Fettle down


Last week I threw twenty-two pots to a throwing gauge in an attempt to improve my repeat throwing. I’m fairly pleased with the results. There is still some variance in diameter and height, but they are much more similar than previous attempts. I’ve spent the rest of the week turning the bases and applying slip and sgraffito designs. They were biscuit fired on Saturday and today I’ve been glazing and fettling.

Fettling (for non potters) is when you tidy up your pots. This could be when you trim the base of a thrown pot; clean up rough edges from casting a pot; or in this case tidy up any drips, marks and pin holes following dipping the pots into glaze.

I’d welcome any tips on how best to glaze… I’ve tried both dipping pots by hand and with tongs. When I hand dip I’ve been doing it in two phases. First I pour glaze inside, let it dry and then dip the outside (upside down). The problem I have here is that, however careful I am, the rim area has double the amount of glaze that it should (from overlap) and therefore loses some of its fineness after firing. With tongs I find that although I get a generally even coat, I get nasty drips and holes that need much more dusty and time consuming fettling. Many thanks in advance.


15 thoughts on “Fettle down

  1. I am far from an expert on this, but I saw Japanese veteran potters very gently stroked the rim with a finger after the first dip.
    In our case, we often double fire pots to remove any pinholes etc. or use very forgiving glaze, which is much easier! : )

  2. well, you have got to keep on practicing!! I would use the tongs, I have found it does give the best result. You do have to practice your flowing movements when you dip, and it will improve. And hey, fettling is nice! Enjoy it.

  3. Hi Juliet I personally dislike using tongs so I tend to just hold the pot at as few points as possible and touch up the gaps afterwards. I twist my hand as I take it out of the glaze and continue to twist my wrist back and forth (if that makes sense) as I hold the pot until the glaze starts to dry, to help prevent drips.
    If I’m doing different glazes inside to outside, I glaze the inside first and clean the glaze off the rim with a sponge and let it dry, usually for a day, before doing the outside. Another option is to dampen the rim slightly with a sponge before I dip it, this helps it to stop it soaking up too much glaze at that point. Tidying up glaze drips is one of my least favourite workshop activities I have to say. The glaze I use that I like the most is very forgiving of uneven thicknesses, so finding a really nice glaze recipe is half the battle I think. Hope this is helpful. Happy glazing anyway! Elaine

  4. Re glazing – fill the inside with glaze, turn upside down and empty then straight away glaze the rim and a little way (3-5mm) down the outside. Leave overnight to dry back to the original porosity. Put your fingers of each hand in the pot, press outwards to hold it then dip the outside( pot the right way up) with a tiny overlap. I do this method where possible so that the glaze dries quickly and goes on to the correct thickness. Scrape the excess glaze of recycle it and wipe the bottom. If you have a lot to do get a cat litter tray and put a piece of sponge the size of the tray about 25mm thick and fill with water – cleans pot bottoms in seconds. Did a blog on glazing and repitition throwing on http://www.potteryman.wordpress.com

  5. I guess this is one reason that I have shied away from glazing, coward that I am. I always felt that after struggling to make a pot as beautiful and as carefully as possible everything went awry when it was glazed. I may go back to it sometime as I do enjoy slipware but who knows!
    Your comment about your respirator interested me as I have just bought a brand new mask/respirator which I am very pleased with. I have always struggled with masks as I wear glasses and I always end up with foggy, misted glasses however this new mask is the biz. It is expensive when compared to the disposable masks but it is comfortable to wear and I can wear glasses. The downside is that you look like an alien and it is not at all discreet or cool! This is what I bought http://www.amazon.co.uk/3M-4251-Maintenance-Reusable-respirator/dp/B000VDPNCQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383668693&sr=8-1&keywords=respirator+mask
    I hope this helps.

  6. I have to add a comment to what Claudia McGill said prior re: the look of the drips. While this may not be the intention of how you’d like to glaze, there’s a potter here in the U.S. named Birdie Boone who artfully utilizes the drips to her advantage in her clay work. I own several of her functional pieces and I adore them. Just something novel to add to your dialogue here! These pieces look like they’re moving along wonderfully, Juliet!

  7. I find I have more control with tongs than fingers – when I am using a single color over the entire pot. But I really prefer to spray glazes. Spraying makes for really even coverage with much less dripping. You can also get some great effects and gradations of color that way. Unfortunately, I rarely get to do it, since I don’t have my own apparatus yet.

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