All posts by KaratsuPots

Making a homemade paddle 2

After burning the paddle, take a soft brush and brush the surface clean of the carbonized matter. I use a brass brush for this, or sometimes stiff plastic. Steel is too stiff and will scrub out your hard earned texture. Use water during the brushing process, or you’ll end up looking like a coal miner after a hard days work.

When I looked at the old pots, the surfaces were sometimes pocked with odd bumps, bumps which didn’t look intenional or man made. Finally realized this could have been from wormholes in the paddle used to make the piece. Lacking access to highly trained, hungry pine beetle larvae, I used a rusty nail held in a vice grip to burn texture similar to worm holes into the surface of the paddle. Holding the vice grip away from you heat the nail until red hot with the burner, then jab and drag it into and across the paddle to create your texture. Use your imagination, have fun!

Burn and brush again to knock off the sharp edges from your texture and you’re finished! I don’t usually burn texture into the whole surface of the paddle, since different parts of the paddle can be used for different effects.

This paddle was textured with saw cuts before burning for the crosshatch design.

Making a homemade paddle

The other day I made some paddles, and took some pics of the very simple process. Paddles are easy to make, and really have a significant influence on the final look of the pot. You can buy them in various places, but what you get is fairly uninteresting compared with what you can produce on your own for next to nothing.

I first became interested in homemade paddles after looking at old Karatsu pots and pot shards. If I wanted to mimic those pots I was going to need similar tools.

In the first picture you can see the blanks to be used for the paddles. I had a pine branch laying around waiting for a chance to be useful. It is cut diagonally at about a 1″ thickness. If you cut vertically (rip), you will lose the interesting figure created by the growth rings. If you cross cut you will need a very large diameter log to cut blanks from to get the size paddle you need. Also the paddle will be very weak and easily broken. Cutting diagonally solves both problems giving you a strong paddle with interesting wood figure. This will later be reflected in the clay surface. Also, you can get a relatively large paddle from a small diameter branch.

Here are the blanks with outlines of paddles marked on them. I flare the base of the paddle handles because a tapered or straight handle tends to slip during use.

I used a benchtop bandsaw to cut the blanks out. You could use any saw really, it’s just a matter of speed.

Next get your trusty burner torch, and blacken the whole paddle. The burning will create texture in the paddle since the soft ring burn faster than the dense rings, leaving the dense rings raised. Also, it’s just fun playing with the torch, and the pine smells nice. The burning also rounds off sharp edges and corners making the paddle more comfortable to handle.

Yohen Tenmoku



Here is the magazine article that I have regarding the fellow who reproduced the yohen tenmoku effect made so famous by the old Chinese ‘Inaba’ Tenmoku bowl. I’ve just scanned the cover of the periodical, and one page of the article, leaving out the text pages.
The periodical name is すきっと (Sukitto) and the artist’s name is 林恭助 (Hayashi Kyosuke).

Kickwheel 3

Here are some left over images that might be helpful if you’re trying to build one of these things. Last pic shows my wheel set up in my old studio (I had evicted the car from the garage). Straw rope wrapped around the base of the stretchers saves toes and keeps junk from falling into the internal workings of the flywheel. If you want to see a picture of the wheel in its natural habitat now, please scroll down to the post entitled ‘Clean’. I think it’s third from the bottom.
Keep in mind that the cone and cone receiver were traditionally made from porcelain. I actually saw one of the porcelain type at a factory/museum recently. The porcelain was glazed with a clear glaze, which makes sense I suppose. If you’re handy with porcelain and very good with measurements, you could make a set of these parts yourself. If you’re a real fancypants, you could even use some underglaze cobalt decoration (karakusa or something) on them. Ko-Imari wheel parts…. neat. (If anyone actually does this please send me pics) If you go ahead and decide to build a wheel, and have additional questions, please ask. Also, if you go ahead and build one of these, please send me pics (and something you’ve made on it). : )



Kickwheel 2

Ok, that was the easy part. Now you need hardware. Your local iron works will be really helpful here, unless you have a metal lathe, a welding machine, and a way to temper high carbon steel.

