Top 10 Must-Have Pottery Supplies for Every Potter

Potters use a variety of tools to work with clay. These tools include ribs, needles, loops and ribbons. Look for sets that come with wooden-handled tools as well as metal ones.

Metal ribs are essential to hand building and wheel throwing. They compress slabs, scrape clay forms and more. Chamois leather is a great tool for compressing and smoothing leather-hard clay. Be sure to dampen it and wash it properly between uses.

1. Wooden Tools

Whether you’re into hand building or wheel throwing, a few key tools will help make the process easier. Some essential tools include a sponge, needle tool, wood knife and a wire tool.

Ribbon tools have a special design to allow for precision when trimming away clay and performing decorative techniques like chattering. They come in a variety of blade shapes to provide a wide range of options for your pottery creations. These tools also have a variety of uses for scoring pieces and other tasks. They can also be used to compress seams and flatten areas.

2. Shredding Tools

These long, heavy needles set into wooden, metal or plastic handles are useful for neatly trimming the top edges of thrown pieces. They also work well for scoring slabs and coils when hand-building pottery.

Cut-off wires are the perfect tool for cutting a lump of clay into smaller chunks or separating a piece from the pottery wheel. Fishing line or uncoiled springs often work best as cut-off wires.

A good supply of low-cost scraper tools helps keep the cost of ceramic supplies down. Many potters keep these in a sturdy plastic artist or tackle box.

3. Chamois Leather

Chamois leather is a soft and absorbent cloth that is ideal for drying surfaces and removing excess moisture. It is also useful for buffing and polishing.

Genuine chamois is made from the skin of a chamois, a species of antelope native to European mountain ranges. However, today’s chamois cloth is typically made from the flesh split of sheepskin and tanned with fish (or marine) oils.

To ensure that you’re buying true chamois, look for a light color and a natural luster. It should also be soft and supple.

4. Rulers

Pottery is a fascinating craft. Its forms, shapes and decorations offer potters a key to understanding the everyday choices, skills and tastes of people in the past. It is also a sensitive marker of social and economic change in human societies.

Clay paddles are typically reserved for traditional clay work with natural clays but they can also be used to great effect with polymer and other types of clays. Grog is a ceramic material that strengthens and stabilizes clay bodies, reducing their tendency to crack and shrink during drying and firing processes. It is available in a variety of particle sizes.

5. Sandpaper

Sandpaper and emory cloth are both great for smoothing and sculpting clay. These are made of abrasive on one side of a paper backing that is baked and then coated with resin or epoxy.

Porcelain and smooth ungrogged stoneware can tolerate sanding but care must be taken to avoid scratching the surface. Sponges and chamois leather can be used to smooth handles, lip rims, and feet on pots. Special printers can print iron-colored images to create ceramic decals. These can be applied to a glaze fired pot and then kiln-fired again.

6. Cut-Off Wires

Long, heavy needles set into hardwood handles are useful for cutting across areas of a pot while on the wheel or in handbuilding. These are also known as fettling knives. They come in a wide variety of shapes and are used to smooth wet greenware or soft leather-hard clay.

Use a curly wire tool to add captivating texture to a piece or cut a pot off the wheel with one to make distinctive marks. The longer and heavier wire variations are particularly helpful for undercutting large platters or leather-hard wares.

7. Modeling Tools

Pottery tools are essential for sculpting, molding, and carving clay as well as adding textures. Ribbon tools are specially designed for removing clay while preserving precision, making them a favorite among potters who specialize in detailed work.

Boxwood modeling tools are versatile and durable utensils for sculpting clay, both on and off the pottery wheel. They come with a variety of blade shapes to choose from. Cut-off wires are useful for removing pieces from the wheel and can be made from fishing line or uncoiled springs.

8. Brushes

Pottery brushes come in a wide range of sizes and types. They can be used to decorate clay creations with slip, craft different patterns, draw images, add delicate lines or bold strokes and more.

Basic pottery tools can be quite inexpensive and still make a significant difference in the look of a finished piece. A good needle tool folds into its handle for safety and versatility.

A metal rib can help trim, pierce, carve and shape clay. Some have wavy edges while others are serrated for precise cutting.

9. Paintbrushes

Pottery requires a certain amount of supplies to create functional pieces that are safe for food and drink. These supplies can make the work easier and elevate the final look of a piece.

Paints for clay pottery (porcelain and glass) are available in a variety of colors that will not burn up in the kiln. These can be bought at Mid-South Ceramics (www.midsouthceramics.com).

There are also raw materials such as kiln wash, wax resist, latex resist, flocculants and more. Some of these serve multiple purposes while others are specific to ceramic painting and design.

10. Work Table

Potters use clay to bring their artistic visions to life. They work in a workspace that is specially designed to facilitate their creations.

For instance, they may need a scale to weigh their clay. This allows them to get more consistent results from their creations. Ideally, the scale should have good readability for precision. It would also be helpful if it could track clay shrinkage percentages. This helps them match their clay to the size of their wheels. They also need a work table. A 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood covered with heavy canvas is perfect for this purpose.