Pottery – the process of molding clay into bowls, plates, mugs, and other designs – is a centuries-old art. In the early days, everyone would make their crafts using a manual wheel, as it was the only option.
But pottery has come a long way since then. The process of creating pottery looks very different today, as we now have modern technology, electricity, and YouTube tutorials to help us!
One of the most significant changes to pottery came in the
form of the electric pottery wheel.
The electric pottery wheel is a device powered by a motor that controls the spinning of the wheel, they are a popular choice for potters who are just starting their pottery design journey, as they are portable and easy to use.
However, electric pottery wheels tend to be expensive. If you’ve decided that you want to buy one, you need to equip yourself with as much information as possible before you take the plunge.
To help you choose the right electric pottery wheel, I’ve written this comprehensive step-by-step buyers guide for beginners. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a more in-depth knowledge of what to look for in a pottery wheel and will be able to buy the right wheel for you.
Alright, let’s dive right in.
- Step 1: Brush up on your pottery knowledge
- When you’re exploring which electric wheel to buy, you’ll come across a variety of terms, including:
- Step 2: Make sure you’re set on an electric pottery wheel
- However, an increasing number of people today are switching to electric wheels. Here’s why:
- Here are some of the most common complaints about electric wheels:
- Step 3: Test a few electric wheels
- Step 4: Understand and review different pottery wheel specifications
- The Wheel Head
- The Bat Pins
- The Motor
- Tabletop or Seated Wheel?
- The Splash Pan
- Weight, Dimensions, and Volts
- Step 5: Set your Budget
- Consider the Other Materials You Need
- Here are some of the most common additional expenses:
- Here are a few of the things you should check when testing a secondhand wheel:
- What else should you look out for?
- Step 6: Research the Market
- Step 7: Place an order!
Step 1: Brush up on your pottery knowledge
If you’re considering buying an electric pottery wheel, you probably have a decent knowledge of pottery. However, it never hurts to brush up on the basics!
When you’re exploring which electric wheel to buy, you’ll come across a variety of terms, including:
- Pottery: The art of using and molding clay to create a vessel or ornaments. There are two main components to the property process: shaping the clay (which you use your wheel to do) and baking the piece in a kiln to remove water from the clay and harden it.
- Throwing: The process of shaping clay using the wheel. This is done by ‘centering’ clay on a spinning wheel and then using your hands to build the clay into a shape. Throwing is an intricate process – having the right wheel can go a long way in helping you throw better.
- Firing: The process of baking the shaped clay in a kiln or potter’s oven. Like throwing, firing is a process that involves skill and detailed calculations. You have to work out which temperature will work best for your design and keep checking the temperature as you go.
Step 2: Make sure you’re set on an electric pottery wheel
Once you familiarize yourself with the pottery terms, you should turn your attention to the kind of wheel you want. There are two types of pottery wheels: motorized (electric) and non-motorized (manual).
Motorized wheels are electric wheels that can be powered up with the flick of a button, provided they’re connected to a power source.
Non-motorized wheels require you to use your foot to power the pedal to make the wheel spin.
Manual wheels have been used for centuries and are durable and low maintenance.
However, an increasing number of people today are switching to electric wheels.
- They’re lighter and more compact. If you’ve just started on your pottery journey, you probably don’t have a fully-fledged studio yet. This space issue makes an electric wheel more attractive, as they are more compact than manual wheels and take up less space. They can also be easily moved if you want to relocate your wheel. In fact, they’re so lightweight that you can travel with them, which can give you the chance to attend pottery demonstrations at local fairs.
- They’re easier to use. Because you don’t need to control the wheel manually, you can concentrate all your attention on centering and throwing your clay. Once you get the hang of it, making pottery becomes a much faster process.
- They are better for heavy clay. Electric wheels can bear larger weights than manual wheels, so they work better if you’re trying to make bigger vessels or ornaments.
- They have adjustable and rotational speeds. The speed at which a wheel rotates can impact the quality and shape of your clay. Manual wheels can only spin as fast as you’re able to pedal. However, electric ones allow you to control the rotational speeds. You can experiment with the speed to understand what will result in the best shapes.
