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is it too late to learn to use pot lifters?/canvas bats

updated wed 16 sep 09


Ann Brink on mon 14 sep 09

Hello Vince,

You told us about your use of canvas bats a few years ago, in similiar
detail (Thanks!) and I am a confirmed user of them ever since.

There are a few ways my use differs from yours, which I will list:

My wheels have bat pins sticking up, so I don't put the canvas squares
directly on the wheelhead. I place one of my particle board bats on the
wheel. They have a thin layer of dried clay on them, which I moisten a bit=
with a sponge. If I can see the bat is really cleaned off, I spread a littl=
slurry on it. Then I pick up a square, and quickly dip it into my throwing
water, give it a shake and place it on the bat. Then I use the black rubber
rib to smooth the square. That seems to attach it firmly.

When the pot is done, I carefully wire it, as you say. Then I skip the par=
with the trowel by holding a large bat right next to the throwing bat,
making sure it is lined up level, and pull a corner of the square onto the
larger bat. I can put 6-7 mugs or small dishes on a bat. Actually those
items are the ones I mostly use the canvas bats for. I really like how the
shape is preserved, without leaving each one on it's own bat. Mine are mad=
of heavy canvas, and I zig-zagged the edges with my sewing machine.

Thanks for mentioning this again!
Ann Brink in Lompoc CA
(mostly about pottery)

Vince wrote:
>I dislike pot lifters because of what they do to the bottom of the pot.
> There are plenty of pottery shapes that do not need wheel trimming, and i=
> that case you want to preserve the cutoff wire pattern or whatever other
> pattern is created by your technique. Pot lifters damage the lower edge
> and
> bottom of the pot, and are appropriate only if you plan to wheel-trim the
> pot.
> I have used canvas bats for 40 years. I have been using the same squares
> of
> old fashioned "oilcloth" canvas for that whole time, but any truly
> waterproof heavy, fairly stiff fabric or canvas is appropriate. Oilcloth
> is
> hard to find, but if you come across an old military tent or tarp with
> that
> slightly oily feeling, you have found a prize. Heavy waterproof
> upholstery
> fabric for boat cushions and outdoor furniture works well. With this kin=
> of material, you do not have to seal the edges. The fabric must be stiff=
> and it must be waterproof in order to work for this application. Cut it
> into squares - they must be square, so that you will have the corners to
> grab when removing the pot from the wheel. Make the dimensions of the
> squares half again greater than the diameter of the pot you wish to make =
> for mugs with a 3" base, use squares 4.5" across. Make a variety of size=
> for the various things you wish to throw, but see below where I mention
> which forms work well with these bats and which ones don't.
> After you make your squares, paint both sides with a thin coat of slurry
> made from your claybody and let them dry completely. You only have to do
> that once. After you use them there will be a thin coat of slurry on the=
> every time. That coat of slurry is absolutely essential.
> For lifting the bat and pot off the wheel, get a cheap triangular concret=
> trowel from Big Lots or Walmart or some other such place. It shouldn't
> cost
> more than a few bucks. You want the kind where the steel shaft protrudin=
> from the handle drops down a few inches and then connects with the
> pointed,
> triangular flat trowel blade. They make a similar one that is
> rectangular,
> and that works fine as well. The smallest size trowel you can get is
> appropriate for mugs, cups, and other small items. Larger ones are
> appropriate for medium-size pitchers, vases, and covered jars. This
> system
> does not work well for plates or for larger bowls, because they warp too
> much during removal from the wheel, and it does not work for larger
> cylinder-based forms because it is too precarious moving them on the
> trowel.
> Make a container of grit-free slurry for attaching the bats to the
> wheelhead. I just use pure Goldart clay mixed with water, but you could
> use
> kaolin, ball clay, whatever you have that gives an appropriate color. Or,
> if
> your claybody is grit-free, just use scrap slurry. If there is any grog
> or
> sand in the slurry the squares will just slide off the wheel.
> Smear a thin spiral pattern of this slurry in the center of the wheelhead=
> large enough to cover the area where the canvas bat will be. Immediately
> take a stiff rubber rib (the black kidney-shaped ones work well) and smea=
> outwards from the center, and then start the wheel and smear out
> repeatedly
> in a spiral pattern, so that the rib picks up the slurry that is smeared
> out
> from under the bad and coats and dampens (not at all wet and slick) the
> upper surface of the canvas bat. You will quickly get used to how much
> slurry is needed to accomplish this. The important thing is to do this
> very
> quickly. If you put down the canvas bat and wait any time at all, the dr=
> slurry coating will absorb too much moisture and the bat will not stick.
> As
> long as you use the rib immediately, the excess slurry will be expelled,
> and
> the dry slurry coating will absorb the remaining moisture, allowing the
> thin
> film of wet slurry to securely attach the bat to the wheelhead.
> Throw your pot in a conventional fashion. When you are done, carefully
> run
> the cutoff wire under the canvas. If you do this carelessly it will caus=
> the canvas to wrinkle and fold, ruining the pot. This is one of the
> reasons
> you must use stiff, thick cloth. Do not run the cutoff wire between the
> pot
> and the canvas.
> Set the blade of the concrete trowel down flat on the wheelhead next to
> the
> pot, grasp one corner of the canvas bat, pull it onto the trowel, lift th=
> trowel over to the ware board, and pull the pot off onto the ware board.
> You never have to touch the pot. With the canvas bats, you can fit as
> many
> pots on a wareboard as you could without the bats.
> When the pot is leather hard, peel the canvas off the bottom, dress down
> the
> little burr at the edge with a sponge or chamois and/or do a rolled edge,
> sign or stamp the pot, and you are done. Voila!
> You don't have to do anything to the canvas bat except dry it completely
> before using again.
> - Vince
> Vince Pitelka
> Appalachian Center for Craft
> Tennessee Tech University


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