The three primary components of a kickwheel are the wheelhead, the drive shaft, and the flywheel. Ball bearings are usually set below both the wheelhead and the flywheel. The flywheels are extremely heavy, often made on reinforced concrete.
Once in motion, the flywheel as enough momentum to allow the potter to center and throw the clay. Some kickwheels also come equipped with a motor, which is used as a supplement to the potter's feet in getting the flywheel up to speed.
Almost all currently available commercially built kickwheels are contructed with a strong tubular metal frame. Old kickwheels and those made by individuals often use a wooden frame, which must be sturdy enough to support the weight of the flywheel, wheelhead, and clay.
Throwing on a Kickwheel
Kickwheels are built in such a way that the potter is sitting fairly high. For some potters, this position makes them feel more in control of the process. Many potters working on kickwheels also like the silence and rhythm of a kickwheel.
Kickwheels do have a rhythm. The energy stored in the flywheel's momentum is quickly used up when centering and throwing. The wheel automatically slows; the potter must stop working on the pot in order to re-build momentum on a regular basis. Thus, the rhythm is one of kick - work - kick - work.
Kickwheels and Their Potters
Kickwheels demand a fair amount of physical input from the potters who use them. Most potters using kickwheels go through shoes quickly, some at an alarming rate.
This wear on the shoes is a good indicator of other wear and tear that is much less noticeable at first. That is the wear and tear on the potter's knee joints.
Even potters who use both legs at their kickwheels tend to develop knee problems over time. Long-term use can lead to joint and ligature damage and may contribute to the development of arthritic conditions.