Ceramic - Pottery Dictionary

by Susan Mussi

ca: FALCA (1)

es: CUÑA (1)

Click on the title to see more images

Wad is a small piece of refractory clay for sealing and balancing furniture when packing a kiln. It does not fuse into the furniture and can be pulled off when unpacking the kiln after firing.

Note: Wad is the same as a wedge but a wedge is fired and is made in other materials, such as wood and plastic. In Spanish and Catalan they both have the same name; “cuña” in spanish and “falca” in catalan.

ca: FALCA (2) a pistó

es: CUÑA (2) a pistón

Wad applies to the sections of clay that have been passed through a wad box. The clay goes through a tapered nozzle or a die to form a wad, snake or coil. These are used to form plates and pots by coiling, form handles and seal parts that have to be connected like thhe corners of a box and saggars.
a) Handle. b) Clay. c) Wad.
Read more about: Extruder / Die Plate



Wad box is another name in English for an extruder. Read more about: Extruder



Ware is the word used to define work in any state made in clay.



WARPING Warping is the deformation of a shape. It applies to many products, wood, clay, bisque, etc. In ceramics it can have many different causes and take place during many stages: bad wedging, different consistencies in the clay, drying unevenly, over firing and many more.
Read more about: Boards (e) For molding



a) Wash is to clean with liquid, water is the principle one.
b) Wash is a color or liquid product diluted with water for applying as a thin coat of paint.



Wash basin and pitcher: is the name for a basin and jug used in the past to provide washing facilities before modern water installation existed. Houses and hotels did not have running water and bedrooms were provided with this type of washing facilities.



Waster: is a piece of pottery that has been damaged during the process of making it and is abandoned as waste.


es: AGUA

Water is a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen and is used to liquidize clay, colors and slips. H²O.



Water absorption: is the amount of water that can be absorbed by ceramic materials that are porous and is calculated as a percentage of the dry material in unfired and fired work.



These are a few suggestions on how to use water when decorating:
1) Have a large jar with a wide neck for washing your brushes. Keep changing the water as a clean brush helps to keep the paint clean. Read more about: Pots – With water for cleaning paint brushes
2) Have a bottle of water with a narrow neck, so you never put a dirty brush into it so it is kept clean and can be added to the colors, should they dry or become too thick. Read more about: Bottle for water
3) If you want to be very economical, keep the dirty water and let it settle so the paint falls to the bottom of the jar, then tip off the water and keep the paint that has collected at the bottom. When you have a good amount of this, mix it all together. Fire some on a small test piece to be able to see the end result, and then add other colors to make into one that can be used.

ca: CERA

es: CERA

Wax: It is also called beeswax, a solid, yellowish, nonglycerine substance allied to fats and oils, secreted by bees, plastic when warm and melting at about 145º F, variously employed on making candles, models, casts, ointments, etc., and used by bees in constructing their honeycomb. From: the printed edition of Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.

Note: They forgot to mention that wax is also used to decorate pottery by applying liquid wax over some areas, then slip or a glaze is applied, when fired the wax burns leaving a design with colors and ceramic textures
Read more about: Slip decorating



Wax resist is to apply warm melted wax to a ceramic surface, which when cold it is covered with liquid pigments, slip or glaze. The wax will prevent them from adhering to these parts when fired as it burns away. It can be laid on to leather-hard clay, bisque, a glaze-base or color. The wax is melted down and applied with free brush strokes, sponges, dripping or shacking and many other methods of creating textures. More than one layer of glazes and wax can be added.

Method of working
1) Wax pencils can be bought or you can use a candle.
2) Prepare the wax so it is a liquid and can be used freely with a brush.
3) If working on leather hard clay, with a free hand and brush let the wax run to make a design.
4) Apply the color using a spray, dipping, brushing or pouring.
5) When fired, the wax repels the color.
Read more about: Slip decorating


es: CUÑA

Wedge: is a piece of hard material usually in the shape of a three dimensional triangle in which the two principal sides meet at a sharp angle. They are forced between two objects to prevent them from moving. The most common one is made of wood and put between the floor and the bottom of a door to keep it open. In ceramics they can be made to the shapes and sizes required and fired.



