Making Ceramic Handles with a Handheld Extruder – With Videos

a picture of three finished mugs with clay extruder handles

Is handle making difficult for you, or do you just not like making them?
You’re not alone, handle making is one of the harder things to learn when you start making pottery.

It takes practice and a lot of clay. You will catch on, but it takes time.
When I started making handles, I made some of the worst looking uneven handles I’ve ever seen, and I still don’t like making them by hand.

After a quick YouTube Search, I found another potter using the Super Duper Clay Extruder made by Scott Creek Pottery. After some thought, I bought one. Kemper and Shimpo also carry their versions of Handheld Clay Extruders. I’ve been using Scott Creek for a while now.
I want to show you how easy it is to make handles super-fast, without all the mess and frustration.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated by Scott Creek Pottery or any other company mentioned in this article.

5 Benefits Of Using a Clay Hand Extruder

  • It’s easy to use
  • Great for a beginner
  • It’s mobile, you don’t have to bolt it to a table or wall
  • Saves time makes 6 handles to 1 pulled handle
  • There are many interchangeable Dies to choose from.

Turning Bad Handles Into Cool Looking Handles

Don’t Cringe! These are a few thin handles I pulled before getting the hang of it.

I liked the extruder on the wall, but I’m not making 50 mugs at a time. Also, wall extruders can be hard for some potters to use.

The Clay Extruder was exactly what I needed. This little baby holds over a pound and a half of clay and can make up to a dozen handles at a time.  It’s a great helper for beginners or anyone that’s not that good at making handles.

This Is How Easy It Is To Make A Cool Handle 

Take some nice soft well-wedged clay, your extruder, and a pick out a die.

Keep in mind the state of your clay is an essential part of making a good handle. If your clay is too hard, you will want to wedge water into it until your clay has a smooth, even consistency throughout, and air bubbles are gone. When your clay is nice and soft but not mushy, you are ready to load your Clay Extruder.

For this project, I am using Amaco clay. I wrote a complete hands-on article on Choosing The Right Clay and its also one of my Favorite Clays that I use.

Loading Your Clay Extruder

The Extruder has two handles. Right above the top handle is a release button. While holding onto the top handle only press down on the release button with your thumb. Then grab the handlebar of the plunger with your other hand and pull the plunger back and out of the cylinder.

Take a pound and a half (0.68 kilograms) of your very soft clay and form it into a tube shape to fit into the cylinder.
You can do this by rolling out the clay or making the shape with your hands. The size of the clay should be a bit smaller than the cylinder so it can slide right in. 

Remove the cap on the tube and slide the clay into the cylinder.
If the clay doesn’t fit, don’t force it in because that doesn’t work. You can remove the clay from the tube and make it thinner, or you can cut off the extra clay with your Potters knife.

a picture of a potter sliding clay in extruder tube

Install Your Die

My Clay Hand Extruder comes with three 2-inch (5 cm) dies. One die is a 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) coil shape, and two blank dies to customize to your needs. I made two smaller coils.  You can also get a set of 8 handle shape dies. It’s great to choose from many different dies and even make your own.

These dies will also fit the Kemper and Shimpo extruders. 

Choose a Die shape for your handles and place it on the clay in the tube. Align the threads of the cap with the cylinder threads and twisted it on. The cap only needs to be snug, don’t tighten it too much; it will be hard to remove.

Extruding The Clay

Hold the Clay Extruder vertically; this will reduce the stress on the clay and help prevent it from curling.

Press the two handles together with one or both hands, whichever is easier for you. The clay is soft, and the extruder is light, which makes it very easy to use. If the clay starts to curl in the beginning, just straighten it out.

If the handle is hard to squeeze, your clay is too hard. Remove the cap on the bottom of the cylinder and press the handles together until all the clay comes out.
Wedge some more water into your clay, shape it again, and place it back in the cylinder.

Tip: It’s a good idea to place a small amount of clay in the cylinder and test the clay until you get a feel for how smooth it should be.

After you have the length you want, cut the clay off with your potter’s knife or finger. Also, when removing the clay, make sure you have extra. You can always have a longer handle and remove what you don’t need, but for the most part, you can’t add on to a handle that’s too short.

Shape and place your handle on the tube for support while it dries a bit or you can lay it on its side.

Change The Shapes Of Your Handles

It’s very easy to change the shape of your handles if you want variety. Unscrew the cap remove the die, place a new die on the tube and twist the cap back on.

TIP: If the clay sticks to the plate, take your potter’s knife and place it in between the die and clay, this will give you leverage to remove the die.

Attaching Your Cool New Handles To Your Mug

A Few things you will need to attach your handles:

  • A Potters Knife – to remove extra clay
  • Needle tool – for scoring
  • Slip (slushy, watered down clay) – to attach your handle
  • Brush – for slipping
  • Modeling Tool – for smoothing
  • A Smoothing Sponge

Tools listed above can be found on my Pottery Tool Guide List.

Your handle and mug should be almost leather hard. Your handle has to be soft enough to bend a bit without cracking and hard enough to keep its form.

Place your handle on the mug where you want it to be. Don’t press it on to the mug.

TIP: When attaching your handle, keep in mind, handles that are oversized will move your hand further away from the mug’s center of gravity.

Take your Needle Tool and mark your mug around the edge of your handle and gently remove the handle.

Score your mug and handle. Make scratch marks with your needle tool vertically and diagonally on your mug and handle in the areas that you want to attach your handle.

Slip your mug and handle. Dip your brush in the slip and brush the slip on all the areas you have just scored. I have never cracked or lost a handle doing it this way.

Join them together and smooth them out. Make sure when pressing the handle to the mug that your fingers are also on the inside of your mug so you don’t dent your mug when pressing down. Once you place the handle on the mug, you can use your fingers or a modeling tool to smooth out the connected areas. You can also smooth out any marks or scratches with a smooth sponge.

a picture of a potter smoothing out a handle on a mug

Now your mug is ready to dry and fire. Drying is a vital part of making pottery. You want to make sure your mug is totally dry before entering the kiln. This article I wrote on How Long Pottery Should Dry Before Firing is a good guide to help you know when to fire your pottery. 

An Overview of The Clay Hand Extruder

After struggling to pull a good handle, it’s nice to have a helping hand, especially as a beginner. You can use this Clay Hand Extruder for all your ceramics that need a handle of some kind. I have found using an extruder is more convenient and gives you the ability to be more creative.

As a potter, handles are not only a way to hold your pottery but a creative extension of the piece you have created.

a picture of bone dry handles on mugs

Bonus Step by Step Videos

Making Ceramic Handles with a Handheld Extruder

Attaching Handles to Mugs in 5 Easy Steps

When it comes to learning how to make pottery, it’s “Progress over Perfection.”

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