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Gary R. Ferguson

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Pottery Tips

"Potters are just kiln time!"
Hints, Tips, and Techniques I have found useful.


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  • Use Spoon to smooth the inside of a pot
  • Drill a hole in the middle of a thick solid sculpture to allow safer firing (makes thinner walls)
  • Split the lip with a pin tool before trying to create lid lip
  • Use a hair dryer to dry a piece to leather hard quickly
  • Making long hollow forms by "pulling" them down the length of a dowel rod. Start with a large wedged piece of clay - think in terms of handle for a 2 liter coffee mug, push the dowel into the center/core, wet your hand and start the pull. I leave the finished handle flat for awhile, slide out the dowel and when it's stiffened up some more, bend it/drape it to shape and leave until leatherhead to work further.
  • To keep a form from distorting when removing it from the wheel, lay a sheet of newsprint or thin paper across the rim of the form. The paper should be big enough to cover and extend over the entire opening of the pot. Trace the rim with your finger to seal the paper completely to the clay. The paper helps to provide equal tension across the pot in all horizontal directions, thus preventing the lip from going oval (JP). Once you've got the pot on a ware board, carefully and slowly pull the paper of the rim. Don't try to smooth out those boogers on the rim until the leather hard stage.
  • If you cut the pot off with a cut off wire, always have the wheel spinning slowly. Helps to prevent the wire from bowing and cutting into too much of the pot.
  • Undercut the bottom of the form before you use the cut off wire. I do fairly severe undercuts if I am going to trim later. This gives a nice ledge to get your fingers under for lifting the pot off the wheel.
  • The following methods for preventing stamps from sticking to moist clay
    1- Sprinkle the clay with a fine layer of powder. You can use talc, cornstarch, feldspar, etc. Keep a salt-shaker of powder on your work table.
    2- Put a thin coat of WD-40, kerosene, or other thin oil on the clay.
    3- Use a single layer of tissue paper. (May not be good for fine detail)
    4- Brush the stamp with oxide or under glaze.
    5- Do it with plaster. Make a plaster replica of the rubber stamp. The plaster stamp won't stick the way rubber does. You make a negative mold off the stamp, then a positive off the negative.
  • Easy way to recycle clay. Put all my scraps; dry, wet, moist, whatever in a closed 30 Liter bucket. Keep the stuff pushed down and compacted with the end of a board. The end of a 2x4 works great (don't leave the board in the bucket) Sprinkle a LITTLE water on top each time you add scraps, just enough to slick the top. If you add dry scraps, sprinkle a little more water on top and beat them down with the board. Keep the clay level. Keep the lid closed. It evens out and will be ready when you need it, if you like soft clay.


  • A quick way to mix small batches of glaze is by using a Braun-like hand mixer.
  • Use contact paper as a stencil
  • Barium Carbonate substitute .75 parts Strontium Carbonate
  • Flint = Silica
  • To flocculate a glaze, first make sure there is some clay in your glaze recipe; Epsom salts won't flocculate the glaze without clay being present. If there is no clay, add a couple percent bentonite. Then make a saturated solution of Epsom salts in water. Just keep adding Epsom salts to, say, a pint of water, until no more will dissolve. Then I start by adding 1 tablespoon of saturated Epsom salt solution per 1000 grams of dry glaze. If that works fine. If the glaze still settles, add another tablespoon. Do it carefully and slowly though. If you add too much you can turn the glaze into gel.
  • One way to preserve the luster on Raku pottery is to spray them with a protective coat of Krylon. This stops the copper from oxidizing with the air.


  • Fire on low over night to thoroughly dry pots to stop pots from cracking, exploding, etc.
  • If a lid sticks after firing, put piece in the freezer. The lid will shrink quicker than the pot.
  • Add Kyanite to almost any clay body to produce a clay much better for Raku. 


If you have comments, or suggestions, or other hints, email me at pottery@garyrferguson.com