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A Basic Guide To Gathering Ceramics Tools

Aug 17, 2007
The way to build up your ceramic tool set is to start slowly. This will help you save money and avoid confusion.

There is a vast variety of tools and equipment now available to the ceramics hobbyist. Suppliers' catalogues are jam-packed with paraphernalia for the amateur workshop. After paging through one of these catalogues, the beginner is apt to be over impressed with the necessity for fancy tools and equipment. The fact is, however, that very few implements are can't-do-without for the beginning ceramist.

A working surface covered with a piece of oilcloth, wrong side up; one or two simple modeling tools, a knife, and about five pounds of clay are all you need to start shaping your first object. The cost of these is negligible. Most clays, for example, can be bought from retail dealers at about 15 cents a pound.

Build your collection of tools slowly, adding items as you need them. It is likely that you will do your first clay-craft in a local studio or classroom, under the guidance of a professional teacher. It is not probable that you'll begin sculpting or casting your own pieces in a mold. Instead, you will be supplied with greenware, a fettling knife, brushes, colors and glazes. You will remove the mold marks from the greenware, smooth the surface, add some decoration and glaze. Then the professional ceramist will fire it for you in his kiln.

After you have learned to do this, which shouldn't take more than one or two lessons, you may want to take the greenware home and finish it there. In all likelihood, you will buy the few necessary tools from your teacher. This will be the start of your own home workshop.

Of course many new ceramists begin by immediately furnishing a complete studio, from clay to kiln. In most cases this is not advisable for two reasons. First, there are financial considerations, which would frustrate this grandiose plan of action for most people. Second, it is more prudent to wait and see what type of equipment is best suited to your personal needs and desires. The clay worker who wants to specialize in hand-sculpture will not require the very same tools and materials as the one whose skills and fancy lean toward pottery.

When you select a site for your workshop, make certain it is not exposed directly to extremes of heat or dampness.

Good lighting is also important, contributing both to the ceramist's comfort and to the quality of his work. Running water, or easy access to water, is also desirable. Until you start to accumulate a sizable collection of tools and equipment, and want to set up your own workshop, your kitchen should serve the purpose.

Many tools you will be able to make easily for yourself; others you will find already at hand about the house. No matter how far you advance in the ceramics art, you'll find the most useful tools are your fingers. Every other modeling device is employed simply to supplement the work that can be done with your hands. When shaping a piece of clay, tools will only assist your fingers. They will not accomplish anything that can't be done with your fingers.
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