search  current discussion  categories  tools & equipment - bats 

tarpaper bats - was canvas squares

updated mon 21 jun 04


Ellen Currans on sat 19 jun 04

Attention: Purists who only throw their own dug clay on kick wheels, with
three tools, and fire over 8 days in a wood fired noborigama probably won't be
interested in this post. It is for young potters struggling to make a living
at their craft who need all the tips and tools they can get. Especially for
those who might not have gotten much practical information along with their
degree in Ceramics.

I've been using tar paper (building paper) bats for over 35 years, and I
think they might be even simpler to handle than canvas squares, although I don't
really know that, not having tried the canvas. I think they might work better
than canvas in a class situation because they can be used either damp or dry
and don't need much special care, nor would they wrinkle like canvas might.

I use 15 pound building paper and cut it in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and some 18inch
circles for platters. Get smooth tarpaper and don't think that the heavier
rough stuff will work better. You can get an 18 inch wide roll at a building store
like Home Depot for about $15. You could sell your class members however many
feet of the roll they want and they could be responsible for their own bats
from then on. I don't expect students will take very good care of them if they
are provided by the studio. I started using them myself because there were
hardly ever any bats available where I took ceramics.

I use the 4 to 10 inch bats directly on the wheel head. Just smear some
throwing slurry on the wheel, press down the bat, and smooth it on with your damp
sponge for a few revolutions. When you use them all the time as I do, you
hardly notice that you have just attached another bat. The brand new tar paper
will be a bit slick to stick but once it has been used a few times it will
attach easily. Use the size that fits the pot with an inch or so extra. If you
make a tiny pot in the middle of a large bat, the tarpaper will tend to wrinkle
as it drys on the outer edges. These work especially well for flat forms like
soup bowls, salad plates, etc, that are hard to lift off the wheel. You can
also fit more pieces onto a ware board without the "one size fits all
commercial bats."

To lift off the wheel, run a wire between the wheel and tar paper, and then
lift off with
the triangular stiff concrete trowel Vince mentioned. Or, for the larger
flat pieces, grasp the cut off tarpaper bat with needle nose pliers and pull the
bat and pot onto a small board held at the edge of the wheel and then onto the
ware board. With the tarpaper you will never again have a too thin bottom
where the wire has lifted up in the middle.

When I throw plates or larger bowls on the 12 to 18 inch bats, I first put a
fiberboard bat on the wheelhead and then a tarpaper bat on it, so I can remove
the whole thing from the wheel after releasing the tar paper bat with a wire,
and later turning them over between two boards.

You can actually turn the pots and remove the tarpaper bats sooner than you
might with other kinds of stiff bats. The tarpaper just peels off, leaving a
smooth bottom. I usually scrape the still damp tarpaper with a pastry scraper
before I put them away, but you can use them again immediately while still
damp or when they are dry again. Mold has not been a problem in my heated studio.

I have about 300 bats stacked on a small shelf 14 inches long by 5 inches
deep just above my wheel. I don't use them for pots that can easily be removed
by hand, but when I don't want any distortion or finger marks I use the bats.
Some of the bats I'm using now are 20 years old. They only have to be
replaced when they get ragged on the edges from wire cuts.

Another potter I know uses used Xray film cut into bats. She gets it free
from the hospital she works at.

Hope this gives you another possibility for cheap bats.

Ellen Currans
Dundee, Oregon