Clip Your Fingernails
It may seem like a small detail, but the truth is that making sure your fingernails are clipped as short as possible will avoid multiple problems while throwing. Fingernails are all too likely to poke, gouge, rip, and scratch clay. On the wheel, this can mean the destruction of a pot at practically every stage of creation. At the same time, if the clay catches your fingernail at high speed and at the wrong angle, your nail can be painfully torn.
Gather Your Tools Together
Place your throwing tools so that they will be within easy reach while you are sitting at the wheel.
- A half gallon container or bucket of water or slurry placed convenient to your right hand (for right handed throwing). Your throwing liquid should be as close as possible to the wheelhead in order to reduce dribbles.
- Dampen sponges and your chamois.
- Place a bucket for slops and scraped clay beside the wheel.
- I keep another big bucket close to my wheel with lots of water for cleaning hands and tools after throwing.
- Have plenty of bats ready to hand.
- If you will be using slips immediately, have them within easy reach.
Ready the Clay: Stiffness
Check your clay to make sure it is the right stiffness for throwing. Clay that is too stiff or too soft is nearly impossible to work with. With some experience, you will discover the right stiffness for you as you work on the wheel.
Clay that is too soft can be firmed up through wedging on either canvas or plaster. Make certain there is no plaster dust or particles before working on plaster surfaces.
For clay that is too stiff, you can wedge water into it. On your wedging table, spread the clay out into a rough slab and sprinkle with water. Fold the clay inward, so that the water is encased. Wedge until the water is fully incorporated into the clay. If the clay is still too stiff, repeat.
Ready the Clay: Homogeny
For good throwing, you clay must be homogeneous in terms of stiffness. For example, bagged clay that has been sitting around for some time may be stiffer on the outside than in the interior. Even if there are no air pockets in the clay, this clay will have to be wedged to reach a uniform stiffness. Otherwise, the changes in stiffness can make it impossible to throw evenly and keep the clay on center.