If you’re planning on buying an electric wheel, it’s also important to consider what can go wrong with them.
Here are some of the most common complaints about electric wheels:
- They rely on electricity to run. If you don’t have access to a power outlet, you’ll find yourself sitting at your wheel with a blob of clay and nothing to show for your time.
- They can break down. As with every other electrical appliance, electric wheels can break down. Therefore, they occasionally need a little loving maintenance and repair.
- They can be noisy. Electric wheels can be noisy and disturb everyone around them. If you’re not using a separate pottery studio, this can be especially concerning!
- They’re vulnerable to water. When you’re throwing clay, you’ll be using water to mold the clay and lubricate your hands. Electric wheels are designed with this water usage in mind. However, you need to remember that they are electric and powered by a motor. If enough water gets into the motor, it may cause problems with the device.
Before you start to think about which electric pottery wheel to choose, you need to weigh the advantages of an electric wheel against its disadvantages.
Once you’ve made sure that an electric wheel suits your needs, you can move on to step 3.
Step 3: Test a few electric wheels
The more expensive something is, the more critical it is to try it before you buy it. After all, we test-drive cars and give mattresses a trial run; why not do the same with your pottery wheel?
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many pottery brands that will allow you to trial run new pottery wheels. However, there is another option to test pottery wheels: Taking a class is the number one way
Most pottery classes will have a range of manual and electric wheels from several different brands. Signing up for a class will allow you to test each wheel and figure out which works best for you. It will also help you gain an understanding of the different brands on the market.
Taking pottery classes will also help you refine your technique and give your pottery knowledge a true test – both of which will help you decide whether it’s worthwhile to invest in a wheel or not.
Another option is to look for local arts and crafts stores that sell pottery wheels. Some of these stores may have tester versions of the electric wheels they have in stock. And even if they don’t, there will be helpful employees who will be able to advise you on choosing the right electric wheel based on your own unique needs.
Step 4: Understand and review different pottery wheel specifications
When you’re testing different electric wheels, pay close attention to the specifications of each type of wheel. Whether you’re trying or buying a wheel, there are a variety of specs you need to consider; each will affect the way you use the wheel and your finished product.
The Wheel Head
The wheel head is the spinning part of the electric wheel that shapes the clay. The main thing to consider when it comes to a wheel head is its size. Wheel heads with a larger diameter will be able to bear a heavier clay weight and allow you to make larger pots, bowls, or other designs.
Because they have larger diameters, bigger wheel heads are especially helpful if you’re making designs with broad bases. If you plan on making larger designs, look for a wheel head that has a diameter of at least fourteen inches.
The Bat Pins
At times, a metal wheel head isn’t suitable for the design you’re trying to make or the conditions you’re working in. In these cases, you have to attach ‘bats,’ which are additional plates for throwing to your wheel head.
These bats are mounted on pins situated on the wheel head. Most wheel heads have standard pin configurations, but make sure to check for that before buying a particular wheel.
The motor is what powers the wheel and is one of its most essential components. When looking at motors, pay attention to the revolutions per minute (RPMs) that the motor is capable of.
Most motors can handle at least 240 RPM, which affects the amount of torque that the motor can deliver to the wheel head. The higher the torque of an electric wheel, the more weight of clay it will be able to bear.
You also need to consider the weight of clay you plan on using. A higher-powered motor will be able to bear up to 400 pounds of clay, while a regular one can bear up to 50 pounds. If you’re not a professional, don’t worry about this – 50 pounds of clay is more than enough if you’re not making commercial pottery.
Gone are the days when left-handed potters had to figure out how to throw on a wheel inconveniently designed for right-handers. Most electric wheels now come with a reversible option, where you can change the direction the wheel is spinning.
Be sure to check that the wheels you’re considering have a reversibility option. This is necessary even if you’re right-handed, as changing the wheel spin can help you come up with interesting patterns and designs.
Tabletop or Seated Wheel?
Electric wheels come in two basic placement types: tabletop and seated.
Tabletop wheels sit on top of a table and are lighter, portable and occupy less space.
Meanwhile, a seated wheel is a table with a wheel built into it; you simply have to pull up a chair to start using it.
