Pottery Wheel Buying Guide
What is the best potter's wheel for me?
Wheel throwing pottery is fun and rewarding but can be frustrating with the wrong tools. So buying a pottery wheel can be a little daunting; there are many brands, models, and styles to choose from. You can approach this question 'what is the best wheel for me' in a few ways:
Ask yourself these questions before buying a pottery wheel: What is my budget?
What size peices do I want to make?
What are my studio space constraints?
How much use will it get/ what is my interest level?
Do I have a brand preference? What style Splash Pan do you prefer? Do I want a kick wheel or an electric wheel?
How much does a wheel cost?
The least expensive potter's wheel we offer costs about $455. The most expensive ones cost close to $2000.
Don't bother buying one of the junky off-brand potter's wheels you can find online: they are just terrible! You are better off saving that and putting it towards even the least expensive wheels we offer.
Portable Pottery Wheels
If you do not have a big budget and you are limited by the space that you have to work with then the Speedball Artista is a perfect choice for beginner and even intermediate potters. It is a portable tabletop wheel that is small enough to put away when you are not using it. In spite of its diminutive size, this wheel is not a child's toy. It rated to handle up to 25 pounds of clay.
Given that most things a potter makes like cups, bowls, and mugs start with just a pound or two of clay, the Artista is going to be more than fine for most projects. Because of its low price, it makes a perfect starter wheel.
Many pro potters use this wheel for doing demos on the road and at shows.
It features 10" pin spacing so it fits normal bats. It includes the splash pan. It is non-reversing: simply order the normal counter-clockwise wheel for USA throwing or you can special order the clock-wise version if you are a Japanese style thrower. It includes hand-operated speed control and an optional foot pedal that can be added at any time! It also has optional static or folding leg sets for convenience anywhere.
Can I throw on a banding wheel?
A banding wheel is like a "lazy Susan". Long before electricity people did make coil-built pots on similar devices. These are referred to as "slow wheels". It is a fun and educational exercise to try but the banding wheel is for decorating, not for throwing. We definitely recommend an electric potters wheel!
What is the best pottery wheel for beginners?
If you prefer a full-size electric wheel but are on a tight budget then consider the Speedball Clay Boss Pottery Wheel and the Shimpo VL-Lite. These are both perfect for beginner and intermediate potters. They are at about the same price point, have foot pedals, and 1/2 hp motors. The Clay Boss has a 14" composite wheel head and the VL-Lite has a 12" Aluminum wheel head. They both have reversing motors: with the Boss has a reversing plug and the VL you remove and flip the on-off switch for reverse. They both include splash pan. With 5 and 10 year warranties respectively you can expect great longevity from either one of these excellent entry-level wheels.
Brent offers the Brent IE-X as their entry-level wheel. It is reversing. Legs can be removed for table-top use. It is 1/3 hp which will handle most needs. It has a 14” wheel head, included splash pan, and Brent 5 year warranty!
The Skutt Prodigy is another great entry-level wheel. It is 1/3 hp with a 12” twist and lift wheel head, removable splash pan. It is non-reversing, but the same great quality as any Skutt Wheel!
A note on voltage : all of the stock potters wheels we offer plug into normal household 3 prong outlets power source. Some wheels can be special ordered for 240v or with 220v European wiring for studios overseas
Intermediate Level Pottery Wheels
The next step up is the Pacifica GT-400. This is a professional-grade electric potters wheel that won't break the bank. It can center 80 pounds of clay and its "Magic Pedal" circuitry gives very good speed control. It features a 13" machined aluminum wheel head and reversing switch. It is backed by a 30 Day satisfaction guaranty and a 5-year warranty. It is hard to find a better value than a GT-400!
If you like the Speedball Clay Boss but need a little more power then the Speedball Big Boss Wheel is for you. It is the same construction as the Clay Boss but it is equipped with a large .85 hp motor that can handle up to 150 pounds of clay. The Clay Boss and Big Boss do not have reversing switches but the special cord can be flipped for Japanese-style throwing. They also can run on 220v European or US 120v power without modification. The Speedball Boss Elite is the same as the Big Boss but with the addition of an attached worktable.
Note: All standard electric wheels except Soldner ship free to the lower 48 states from Sheffield Pottery! Lockerbie Kick Wheels incur freight based on location.
The Laguna line is rounded out by the Pacifica GT-800. It is just like the GT-400 but with a powerful 1 hp motor that can handle over 100 pounds of clay!
An optional Leg set is available for standing throwers and it fits either the GT-400 or the GT-800. The GT-800 is a great choice for professionals who need to work fast and or large! Also has a great price point for such a high-quality wheel.
