All posts by KaratsuPots

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.

A bit of a different Chawan








I was remembering one of Matsuzaki Ken’s chawan where he had laid the front face down and fired it in his tree eating monster kiln. The ash ran down from the back to the front forming beads of green, just beautiful. The bowl sagged and became more oval than circle, and the green glaze surrounded the shells which had supported the bowl.

I decided to try this sort of thing in my gas kiln with may standard chosen karatsu glaze. Thought since it’s so runny, it might do something interesting. Here’s the result.

Doesn’t have the Karatsu tsuchi mise (showing the clay) on the bottom and this is not traditionally a Karatsu form, but I’m happy with the result.

From a purely technical standpoint, I’ve finally solved one of my biggest problems regarding teabowls with this glaze: The chosen garatsu glaze pooling in my chadamari (tea pool) after running nicely, filling it up and obliterating it. Firing this way, it can run all it wants, and if it pools it’ll end up on the inside of the front of the bowl! Yes!

Another Saggar Fire Experiment

This was an order for a yakishime katakuchi that I got a while back.
Wasn't sure what I'd get since I've had mixed results with this in the
past. I'd been using shells for the salt, charcoal, and rice hulls. Well
the shells impart the salt, but flux everything so much what you end up
with is a big mess with sharp edges.

This time I just used charcoal and hulls, and gave the pot a very thin
wash of wood ash before putting it in. I did spray some wood ash on the
front, but wasn't happy with that so I won't be doing it again. The
thinner areas have much better color response from the charcoal.

This is the first time I've been able to get the gold and copper
speckling and sheen.

Gas Fired Shino Experiment




Just time for a quick post today. I just unloaded the kiln, and was pleasantly surprised by this Shino experiment. I’d had zero luck getting fire color in my shinos using a gas kiln, so I packed it in a saggar with charcoal and rice husks. What a difference. The glaze is very simple:
7 Neph Sye
3 Korean Kaolin

A change of pace for Hanaire

Decided to try something new regarding construction of hanaire (flower vases).
Normally do the coil and paddle which makes light, soft looking ware. Saw some of the old Ko-Iga work and have tried to reproduce w/coil and paddle, but it just doesn’t have the dramatic feel of the Iga ware.

So, I decided to try throwing thickly on the wheel in parts, and assembling, which is actually something I saw demonstrated in a magazine recently by a contemporary Iga potter. I always thought from the pictures that the Iga ware looked really heavy. I also thought that it must not really be so, just appearing that way. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When you make these vases from thrown parts or slabs, what you end up with is a serious chunk of clay, really heavy. In retrospect, it stands to reason, since the Iga ware is fired at high temp for many days, if the ware was thin and light, it would collapse during firing. It needs to be heavy just to survive the kiln.

One advantage to the heaviness is that you can do flower arranging with heavier objects without having to fear that the vase will topple over.

Pictured below, bodies and mouthparts in foreground, bases in the background.