Seated wheels have a foot pedal that you will have to press rhythmically to make the wheel move smoothly. If you don’t want to work your feet too much, go with a tabletop wheel.
The Splash Pan
Some pottery wheels come with splash pans that surround the wheel to capture any clay that flies off.
Splash pans aren’t necessary, but they do help protect your surroundings.
You can always make your own splash pan by placing a wide dish with high edges underneath your pottery wheel. However, it’s convenient to buy a wheel that has a splash pan pre-attached.
Weight, Dimensions, and Volts
The weight, dimension, and voltage of your machine are all aspects you need to consider when buying an electric pottery wheel.
You need to ensure that the weight is manageable, and its dimensions will let you fit the electric wheel in the space you’re envisioning.
Step 5: Set your Budget
After you decide on the specifications that work best for
you, it’s time to start thinking about your budget.
Let’s get possible prices out of the way now: an adult-sized electric wheel can cost between $400-1500.
Your budget should be based on the features and specifications you want your pottery wheel to have. A wheel with a higher clay load capacity, more motor power, and a smoother manner of operating might be more expensive. However, it will be much more durable than a cheaper model with worse specs.
If you’re a beginner, it may be tempting to get one of the
cheapest models you can find to test your clay sculpting powers. I would advise
against this, though.
Even the cheapest electric wheels are expensive. If you’re willing to invest in a superior wheel, you’ll get a more durable machine and will be able to make higher-quality pottery – both of which are essential if you make pottery regularly.
Consider the Other Materials You Need
When you’re creating your budget, remember that an electric wheel cannot operate in isolation. You need to factor in the cost of other materials and equipment.
Here are some of the most common additional expenses:
- Clay. You can’t make pottery without clay! Fortunately, clay for pottery is relatively cheap. But if you’re a beginner, you’re going to be using a lot of it as you practice and improve. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy clay in bulk if you have a place to store it. You should also learn how to recycle your clay which will save you money and is good for the environment
- Hand Tools. Pottery Hand Tools are used in every phase of pottery making. They come in many different materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. Depending on the material and brand, the cost of hand tools will vary.
- Bats. Pottery bats are placed over the wheel head. They come in a variety of different materials, including wood and plastic. Depending on the material and brand, the price of a bat can vary.
- Kiln. Once you’ve shaped your pot, you need to fire it in a kiln or fire pit. Kilns are the more practical way to bake your pottery but can cost between $500-$4000.
If you’re ordering your electric wheel online, you should also factor in the shipping costs. If it’s on the heavier side, the shipping charge can be significant.
After looking at the cost of an electric wheel and the add-ons that you may need, you may decide that you can’t afford a new wheel.
If that’s the case, don’t worry – you can always opt for a secondhand electric pottery wheel.
You can find used pottery wheels online. eBay is a great place to start looking. If you don’t find anything you like on eBay, browse through Google for a specialized pottery website that sells used wheels. Testing a secondhand pottery wheel is an absolute must, so make sure the person you buy it from will allow you to return it.
Here are a few of the things you should check when testing a secondhand wheel:
- Listen to the sound of the wheel. Make sure that when it’s spinning, the wheel is humming and not grinding, stalling, or squeaking.
- Check the pedal. If the machine has a pedal, check that you can step on it easily and that it doesn’t get stuck.
- Check the machine’s stability. Make sure that the machine does not shake as you use it and that it doesn’t slip easily. A machine that is not stable can not only ruin your designs but can also be unsafe.
- Check the power cord of the wheel. When you’re using a wheel that has already been used before, the power cord may be frayed, damaged, or have a loose connection. It’s important to check that the power cord is in good condition – otherwise, within a week, you may be dealing with a wheel that doesn’t work.
Secondhand wheels are also a great choice because they have been broken in. Electric wheels that have been used before are a lot more responsive to clay and shaping. However, you do need to be careful and ensure that the machine is in working condition.
What else should you look out for?
As well as scrutinizing the specifications, accessories, and cost comparisons for each wheel, there are a few other factors you need to consider before making a purchase decision.
- Warranty periods. Most electric wheel brands have warranties that are at least two years – some have much longer ones. Look for long period warranties and be sure to check whether any conditions are affecting the warranty’s validity.