Wedging is a way of preparing clay. Work with a large lump of clay, throw it down onto the work table and push it down to form a long, thick oblong block. Cut it through the center, separate the two halves, fold each half, then turn one 90º and ram it on top of the other. Repeat this until the clay is thoroughly mixed and has the right plasticity to work with. This is done to remove air and give the clay a smooth, pliable consistency, which is essential when prepared for throwing. Read more about: Clay (2) Wedging

ca: PASTAR - Fustes

es: AMASADO - Maderas

Wedging boards: are large, rectangular wooden boards used to prepare clay. You should have two of the same size because if the clay is very damp, the one that is dry can be put on top of the clay, they are then turned like a sandwich and the top damp one taken off, this quickens the drying process. The boards are also useful for many other things. Have the wood cut to the sizes you need, 40 × 40 cm is reasonable.



Weighing machine; is an instrument for measuring the weight or mass of an object. There are many different types, methods, names and designs for both industrial and everyday use and they vary in relation to the quantity of what has to be weighed. In this dictionary there are four sections under the following headings:

Balance scale – Automatic This one is ideal for preparing colors as it starts at 0.0g. and goes up to 1200g.
Balance Scales compare the unknown weight to a standard weight using a horizontal lever.
Bean Scales are to weigh small quantities, from 0.01 grams to about 10 grams.
Spring Scale measures weight by the distance a spring deflects under its load.

ca: PES

es: PESO

Weight is a unit for expressing heaviness or mass in relation to an object. The units most widely used are kilos and pounds



Weigths are pieces of metal which are usually made in two shapes, round flat disks and round vertical columns. The flat ones (b) are designed so size-wise they fit one on top of the other. The vertical ones are kept in blocks of wood made to hold each piece separately (a & c). They are made so you can see if any piece is missing. Read more about: Balance / Bean scales



Wet is to moisten, cover, or soak with water or any other liquid and can apply to moisture of a product or vapor.

ca: TORN (a)

es: TORNO (a)

A wheel is a circular device that is capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement of another object which it carries by rotating. It applies to circular objects that rotate or turn vertically or horizontally, such as a ship’s wheel, steering wheel, flywheel and potter’s wheels.

ca: TORN (b) l'evolució en la ceràmica

es: TORNO (b) la evolución en la cerámica

A wheel in pottery is an instrument or machine used for shaping and decorating round ceramic wares. There are three types, classified by the kind of energy used to turn them; hand, foot and electric. It is believed the wheel evolved from the coil technique, which consists of clay rolled into long, solid, narrow tubes that are formed into circles and placed one on top of another, gradually getting bigger to form the walls of a bowl. It is then pinched and beaten to make the tubes thinner and integrate them to form the shape of a vessel, this is known as coiling.
Read more about: Coiling – Coil Building

To begin with, the clay was placed on mats or large pieces of wood to work more conveniently, as this allowed the potter to turn the wood, to turn the vessel, rather than walk around it when adding rolls of clay and building up the shape. It is believed this was the earliest form of the potter’s wheel. The next step was the invention of rotating the wheel and it is thought this evolved from cart wheels, two wheels with and axel turned vertically and made to the proportions needed for pottery. This gradually evolved and the bottom wheel became the foot, the axle the leg with the wheel on top.

Then came the great invention of the flywheel which allowed the wheel to be kept rotating and the speed controlled by the movement and pressure from the foot, leaving both hands free for manipulating the clay.

The last is an electric wheel that works in a similar way, but the speed and movement are controlled by the pressure of the foot on the foot pedal which is connected to an electric motor that turns the wheel.

Wheels are flat disks that revolve horizontally on a pivot; they are made with circular indented lines to help center the clay, the disk is known as a wheel head.
Link to Wheels-Robertcompton Pottery

ca: TORNETA (c) de sobretaula

es: TORNETA (c) de sobremesa

Hand wheels are flat disks that revolve horizontally, are turned by hand and are used for decorating plates, jars, for banding and sculpture. The wheel head and leg are joined, so to turn it you turn the leg, which pivots on the foot. This allows you to turn what you are decorating so you can work on all sides of the object without having to move. They can be bought in many heights and sizes for sitting and standing and are made with circular indented lines to help center the clay, this part is known as the wheel head.

a) Wheel head. b) Centering lines. c) Leg. d) Foot.
Note: Hand wheels are also known as banding wheels. Read more about: Banding (6) Wheel

ca: TORN (d) de Peu i Elèctric.

es: TORNO (d) de Pie y Eléctrico.

