Mastering the Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Using a Pottery Wheel






Pottery is an ancient art form that has been used for centuries to create both functional and decorative pieces.

One of the most common methods of creating pottery is by using a pottery wheel. This essential tool allows artists to shape clay into various forms, from cups and bowls to intricate vases and sculptures.

In this beginner’s guide, we will dive into the world of pottery. We will explore how to use the wheel for your pottery wheel projects.

By the end of this guide, you will better understand how to use a pottery wheel confidently and create beautiful pieces. So let’s get started!

Choose Your Pottery Wheel

The first essential step is to choose your wheel. A pottery wheel is a device that rotates a platform, known as the wheel head, to help shape and spin clay. There are different types of pottery wheels, such as electric or kick wheels, but they all generally function similarly.

Prepare Your Materials

The next important step is setting up your materials and workspace for your wheel projects. Ensure you have a clean and clutter-free area with enough lighting and ventilation. You will also need the following tools:

  • a pottery wheel
  • water
  • clay
  • towels or sponges
  • various shaping tools
  • a wire cutter


Water is a vital element in pottery making. It keeps the clay moist and pliable, allowing it to be shaped easily on the wheel.


Clay also plays a crucial role in pottery making. There are different types of clay, each with its unique characteristics and uses. Beginners can start with a basic type of clay, such as stoneware or earthenware, and experiment with different types as they gain more experience.

Towels or Sponges

Towels or sponges keep your hands and tools clean while working with clay. They can also be used to smooth the surface of the clay.

Shaping Tools

Shaping tools come in various shapes and sizes and are used to shape, carve, and texture the clay on the wheel. It is essential to have a variety of tools as they can create different effects on the clay.

Wire Cutter

A wire cutter is used to cut a piece of clay from the main bulk of the wheel. This allows you to work with smaller, more manageable pieces of clay.

If it’s your first time, though, and you are unsure what to prepare, you can always find online lessons like those from One Day Pottery Classes. That way, they can also guide you in the next steps.

Get the Right Clay Consistency

To create pottery on a wheel, it is crucial to have the right clay consistency. It will be challenging to shape if it is too dry, and if it’s too wet, it won’t be easy to control.

To choose the right clay consistency, take a small piece of clay and roll it into a ball. Drop it from about six inches above the wheelhead. If the clay flattens slightly and sticks to the wheelhead, it’s at the right consistency.

If it splatters or falls apart, then the clay is too wet. Add more dry clay and wedge (knead) it into the wet clay to achieve the desired consistency.

If it doesn’t flatten at all and bounces off the wheel head, then it’s too dry. Add a small amount of water and wedge it into the dry clay until it reaches the correct consistency.

Wedging the Clay

Wedging is one of the known pottery wheel techniques. It kneads the clay to remove air pockets and make it more pliable. It also ensures that the clay is evenly mixed, making it easier to work with on the wheel.

To wedge clay, take a chunk of clay and slam it down onto a clean surface several times. Then, fold it in half and repeat this slamming and folding motion several times until the clay is smooth and pliable.

Centering the Clay

Centering the clay on the wheel is a crucial step in pottery making. It involves using your hands to shape the clay into a symmetrical cone, with its base centered directly under the wheel head.

To center clay, place it on the wheel head and apply light pressure with both hands while the wheel is spinning at a medium speed. Continue to apply pressure until you feel the clay firmly centered on the wheel head.

Pulling and Lifting

Open the clay then start pulling and lifting it upwards to create height and shape. Use both hands to hold onto the top of the cylinder while using your fingers to push inwards from the sides.

As you pull up, gradually increase your speed and pressure to create a taller shape. You can also use shaping tools such as ribs or loop tools to smooth and shape the sides of the pot. While spinning the wheel, use a sponge to add water as needed to keep the clay moist and pliable.

Shaping and Forming

Once you have created a desired height, you can start to shape and form the clay into various shapes. Use your shaping tools to create curves, flares, or other unique designs.

You can also experiment with different techniques, such as trimming, cutting, and adding texture to your piece. As the wheel spins, shape and smooth the clay with your tools while occasionally adding water to maintain the right consistency.

Use your shaping tools and hands to smooth out any uneven areas, or add more clay where needed. Once you have completed shaping and forming your piece, use a sponge or wet towel to smooth out any rough surfaces or finger marks.

After creating your pottery piece on the wheel, it must be dried and finished before it can be fired in a kiln. This process can take several weeks, depending on the size and thickness of your piece.

Follow This Beginner’s Guide to Using a Pottery Wheel

Creating pottery on a wheel may seem daunting at first, but following these pottery wheel tutorials can help one use a pottery wheel confidently. We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of preparing your workspace, choosing the right clay consistency, or creating unique pieces using various techniques.

Remember to experiment and have fun with your creations. With practice, you can unlock the secrets of using a pottery wheel and confidently create beautiful pieces.

For more articles besides these pottery wheel techniques, visit our blog.

Subhajit Khara
Subhajit Khara
Subhajit Khara is an Electronics & Communication engineer who has found his passion in the world of writing. With a background in technology and a knack for creativity, he has become a proficient content writer and blogger. His expertise lies in crafting engaging articles on a variety of topics, including tech, lifestyle, and home decoration.
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