Martz Memories, by Stanley Lee                                                                Tale #21


Finding Tools


     Potters should be alert to observe articles others may not want but which can be re-cycled to serve the needs of the ceramist.  I had gone to a builder’s yard because he had advertised some cupboards for sale.  The cupboards did not meet my needs, but a thick composition-board disc about twenty inches in diameter caught my eye.  The disc had a thick plastic top, and I asked the builder how much he wanted for it.  His answer surprised me. 


     “That?  You can have that.  There’s no charge for it.  It’s a sink cut-out.  We throw those away.  They’re cut out of a counter-top where we put a sink into the hole. 


     An explanation of what I intended to do with the cut-out, was due, and he gave me the opportunity.  He was told how I volunteered at a down-town Art Center, and the cut-out would be used for pottery making. 


     “How many do you need?” he asked.  I told him several. 

      “Well, come back in about a month.  We’ll put some aside for you.”


     To my delight, that month he saved me a dozen cut-outs and offered to save me more.  The offer was accepted, because we had found more uses for them at the Art Center.  The heavy boards with plastic tops provided individual work-places for the young people who did clay modeling, and the adult in charge found clean-up took less time.  The cut-outs stored easily, because they could be put on edge and rolled under a table.  My own throwing needs were supplied, since some of the disks were fitted to a potter’s wheel and used as wheel bats for my large plates.  Those plates had to be thrown to a diameter of twenty-two inches. 


     More uses were found.  Before the cut-outs arrived, it was the practice to leave a large plate on the metal wheel-head until some moisture left the clay, and the clay had become firmer.  Then the plate could be freed from the metal with a cutting wire.  With the thrown plate on a large plastic-covered disk, it was possible to lift the plate and its disk, and put them aside to be cut apart later.  Another cut-out would be fitted to the wheel-head to allow resumption of throwing. 


     By speeding up the throwing process, I could have three or four plates ready to be cut away from their “bats”, but rather than returning them to the wheel-head, a system for cutting on a bench was devised.  We had plenty of cut-outs, and they were all of the same shape and height.  How could they be used?  A four sided frame made from 1”x2” lumber and one that would hold a disk was put on the bench and against a back-stop.  The frame level was below the height of a cutout, but was designed to keep work away from the back wall.  An extra strip of 1”x2” was put on the back-stop side to keep any disk from going too far.  At this stage a fixed cutting wire was added.  A hand-held wire tended to ride up and leave too much clay on the bat. When this happened it caused a plate to be ruined.  I arranged the newly fixed wire to be held at a plate-cutting height. 


     In practice, two blank cut-outs were put on the bench, one inside the frame, and the other in front of it.  My bat with plate was centered in front of the fixed cutting wire and gently worked through the clay. Then it was put aside, and the next plate-on-bat cut.  I never ran out of sink cut-outs. 


     What Karl taught us, “Use what you have,” turned out to be a valuable maxim. 


     Thank you, Karl.