Professional Pottery Wheels
In the professional pottery wheel range, there are many other contenders from Shimpo, Brent, Skutt, and Soldner wheels. The Soldner P400 would represent the top of the line but it is not for everyone. The Soldner pottery wheels pedal is thought by many to be the absolute best, however with a P series Soldner you do not have the option of a normal splash pan. There is an optional “splash guard” and “trim tray” that cover some of the area around the wheel head. Pro potters who own them love them and there are many decades-old Soldner pottery wheels still working hard every day. The S series wheels including the Soldner S-50 feature a triangular tabletop that will accommodate a regular Brent splash pan (sold separately).
Most commonly, pro potters are seen using Brent or Shimpo pottery wheels. They are time-tested and dependable. Nidec Shimpo offers the classic RK Whisper which is a body style that has been around since the 70’s. Formerly with the famous ring-cone drive, attached foot pedal with hand control “stick-shift”. They now feature direct drive, super quiet motors, and a 12” wheel head. The VL-Whisper has the same motor but in a three-leg style, 14” wheel head, and detached foot pedal.
The RK (shown right) has a spacious removable splash pan with an area on it to sit throwing tools and water. The VL Whisper has a sturdy white plastic splash pan that is easy to remove. The RK also has the option of an attached worktable,
Both of the excellent Shimpo Whisper potters wheels are incredibly quiet and pleasant to throw on and feature highly responsive and smooth foot pedals. People who need to center massive amounts of clay may feel that the Shimpo wheels do not have enough torque however many large pot throwers will throw a 20-pound bowl and then coil build your clay up from there. The Shimpo Whispers are great for this as the head spins freely when the pedal is not engaged! Many 6’ tall pots have been made on Shimpo!
Brent offers four excellent professional wheels ranging from the Brent Model B (1/2 HP + 12” wheel head) through the Model C, CXC, and Brent EX which all have 14” wheel head and power from ¾ (model C) to 1.5hp (Model EX). These wheels all include a 10-year warranty, a free bat, and $100 worth of free Amaco glazes. Brent wheels are found in clay classrooms coast to coast. The Brent Model 16 is wheelchair accessible.
Buying Tip: Many people do best with getting the brand they learned on.
Skutt Wheels (formerly Thomas Stuart) offers a nice array of 7 professional-level wheels.
They come in two body styles: with an integrated splash pan or a removable splash pan. The pans are full size covering the whole wheel. Each style is available in 1/3, ½, or 1 horsepower. The way they gear their motors means even more power than other wheels of the same hp. So they center 100+. 150+ and over 400 pounds of clay. We highly recommend the SSX upgrade on any of these Skutt wheels for the ultimate in pedal control and power! A great version is the
Stephen Hill Signature Model. It is ½ hp with SSX, integrated pan, leg extensions, and wheel shaft extension for using bats that are larger than the pan! Skutt wheels with SSX are an excellent choice in any production work environment.
The great news about buying a wheel is that there are no wrong answers! All of the wheels we offer will deliver years of throwing pleasure.
Kickwheels have been discontinued by most manufacturers but the fantastic
Lockerbie KickWheels are still available. They are available with or without a motor. Without the motor you spin the heavy cement fly-wheel with your foot: fun, rewarding, tiring!
Many traditional potters still use kickwheels and English-style treadle wheels but for most people, an electric pottery wheel is the way to go.
Wheel Head Direction: Do I need a reversible wheel?
In the USA we throw with wheel-head spinning counter-clockwise. This is regardless of our handedness. In Japan and China, potters are taught to throw with the wheel-head spinning clockwise. Most potters wheels feature a reversing switch or some other way to change their direction. In reality, it's a largely unused feature since you will only throw your clay in the direction you were taught.
Clay Handling Capacity
Most pottery wheels are rated to handle much more clay than we will ever use. Most of us mere mortals throw two-pound to ten-pound pots. Even the beginner wheels are rated for 25 pounds of centering capacity. If you are throwing pots larger than 25 pounds then it is likely that you will throw a large bowl shape and then could build up from there. Given that method, one generally does not really need to be able to center 80 or 100 pounds of clay at a time. If you do throw big-ware then 1HP skutt and Brent wheels will get it done!
How much setup is required?
Most potters wheels arrive fully assembled. Some may need you to put on the legs but for the most part you will simply attach the splash pan, plug it into a regular 3 prong household outlet and go!
Should I get a used potter's wheel?
Pottery wheels have excellent resale value so it is often hard to find a super deal on a used wheel. I have seen a few over the years but often it is not much more to get a brand new wheel. Here at Sheffield we do not offer any used equipment. We feel that a new wheel with a fantastic warranty is the way to go! (all the new wheels have great warranties!)
Pottery Wheel Bats
All the wheels shown here have 10" bat pin spacing. This is now the standard pin configuration. Bat pins are included. They can all take any of the variety of bats that are available: plastic, wood, masonite, and plaster bats. Some wheels include a bat or two but you'll probably want a dozen or so to get started.
We are here to help!
Feel free to give us a call to discuss buying a pottery wheel that will be the right wheel for you.
Pottery Wheel Buying Guide