- Shipping times. As well as checking the price of shipping, ensure that you know the time it’ll take for your wheel to be shipped to you.
- Maintenance and repair. Before placing your order, look for information on how you will get your wheel repaired if it breaks down – and what you need to do to maintain it and keep it healthy.
Step 6: Research the Market
While you’re creating your budget, researching the available options will help you understand what’s available and how much you’ll need to spend.
To kickstart your research, here are some of the most popular electric pottery wheel brands on the market today.
Brent Pottery Wheels are some of the most popular in the market. They are generally free-standing wheels – that is, they come built into a tabletop and have a pedal that lets you control the speed of the wheel.
Brent wheels may take up more space than a regular tabletop electric wheel. They are also quite expensive, as they cost between $1,000 and $1,700.
Once you’ve got your wheel installed, you can also upgrade your workspace with some of Brent’s accessories, which include extra workspace tables and different plates.
You should get a Brent pottery wheel if you’re willing to invest at least $1000 in return for a comfortable, expertly-designed wheel. Some Brent brand electric wheels worth considering include the Brent B Pottery Wheel, Brent C Pottery Wheel, and Brent CXC Pottery wheel.
Shimpo is a brand known for quiet free-standing and tabletop electric wheels that have high power but light motors.
Because of their powerful motors, most Shimpo wheels can handle large amounts of clay; the higher end ones can manage around two hundred pounds of clay at a time. They are also great because they have a reservable rotation option that allows both left and right-handers to feel comfortable while using them.
Tabletop models cost between $600-900, while the free-standing ones cost between $700-1200.
Popular variants of electric wheels within the Shimpo brand are the Shimpo Aspire tabletop wheel and the Shimpo RK Whisper Wheel, which is also a tabletop version. Popular free-standing versions include the Shimpo VL Lite Wheel and the Shimpo Vl Whisper Wheel.
Soldner wheels are at the more premium end of the market and are known for their free-standing designs. These wheels have smooth pedals and powerful motors that can take a lot of weight.
Soldner has two series of electric wheels: the P-Series and the S-series. The P-Series are pricier and are made for professional use; if you’re a beginner, you’re better off with the S-series.
Pacifica has been producing pottery wheels for over twenty years, and they are continuously improving their line of products.
They are known for having motors with high torque that are able to handle heavy weight. They also have free-standing models with ‘Magic Pedals’ that give you extra control over how your wheel spins.
Most models have similar features, including wheel heads made with aluminum, satisfaction guarantees, and workstation extensions. Most models cost between $1000-1200.
If you’re interested in this brand, look for the Pacifica GT-800 Pottery Wheel or the Pacifica GT-400 Pottery Wheel.
Speedball Arts Wheels
Speedball wheels are budget-friendly electric wheels that offer plenty of bang for your buck!
There are two Speedball product lines you should consider: the Artista series and the Boss series. Both offer electric wheels, additional bats and bat pins, splash pans, and a warranty of at least two years.
Speedball wheels cost between $400-900. The cheapest is the Speedball Artista Wheel, which is a tabletop electric wheel that can be easily moved and stored. You should also consider the Big Boss Potter’s Wheel and the Boss Elite SQ Potter’s Wheel.
While researching each of these wheels online, be sure to perform a price and specs comparison on several different websites. Most of these brands are available at pottery stores and websites, so you should also look out for competing offers from different sources. You can get some pretty great deals if you’re patient and spend some time price comparing!
Step 7: Place an order!
Before you finally hit the order button and key in your credit card details, do one more check to see that you’ve followed all the steps in this guide.
- Have you been to a few pottery classes, both to deepen your knowledge of pottery and to test several different types of wheels?
- Have you weighed the pros and cons of an electric wheel over a manual wheel?
- Does the model you’ve chosen meet your needs, or do you need to upgrade to a more expensive option?
- Are you dead set on the brand and model you’ve chosen, or would you benefit from doing some more research?
- Have you compared the prices on several different websites?
- Does the merchant you’re purchasing from, allow you to return the wheel if it’s faulty?
Once you’ve covered all of the bases, go forth and order your new (or secondhand) electric pottery wheel!