Traditionally, Karatsu pottery involves a lot of paddling and trimming very soft clay. It’s hard to find tools that do this well, so the easiest way is to make your own. Here are a few of the tools I’ve made. They’re all really simple and cheap, and work better for what I need than what is commercially available.
I have included one bought tool (at left) because I use it a lot for paddling bottoms and lids, and it’s good for comparison. It’s good for bottoms and lids because of it’s even surface, but not good for much anything else, because the design is too even and man made for my taste. The made tools are from left to right:
-Cedar Paddle: cut to shape then burned to soften. ‘Worm holes burned in with a hot nail. use for bigger pieces because the length allows for more support.
-Pine Paddle: Use for small/medium pieces. Since it’s short, it’s easier to collapse what you’re paddling, but it leaves a much more interesting design/deformation.
-Copper Wire footring measurer: I use this to premark all feet before measuring so I get reasonably similar footring diameters. The copper makes it easily adjustable, just bend to desired diameter.
-Cedar Anvil: I cut a section from a cedar fence post and used a burner on it to bring out the figure, then used a small rounded chisel to dig between the rings. Using the growth rings looks more natural than turning rings on a lathe.
-Pine Knife: I made this for incising tea bowls, but I found it not to work well with Karatsu clays, too sharp. Works great with Mogusa and Gotomaki clays.
-Granite Finisher: I use this to erase knife marks, etc. on the bottoms of my paddled pots.
-Two trimmers: made from some cool stuff I found on the road that never gets dull, it’s some sort of laminated bandsaw blade stock with a 3mm strip of really hard metal on the lead edge.
-Pine decorative ‘thwacker’: This has various designs cut into the ends for final decorative markings. If you get it right on, it makes a cool ‘thwack’ noise, if not you’ve just torn a hole in your vessel.
-Footring carving tool: I made this out of some olive wood I had laying around, and mini hacksaw blades from the 100 yen shop, since I needed a footring carving dull loop tool. Brings out the wrinkles in the clay.
-All purpose rough cutting tool: Made out of an old chopstick and a jigsaw blade. I made it for carving the spout holes for katakuchi forms.
The second photo shows more detail and reverse sides of the paddles.