Flywheel (on the right) is formed with a large disc of wood which is controlled by the foot turning it horizontally. From the center of this disc is a vertical pole, attached to the table which contains the wheel where the potter uses his two hands that are free to form his work. All the parts function together; so there must be a good equilibrium between them all.

Illustrations Flywheel a) Footrest, b) Seat, c) Drain, d) Wheel wall, e) Wheel head, f) Flywheel.

Electric wheel
Electricity is used as the force to turn and mechanically control the wheel. They are designed so that the speed can be set and also can be controlled by the pressure of your foot on the footrest.

Illustrations Electric wheel a) Seat, b) Footrest, c) Wheel wall d) Wheel.

They are both used to create round objects in soft clay, bowls, jars, plates and lids. A ball of clay is thrown onto the center of the wheel, then the movement of the wheel is started and as it rotates, by using pressure from both hands, the clay is centered and then the shape required is formed.

The wheels are metal, set in a plastic basin with a high wall to save all the thrown off clay. It has a drain so the watered down clay goes down into a bucket and can be used again. There are many styles of wheels with footrests and seats that can be separate or joined to the wheel.

Note: Small electric wheels to use for banding have been made but I have never been able to find one!
Read more about: Coiling – Coil Building

ca: TORN (e) Plat

es: TORNO (e) Plato

Wheel head is part of a potter’s wheel,it is the flat disk that revolves horizontally on a pivot and is made with circular indented lines to help to center the clay.

ca: DISCS -Torn

es: DISCOS - Torno

Wheel bat: is a disk added as an accessory to the wheel to make the wheel-head bigger and also to use as a tray, so that what is being made can be lifted and moved without being touched, in this way clay that is still pliable will not be deformed. Plates and bowls are put on top of a bat and turned, when finished they are moved and left together until the clay is dry enough to lift up without being deformed. As the clay shrinks it separates from the bat, if not, separate it with a wire cutter.

There are many types, either industrially made or you can make them yourself. For turning, round ones are needed but when using the hand wheel to construct other objects it can be any shape and size. They can be made in clay, plaster, wood, plastic or bisque and some are made with a wall round the bottom edge to fit exactly on top of a wheel to hold it in place. Most of the industrially made ones are drilled with holes for the bat pins which are to hold one on top of the other, correctly placed.

Attaching a bat without holes onto the wheel. Put a thin layer of clay onto the wheel head and onto one side of the bat and press them together. This will hold the bat in place while turning.

ca: DISCOS - de fusta per a tornejar

es: DISCOS - de madera para tornear

Click on the title to see more images

Hand-made wheel bats can be wood, clay or bisque, the ones that are easiest, cheapest and last longer are made with chipboard. The wood should be 2 cm thick and after being used must be washed on both sides and kept standing vertically; this is stop it warping. The round ones are difficult to make, so find a nice carpenter to cut them for you.

The first two photos are of bats of different sizes and the last shows how to store them.

ca: DISCOS - Fets Industrialment

es: DISCOS - Hechos industrialmente

The illustration on the left shows how wheel bats are used together and on the right can be seen the small protruding poles attached to the bat which slip into the holes of the bat that is put on top to hold it in place.

a) Bat with a jar and holes for bat pins. b) Bat with bat pins and holes for screws. c) Wheel head with holes for screws, d) Small pole, e) Screw



Wheel thrown implies that the work has been made using a wheel.



Width is the size from side to side between the dimensions of a material.



Window is an opening in a wall of a building or vehicle, etc. to allow air or light to enter. Windows are usually fitted with frames and glass and can be opened inwards, outwards and also up and down. These are known as sash windows.

ca: CABLE - Elèctric

es: CABLE - Eléctrico

Wire for electricity can be bought prepared to use for electrical installation covered with a dielectric material for safety.

ca: FILFERRO - Metàl•lic

es: ALAMBRE - Metálico

Metal wire is slender, long or circular and can be rigid or flexible and is manufactured in different thicknesses.



Wood: Trees cut down to use for many purposes, furniture, architectural structures and many other purposes. In the past it was the usual product to burn for heating houses and kilns.

It is called firewood as it was used for centuries for firing ceramics. This method is called wood-firing and it is still used today and has become a specialty.