Ceramic - Pottery Dictionary

by Susan Mussi

WHEEL (b) Its evolution with pottery

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