control wheel speed

Once you've prepared your clay, the next step in getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay involves controlling the wheel speed. Let's break down why wheel speed matters and how you can control it more effectively.

Understanding wheel speed

Did you know that the speed of your pottery wheel can greatly influence the outcome of your pottery piece? Too slow, and you'll struggle to maintain the form of your pottery. Too fast, and your piece may become unstable and collapse. But how can you find the sweet spot?

Finding the right speed

Here's a simple rule of thumb: the larger and heavier your clay, the slower your wheel speed should be. This is because larger amounts of clay need more control and stability, which is easier to achieve at slower speeds. Conversely, smaller and lighter clay pieces can be thrown at higher speeds. However, remember that the right speed can vary depending on the specific stage of the throwing process and the particular type of piece you're working on.

Practicing wheel speed control

Controlling your wheel speed might feel tricky at first, but like any other skill, it gets better with practice. Here's how you can practice:

  1. Start by throwing a piece of clay on the wheel at a slow speed. Pay attention to how the clay moves and how much control you have over it.
  2. Gradually increase the speed and observe how this affects the clay and your control over it. Notice the point at which the clay starts to become unstable.
  3. Practice maintaining a steady speed throughout the throwing process. This might feel challenging initially, but it's crucial for creating consistent and balanced pottery pieces.

Mastering the control of your wheel speed is a significant aspect of getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay. So, don't rush it—take your time to understand and practice this skill, and you'll see improvements in your pottery throwing over time.

Maintain even thickness

Another cornerstone of getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay lies in maintaining an even thickness throughout your pottery piece. You might be wondering, "Why is this so important?" Let's dive in and figure it out.

The importance of even thickness

Have you ever noticed how a lopsided vase or an uneven bowl just doesn't look quite right? That's because our eyes are naturally drawn to symmetry and balance. The same principle applies to your pottery pieces. An even thickness gives your pottery a balanced and professional look, which is why it's such an essential skill to master.

How to achieve even thickness

Here's a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve that much-desired even thickness in your pottery:

  1. Start with an evenly centered piece of clay on the wheel. If your clay isn't centered, achieving an even thickness becomes much more difficult.
  2. As you open the clay, aim to keep the base thickness consistent. This will set the tone for the rest of the piece.
  3. When pulling the walls, use consistent pressure and speed. This will help maintain an even thickness throughout.

Feeling the thickness

One thing that sets apart seasoned potters from beginners is their ability to feel the thickness of the clay. The key to getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay is practicing until you can feel the thickness of the clay with your hands. It might seem impossible now, but with time and practice, you'll get the hang of it.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So, don't be too hard on yourself if your first few tries don't turn out as expected. Keep at it, and soon you'll see a noticeable improvement in your ability to maintain an even thickness in your pottery pieces.

Trim excess clay

Moving on, let's discuss another significant step towards getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay: trimming excess clay. Trimming is like a sculptor chiseling away unnecessary stone to reveal the sculpture within. Similarly, as a potter, you reveal the true form of your pottery by trimming away excess clay. You're not just creating a piece, you're revealing it. Sounds exciting, right?

The why and when of trimming

Trimming excess clay isn't just about aesthetics, it's also about the functionality of your pottery piece. By removing extra clay, you make your piece lighter and more balanced. Plus, it allows you to refine the shape and add detail to your work. As for when to trim, it's best to do it when your piece is leather-hard — not too wet, not too dry, but just right.

Steps to trimming

Let's break down the trimming process:

  1. First, secure your pottery piece on the wheel. You can use clay coils or lumps to hold it in place. Stability is key here.
  2. Next, start trimming from the top and work your way down. Remember to maintain a steady hand and apply gentle, even pressure. Trimming is a delicate process, not a race.
  3. Finally, don't forget to smooth out any rough edges. Using a rubber or metal rib can help achieve a clean finish.

Patience pays off

It's important to remember that trimming takes patience and practice. If you're just starting out, you might find it challenging. But don't be disheartened! With time, you'll find your rhythm and trimming will become a natural part of your pottery wheel throwing process.

So, keep practicing, keep refining, and keep shaping your skills on the pottery wheel. With dedication and patience, you'll soon be creating pottery pieces that are not only functional but also visually appealing.

Take care of your tools

As we dive deeper into the process of getting better at pottery wheel throwing with clay, we can't overlook the importance of taking care of our tools. It's just like taking care of a pet. You nurture it, you maintain it, and in return, it helps you create something wonderful. The lifespan of your tools and the quality of your pottery pieces are interconnected. So, let's explore how you can keep your tools in top shape.

Cleaning is key

First things first: clean your tools after every use. Clay residue can harden and make your tools less efficient. So, make sure you scrub off any clay and rinse them well. A simple sponge or an old toothbrush can be your best friend in this task.

Store them properly

Another important aspect of tool care is proper storage. After cleaning, ensure your tools are dry before storing them to avoid rust. Also, keep them in a clean, dry place where they won't be damaged. You wouldn't want to find your favorite trimming tool bent out of shape, would you?

Regular maintenance

Regular maintenance is also crucial. Sharpen your tools when needed and regularly check them for any damage. A dull tool can make your job harder and affect the outcome of your pottery piece.

Investing in quality

Lastly, invest in quality tools. They might cost a bit more, but they're worth every penny. They last longer, perform better, and can make a noticeable difference in your pottery wheel throwing experience.

To sum it up, taking care of your tools is an integral part of the pottery process. It's not just about having the right tools, but about keeping them in the best condition. Remember, your tools are your allies in your journey of pottery wheel throwing. Treat them well, and they will help you create amazing pottery.

If you're looking to further enhance your pottery wheel throwing skills, don't miss the workshop 'Pottery Basics: Everything You Need To Know' by Meghan Yarnell. This workshop will provide you with a solid foundation in pottery techniques, including tips and tricks that will help you improve your wheel throwing and create stunning clay pieces.