Here are the parts you’ll need.
1- A 3-4cm solid steel shaft, welded perpendicular to a thick steel plate (which will be anchored to the floor later)
2- A ‘receiving’ tapered sleeve. which slips into the underside of the wheel to remove any play. It has a set screw so that it doesn’t move after being set into position.
3- A pillowblock and bearing set into the underside of the flywheel, this doesn’t actually support any weight, just prevents sideways play.
4- A cone which is made with a morse taper. It goes in the bottom of the wheelhead.
5- A receiver block which has a similar female taper to receive the cone. This block is set into the center of the bottom of the wheel head.
6- A cone receiver (with morse taper), which fits into the top of the shaft. The top of the shaft is tooled with a female taper to receive the cone receiver.


The first picture shows 4 cones and 2 cone receivers. The angle of the receiver is wider than the angle of the cone so that the only part of the cone to touch the receiver is the very tip of the point.


Next picture shows the wheel with parts 4,5,6 all fitting together. This area supports the full weight of the wheel. Use a nice heavy grease for lubrication. These parts (4 and 6) have been tempered and they are made from high carbon steel. I’ve kept them lubricated, and have observed no appreciable wear in the 3 years I’ve had the wheel.


These last three pictures show parts 1,2,3. The bearing’s internal diameter are larger than the shaft, so the tapering receiver sleeve slides up into the bearing AFTER THE WHEEL HAS BEEN SEATED IN PLACE. This is very important so that the wheel is fully supported by the cone. The tapered sleeve should not be forced into the bearing, just slid up until it engages lightly, then secured with the set screw. My set screw is adjusted with 4mm hex wrench.

I don’t remember the exact measurements for all my hardware, I just remember that the taper on my tapered sleeve tapers a total of about 5mm, and engages toward the bottom of the sleeve.


This was all fairly easy for the craftsman to make for me, but I ended up paying a lot for his labor. All the parts were made from scrap so materials were free. I think labor for something like this would be much less in the U.S.

Finally, kickwheel pics 1

Been telling myself to look for all these pics for the last month or so. 言うは易し (Easier said than done). Finally located my full archive of pics for the last 5 years, and managed to dig them up from their various locations. Sorry for the wait, to everyone who requested these.

Ok. I’ll start with the wheel itself which is very simple, and you can make it yourself without any power tools, if need be. The squat wheel shown is the traditional version, this one is probably about 100 years old or more. Mine is also shown. There are some differences, mainly that I couldn’t afford Elm (keyaki) which is the wood normally used for kickwheels in Japan. This stuff is heavy, sinks in water and lasts forever if you don’t leave it in that water you just did the float test in.

I used cedar for the flywheel and hard maple in two layers, grain set perpendicular to each other. I made the flywheel thicker than normal because the wood is lighter, but in retrospect this probably wasn’t necessary, since the wheel is treaded, not kicked, anyway.




I rounded my wheel stock on a wood lathe after cutting it close with a band saw. You could start with a square and keep cutting corners until you got almost round with it, something like a ’32 sided’ circle. Notice on the old kickwheel, the stretchers are rectangular. I think the maker used mortising chisels to cut the rectangular holes, put the stretchers in, and wedged them. I think the wedges also may function as stretcher placement tuning, moving the stretchers in (toward center) or out (away from center) to tune the balance of the wheel during construction.

I’m not such a skilled wood worker though, so I used hardwood dowels for my stretchers, drilling holes with a hand drill and forstner bits. A drill press would have been SOOOOOO much easier. I established center on both wheels and measured outward equally for all, then drilled the holes. Not too difficult, the difficult part was holding everything perfectly straight while gluing and drying. Frankly, I think I got a little lucky. I used an expanding polyurethane glue, so I had lots of time to get everything lined up. Make sure there is no twisting from top to bottom, and that the wheel head center is DIRECTLY over the flywheel center.