Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to build a home made pottery / potter's kick wheel plan

Here is a simple way to build a potter's kick wheel and a very inexpensive way!

Here is a list of things you will need and places you can get them from;

First you will need your hard ware;
1.pillow bearing (we used 1/2 inch bore) purchased from Grainger
2.a block pillow bearing (again 1/2 inch bore) purchased from Grainger
3.a shaft (this can vary in size, material ect.. but what we used was a 1/2 inch shaft purchased from Lowes (home improvement) so it would match all of our bearing sizes). Your bearings must be able to fit smoothly over your shaft!! If your shaft is too loose, then you will end up not being able to use the bearings or shaft.
4.a wheel head. This is the metal round piece that fits ontop of the shaft where the clay is thrown. Y
ou can find wheel heads for sale online for $45-65 or you can search your local pottery studio sales. We have found several at studio sales (costing only $10-25 a piece). But if you're unable to find one, you can make one out of wood or out of plastic. Wood wheel heads are very easy to make and all the parts could be found between Lowes (or another home improvement store) and Grainger. You will need a shaft holder that could be bolted or screwed onto a round piece of wood. Lowes sells pre-cut round wood pieces that are 12 inches around (perfect for a wheel head size). You will need two pins and place them 10 inches apart from each other (one on each side exactly across from one another). 10 inches is a standard measurement for most bats (these are the wood things that go ontop of the wheel head where you place the clay).
5. you will need a good selection
of screws (2 inches 3 inches and a few that are only 1 inches) and try to get all wood screws (some can be dry wall).

Now you will also need fram hard ware (this is the rest of the potters wheel).
We purchased most of our framing pieces from the Rebuilding center in Portland (downtown right off of F
reemont and Mississippi Ave.). Here is a list of things you'll need.
1. you will need a large round piece of wood or it can be made from another source. As long as it is heavy and flat and round. This piece is being used as the section that will be kicked in order to turn the pottery wheel head.
Our's is made from a table top we purchased at the Rebuilding Center for only $3.00 . it weighs over 60 lb's being perfect for a good kick bottom.
2. a counter top, or a large chunk of wood for counter top (you can use other materials as well). We purchased ours at the Rebuilding center for only $4.00. This piece will support the wheel head and also house a pillow bearing, so it must be made of a durable product. If you chose to go with wood, do not pick a piece that is made of particle board. Also make sure that the front of the counter top (the lip that will be facing you while throwing) has a 1 inch to 2 inch width from top to bottom. Again, you will have to bolt the pillow bearing to it.
3. a bench. this again can be made of any kind of material, we just found wood to be the cheapest. And purchased our ''bench'' (which really was an old shelf at one point) from the Rebuilding Center for only $2.00

4. you will need a good selection of 2x4's. I suggest purchasing the 2x4's from your local hard wood store (so they are straight and not wa
rped, however if you have found some that you can recycle, great!!). I also suggest spending the extra .20 cents per 2x4 to spring for the ones that have been pre-sanded.

Now it's time to build your pottery wheel!

First off you will want to build a frame for the bottom. Measure your kick wheel (which is the large round piece of wood, cement or metal that you found for the bottom). You will want your frame to fit around this piece (so it has to be larger (at least from front to back) then the round piece).

What I did was put two 2x4's next to each other (same length) with a cross 2x4 sitting on top exactly in the center. take a look;

On the top of the cross bar, you will want to drill a hole the size of the shaft that you purchased (and sometimes even larger then the shaft, so it has a small amount of play).
Also, you will want to put a hold in your kick wheel the exact size of your shaft. If using wood you will want to get a holder for your shaft that sits just above the bearing that bolts into your kick wheel and at the same time creates a holder for the shaft (so the shaft moves with the kick wheel).

This piece you can find also at Grainger. There will be different applications for different kick wheel objects (whether you've decided on a round piece of wood or cement, metal ect.. ).
Once your frame is put together on the bottom, place the pillow block bearing on top of the hole (in line with it) and screw it into the cross bar. Then screw your kick wheel holder into the kick wheel it's self. Connect the two parts by placing kick wheel onto the frame and tightening the pegs that hold the shaft tight (there are pegs on the pillow block bearing as well as the kick wheel holder).

This picture shows the pieces together.. the kick wheel is to the left, where as the frame is on the right. In between is the pillow bearing and the kick wheel holder, each connected with the shaft in the center.

From here you will have the frame bottom finished.

Now you can start the frame work for your counter top.
On the bottom of your frame, add another cross member 2x4 that will allow you to make the counter top frame (in the pic, you can see the counter top frame crosses the frame underneath).
From here you can build a counter top frame where your counter will sit on. Not all potters wheels have a proper counter top, but it is very nice to have one where you can place tools and a pale of water (you will need lots of water when throwing).
Make sure that the front of the counter top has a good space to bolt the other pillow bearing !! This means the front of the counter top must be at least 1 inch to 2 inches in width and able to support a bit of weight.
Now that you have the counter top up on the frame, remember the other pillow bearing ??
This pillow bearing needs to be bolted to the front of your counter top.
Here is a photo' of that bearing and the way it is supposed to be bolted or screwed to the counter top front.

Once you have the counter top all finished, the pillow bearing bolted it's time to make the frame for the bench.
Once again, it is easiest to make another cross member bare on the frame to start a frame for the bench. Here is a pic' of the bottom of the frame and what it should look like by the time you're done.

The bench height depends on who you think will be using the wheel (whether you're building it for yourself or someone else, make sure that it is comfortable for someone to sit on).
Now here is a picture of the finished wheel.We will updated our blog and add a link at the top for a video of the finished product and on that video I show a board that I added just below the bench frame (this board is to create a foot resting place, instead of having to place your feet on the kick wheel constantly or spreading your legs out to the side of the frame). Depending on how big your wheel is, you may want to add this food stool. And I also forgot to add, that between the framing of the bench and the counter top, remember to add a 2x4 and create a frame that bolts the two pieces together. This add's a lot of stability to the wheel.


  1. what is that name of the "star" shape yellow shaft thing called?

  2. I have searched through the Grainger's site and not found the four bolt flange you show to mount the wheel to teh shaft. What exactly is it called?

  3. You can find inexpensive 4-bolt flange bearings at Fastenal, as well as pillow blocks.

  4. Inspiring post - I want to make a kick wheel for a pioneer heritage festival. I just remembered I had the cement manhole cover from our old septic tank (26 x 4 inches) - heavy. But would this be large enough? So my comment (and question) is: what are minimum/maximum dimensions for some of these parts you otherwise so nicely describe? E.g. - minimum width of kick wheel, minimum length of shaft, some basic dimensions on the frame. Thanks!

  5. What is the yellow piece attached to the kickwheel called?