How to Make Handles for Pottery

Pottery handles
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You will want to make handles for many pots such as mugs, pitchers, teapots, and so on. Here are several ways to make handles that are commonly used in pottery. Be a little creative and see what you can come up with...

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    Strap and Coil Handles

    A strap handle ready for attachment, showing the scoring upper for the upper end in progress.
    A strap handle ready for attachment, showing the scoring upper for the upper end in progress. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    The simplest way to make a handle out of clay is to cut them from a slab. Another way is to roll out a coil for a handle. These straps or coils should be of the same general thickness as the walls of the pots they will be attached to. They should also be of the same clay body as the pot. This will avoid problems that could occur due to differences in shrinkage and coefficient of expansion.

    A neat way of making strap handles on the wheel is to throw a pot, making sure it's completely even on all sides and then take a sharp tool and slice the tops off the pots at the width you desire. Cut the ring, so it's flat and you'll have the perfect handle. 

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    Pulled Handles

    Dry the pulled handle strap, allowing air to reach it on all sides.
    Dry the pulled handle straps, allowing air to reach them on all sides. Note these pulled handle straps are hanging from the same bats as the pots they will be attached to later. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    Many potters prefer pulled handles to strap handles. Pulled handles have a more organic quality to them and usually have a more fluid line. Another advantage is that the action of pulling the handle aligns the clay particles, this strengthening the clay. As with other handles made from clay, they should be made from the same clay body as the pot they will be attached to.

    But what exactly does pulling a handle mean? It's exactly what it says, and involves some very gentle pulling to create a smooth shape that will look perfect on your pot. When pulling your handle you must use the same type of clay that you used to make your ware, so it will attach perfectly. You'll also need to wedge it to make sure all of the air bubbles have been pushed out. The next part is key, as you have to form a sort of carrot shape with your clay, to form the body of the handle. Then you take the clay in one hand and (making sure you have a bucket of water to hand) smooth down the clay pulling it out as you go, with your fingers and thumb. You can always pull it just that little bit longer than you need to make sure that you have enough when it comes to attaching it to your ware. A good tip, once you've made your handle, is to hang it over the edge of a wooden bat, so the air can get to both sides and dry it a little before you attach it. 

    Then you'll need to use your tools to cut the handle to the exact right length and then score the pot where you want to put it. Roughly speaking, the pot should be leather hard and the handle should be dry enough to form a gentle curve when it's held. You'll need to score the handle (at the point it will be attached) as well as the pot. Use a little slip on your scored points and then carefully attach the handle, applying gentle pressure at the parts it joins. Then just carefully let the pot dry completely, and it'll be ready for firing. 

    • How to Pull a Handle
  • 03 of 03

    Handles Made from Other Materials

    Stoneware teapot by J.R.Lafferty.
    Stoneware teapot created by J.R. (Pete) Lafferty. The glaze is a semi-gloss applied thinly, with subtle variations due to brushed application. Glaze contains manganese, producing both the speckles and the purple blushes. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    Most commonly used on teapots, handles can also be made from other materials such as wood, bamboo, or leather. Many ceramic suppliers carry various types and sizes of handles.

    Handles made from other materials must be attached after the pot has gone through its glaze firing. During the pot's creation, lugs must be made which will be large enough (after shrinkage) for the handle ends to fit through. Lugs can be made from slabs, coils, or even pinched from a lump of clay.

    Using another material for your handles is where ceramics can get exciting. If you're making a hanging basket or pot out of porcelain, simple twine can look lovely. You could also use a very thin flat metal wire to wind to use as your handle (attached once it's been fired, of course). You can make teapots so much more interesting, using different handles.