I’m willing to bet that most artists and crafters have a favorite tool. They might have a favorite brush, a set of knitting needles or a power tool that just gets the job done. However sometimes in the weird world of art you are trying to do something that there really isn’t a tool for or the existing tools do not quite work the way you want/need them to.
I had the privilege during my stint as a post-bacc student at USU to take their tool-making class. And yes it’s exactly what it sounds like, a class devoted to the creation of tools, more specifically clay tools. We made wooden ribs, throwing sticks, trimming tools and various texturing stamps. Since I do not throw on the wheel as much anymore, some of these tools I no longer use.
There is one tool that I would be lost without. That is my radius tool. This is the tool I use to clean up all the lips of my slip cast pots. I have to cut the rims of the pots once they are removed from the mold. This leaves a very sharp and unattractive lip. The radius tool very simply rounds out the profile of this edge.
It’s made of brass tubing that was cut with diagonal ends. We took our tube to a metal bench grinder and sanded an opening into either end. We did so on the longer side of the diagonal. Here you have the option of sanding any variety of ovals onto the tube that will determine the profile of the edge once cut. When we had made our ovals we cleaned up the openings of any metal shavings. The purpose of the diagonal end is that it allows the clay being cut away to escape the tube instead of getting stuck inside.
So this simple tool saves me hours of time that I would otherwise spend fussing over each pot trying to create a consistent, usable lip. And yet the tool-making class gave to me something even more valuable than my little radius tool or all the other tools I made. It taught me to adapt. If I can’t find the tool I need, I make one or modify a tool that exists. Certainly there are times when practice will help solve a recurring problem but when I find myself struggling with a tool, I ask myself if there is a way it can work better.
With the DIY articles and videos everywhere, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has benefitted from this attitude. I’d love to hear about a how you solved a problem with a little elbow grease. Is there a time you made or modified a tool? A DIY moment you’re proud of? Tell me about it below.
Thanks for reading,