You can approach this question a few ways:
Ask yourself these questions
What is my budget?
What size work do I want to make?
What are my space constraints?
How much use will it get?
Do I have a brand preference?
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. It is portable table top wheel that is small enough to put it away when not using it. In spite of it's diminutive size this wheel is not a toy. It rated to handle up to 25 pounds of clay. Given that most things 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 it's low price it makes a perfect starter wheel. This is also a great wheel for doing demos on the road and at shows. It features 10" pin spacing so it fits normal bats. 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 can be added at anytime! It also has optional static or folding leg sets for convenience anywhere.
If you prefer a full size 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 beginners and intermediate pottery makers. 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. With 5 and 10 year warranties respectively you can expect great longevity from either one of these excellent entry level wheels.
If you like the 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 which 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. The also can run on 220v European or US 120v power without modification.
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 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. Some wheels can be special ordered for 240v or with 220v European wiring for studios overseas
The next step up is the Pacifica GT-400. This is a professional grade wheel that won't break the bank. It can center 80 pounds of clay and it's "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!
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 great choice for professionals who need to work fast and or large! Also has a great price point for such a high quality wheel.
In the professional range there are many other contenders from Shimpo, Brent, Skutt and Soldner. The Soldner P400 would represent the top of line but it is not for everyone. The Solder 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 wheels still working hard every day. The S series wheels including the Soldner S-50 feature a triangular table top that will accommodate a regular Brent splash pan (sold separately).
Most commonly pro potters use Brent or Shimpo 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 with 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 pedal. Both Shimpo wheels are incredibly quiet and pleasant to throw on. 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 up from there. The Shimpo Whispers are great for this as the head free spins 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 10 year warranty, free bat, and $100 worth of free Amaco glazes. Brent wheels are found in class rooms coast to coast. The Brent Model 16 is wheel chair 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 : integrated pan or removable pan. The pans are full size covering the whole wheel. Each style is available in 1/3, ½, or 1 horse power. 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!
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.
Feel free to give a call to discuss which might be the right wheel for you!