How to Throw a Pot on a Wheel

  • 01 of 06

    Lubrication Is Vital while Throwing

    Lubricate the pot's walls while throwing on the potter's wheel.
    Be sure to continually lubricate the pot's walls while throwing on the potter's wheel. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    The entire process of forming a pot out of clay on the potter's wheel is generally called throwing. There are several steps within that process, such as

    As with centering and opening, the clay must be kept well-lubricated. Keeping a sponge tucked into the right or left palm can be very helpful, since you will be able to squeeze out liquid as needed without interrupting your movement.

    To lubricate both sides of the walls easily, place one hand at the top of the pot with two fingers barely touching both sides of the wall. Squeeze water or slurry onto the back of your hand. It will flow downwards, following your fingers onto both sides of the pot's walls at the same time.

    As you see in the photo, you should lubricate the pot after straightening the walls and before your first throw.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Speed and Movement While Throwing

    The first throw of the pot's walls while working on the potter's wheel.
    The first throw of the pot's walls while working on the potter's wheel, demonstrating the reduced speed and smoothness of movement needed. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    Wheel speed while throwing the walls should be at one quarter speed, or even slower. One of the biggest difficulties beginning throwers have is the natural inclination to increase speed. Resist the temptation to go faster when problems develop in the throw. Slower is much, much better.

    Just as during centering and opening the clay, your movements should be firm and smooth. This includes smoothly making contact with the clay and especially smooth releases from the clay. Jerky, sudden movements, contacts, releases, and pushes can knock the pot off-center. Once off-center, it may be impossible to regain centeredness for that pot.

    In this photo we are seeing the beginning of the first throw. The fingers on the right hand have gotten under the clay at the outer bottom and the two hands are working in tandem as they bend the clay between them. We will explore more of the mechanics of the throw in Step 4.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Compress the Pot's Rim after Every Throw

    Compress the pot's rim after every throw while throwing on the potter's wheel.
    After every throw while throwing on the potter's wheel, you will need to do several things, including compressing the pot's rim. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    After every throw while throwing on the potter's wheel, you will need to do several things, including compressing the pot's rim. You can do this with the edges of your fingers, or with a chamois. The chamois usually works better and should always be used for the final compression.

    Thoroughly dampened a strip of chamois that is about two by four inches. Grasp both ends and lay it across the pot's upper edge, without letting go. Apply gently downward pressure from both sides, with your fingers gently supporting the clay on both sides. This compresses and strengthens the clay of the pot's rim.

    At the end of each throw you should also remove excess liquid from the floor (see Step 5), then re-lubricate the walls (see Step 1).

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    The Mechanics of Throwing a Pot's Walls

    The second throw or pull up of the pot's walls while throwing.
    The second throw or pull up of the pot's walls while throwing. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    In this photo we are seeing the action during the middle of the second throw. Note the bulge of clay as the gentle force thins the walls and pushes the excess clay upward, increasing the pot's height.

    To throw (or pull up as it is also known) the walls of the pot, crook your fingers and lay the side of your left forefinger at the interior base of the pot's wall. Lay the side of your right forefinger at the exterior base of the pot's wall.Your left forefinger should be slightly higher than your right forefinger, due to the thickness of the pot's floor.

    Apply a slight, gentle pressure using the sides of your forefingers' joints. Begin lifting both hands in tandem, keeping the left hand slightly higher than the right. See a cut-away of the two hands' placement here.

    Keep the lift vertical or move slightly inward. The clay will want to move outward; don't let it unless you mean to throw a bowl. Keep in mind that the faster the wheel is rotating, the more centrifugal force will work against you in keeping the walls vertical.

    As your hands reach the upper part of the pot, reduce the pressure of your hands on the pot's wall. Otherwise, the bottom of the wall (which can resist the pressure more) will remain thicker and the upper wall will thin too much.

    Once at the top, your left hand should remain stationary, supporting the clay as your right hand continues upward until it has also reached the top.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Sponge Up Excess Liquid after Each Throw

    Use a sponge to soak up excess liquid while throwing on the potter's wheel.
    After each throw, use a sponge to soak up excess liquid while throwing on the potter's wheel. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    After each throw, remember to compress the rim (see Step 3). Once the rim is compressed, use a sponge to remove all the excess liquid from the floor of the pot. If liquid is allowed to remain too long, it will weaken the fabric of the clay. This in turn increases the likelihood of cracking as the pot dries or during firing.

    After the excess liquid has been removed, lubricate the walls of the pot before your next throw (see Step 1).

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    The Third Throw of the Pot's Walls

    The final throw of the pot's walls while throwing on the potter's wheel.
    The third throw is usually the final throw of the pot's walls before finalizing the form of the finished pot. Photo © 2008 Janet L. Giles

    Generally speaking, an averaged-sized pot will require three throwing cycles to thin the walls enough. Small pots may only take one throw, while larger pots often require more. The key is to know when have the pot's walls been thinned enough to be at the desired thickness.

    Once the pot's walls are at or nearly at the desired thickness, compress the rim and remove excess liquid. Lubricate the walls only if it is needed for further work. It is now time to finish the form.