The other day, while I was doing my best to stay busy whilst waiting for my bowls to dry, I was pondering the question of pottery tools.  Us potters have a lot of quite specialized and varied tools (from a tool that centers pots on the wheel for the purpose of trimming to ribs in a variety of shapes for throwing,  shaping and smoothing clay).  We all have our favorites, you know those tools you would be helpless without.   Well, I was NOT thinking about those tools but of items I’ve appropriated for use in the studio that are NOT really pottery tools (but if you ARE interested in which pottery tools folks can’t live without, check out the cool recent threads on Emily Murphy’s Fan Page).  So here are my top 5 “non pottery” pottery tools:

5.  PVC

You knew this was gonna be on the list, no?  We love PVC and have plenty of it lying around from our construction.  Though not strictly pottery “tools”, we’ve used PVC for kiln shelf storage, various iterations of a light box for photographing pottery and all my glaze buckets have a 1/2″ PVC “stick” inside for stirring.  In the studio, I have a bunch of various sized PVC which I use for rolling clay and for shaping vases (using the PVC as a form).

4. Dental tools

I scored these tools (after they were well sterilized!) from my dentist in Boston. They are awesome for carving clay and cleaning recessed areas. I can’t finish a project involving carving or clay removal without them.

3. Plastic “cutting boards”


My mom picked these up at a dollar store (I think!) and I quickly appropriated them. In addition to being a nice smooth (and easy to clean) surface for placing work, these sheets are really easy to cut. I’ve used a few of them to create templates of shapes I use a lot in hand-building. I place them on rolled out slabs and slice around them with a fettling knife. Easy peasey!

2. “Adjustable” Rolling Pin

Someday (maybe…) I’ll have a slab-roller. For now, I make use with a cutting harp (a metal frame with an adjustable wire for cutting consistent slabs of clay) and this wonderful rolling pin (which I found on ebay). It comes with 3 sets of removable rings, which determine the thickness of the slabs of clay you roll. Kind of like using strips of wood, but easier and all is one piece! 🙂

And my number one all time favorite “non pottery” pottery tool?

1. My chamois!

These little bits of chamois (a type of porous, non-abrasive leather) may not look like much but I’d be lost in the studio without them. I use them when I throw, I use them when I handbuilt. I use them when I trim and finally when I smooth off a greenware piece for the last time. I just bought myself a 5.5 sqr ft piece of chamois (yes, on ebay) so I’m set for a good time to come.

So those are MY top 5 “non pottery” pottery tools. What are some of yours?