Information is often the key to successful shopping, especially when you are shopping for an expensive and important piece of equipment like a pottery wheel. There are several major brands of potter's wheels. This article will introduce you to them and give you some of the background scoop on each.
Brent wheels were first manufactured in the United States by the company founded by Robert Brent. Robert Brent was a true pottery innovator. Dissatisfie3d with the wheels that were then on the market, Brent designed a wheel which had electronic speed controls and a DC motor with permanent magnets --- the very first wheel that had either of these improvements. By the end of 1967, Brent pottery wheels were in full production. (By 1973, Robert Brent had also designed a kickwheel and had invented the first slab roller.)
In 1978, the American Art Clay Company (AMACO) purchased the Brent pottery wheel company from Mr. Brent and took over manufacturing. Brent pottery wheels are often cited as "the world's most popular wheel".
Paul Soldner was one of studio pottery's premier leaders and innovators in the later part of the twentieth century. When a student under Peter Voulkos, he began modifying the pottery equipment. This in turn led him to start the Soldner Pottery Equipment Company in 1955.
Soldner pottery wheels have a patented type of foot pedal that is highly sensitive to pressure and very smooth in its operation. This controller costs about three times as much as an SCR controller (the ones most often used), which contributes to the higher cost of the Soldner wheels. Soldner wheels are also known for their exceptional ability to handle huge amounts of clay on the wheelhead.
Creative Industries began manufacturing pottery wheels in 1971, in Cajon, CA. In 2009 the company was squired by the Speedball Art Company of Statesville, NC.
This line of wheels caters mainly to students, hobbyists, and those who want a very light, portable wheel. In the past, performance has been an issue with Creative Industry wheels, but in the recent past the specifications have been upgraded.
The Shimpo Industrial Company Ltd. began in 1952 in Kyoto, Japan. In 1974, Shimpo America Corporation was started in Illinois. It's proper name now is the Nidec-Shimpo America Corporation, it it has wise-flung branches throughout the globe.
Shimpo pottery wheels are best known for their very quiet operation, and potters on the Pottery Forum also say they have been pleased with good torque strength and smoothness of operation.
Pacifica Potter's Wheels Company began in 1972 and was acquired by Laguna Clay Company in 1992. Laguna continues the earlier tradition of making and improving upon these electric wheels. They promise plenty of torque (power), easy repairs (when needed), and quiet, smooth operation.
Axner Pottery Supply was founded in 1978 by working potter Howard Axner. In 2006, the company merged with Laguna Clay Company.
The Lockerbie kickwheel first became available during the mid-1960's and can be found in many educational institutions. In 2007, Lockerbie Manufacturing Company merged with Laguna Clay Company, which has taken over manufacturing and marketing these wheels. Laguna also manufactures a lighter-duty kickwheel under its own name.
Skutt Ceramics, Inc. is probably best known for their electric kilns. In 2008, they acquired Thomas Stuart Pottery Wheels. The new line is called Skutt Pottery Wheels' Thomas Stuart Signature Series and strives to continue the reputation of these wheels for giving long-lived, quality performance.
The Skutt company itself began in 1953, with the father-son team of Ralph and Neil Skutt's production of the first multi-sided hobby kilns. The company continues to make ceramic and glass kilns, as well as their newer line of electric and kick wheels.