A pottery wheel is used to shape ceramic ware and is one of the basic bits of gear required for the pottery making process.
The problem is, there are so many different types available that vary in function and quality massively, making buying one of these things a bit of a minefield!
To help you out, we’ve pulled together this guide which will walk you through all the main things you need to consider when buying one. We’ve also hunted down the best options on the market to help you take the guesswork out of it.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Beginners Pottery Wheels On the Market
- Artista Speedball Portable (Best Overall)
- Skytou Pottery Wheel (Best Budget)
- Brent C Wheel (Best Premium)
- Cool Maker Pottery Studio
- Faber-Castell Studio (Best for Kids)
- U.S. Art Supply 3/4-HP Table Top Pottery Wheel
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices, and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
- What is a Pottery Wheel?
- Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Right Pottery Wheel
- Best Pottery Wheels For Beginners – Product Round-up & Reviews
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is a Pottery Wheel?
A pottery wheel or a potter’s wheel is a machine used to shape ceramic designs (shaping is often referred to as ‘throwing’). The wheel itself holds the clay and spins it around at speed so that it forms a uniform, circular shape. While the wheel is spinning the potter applies pressure to the clay and molds their design by hand.
While you can still find traditional ‘kickwheel’ types of wheels that require manual force produced by your legs and the weight of the wheel (if the wheel itself is heavy, it’ll have more potential torque and will spin for longer).
Without a doubt the manual kickwheel style is truer to the art form of pottery (and I’m sure it was the type used by Patrick Swayze in the movie Ghost!), but in this article, we only focus on the electric pottery wheel.
Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Right Pottery Wheel
Let’s now at the main things you need to think about before you part cash for one of them.
Quietness is one of the most important things to take into account. You’ll find some models run a lot quieter than others. If you’re in a classroom setting where many wheels are running at the same time it might not matter how noisy it is, but in your own studio you might prefer something a bit more chilled.
Horsepower is a really important consideration, as it dictates how much clay it can handle.
Most electric wheels range from ¼ horsepower to 1 horsepower (HP). Some products with 1 horsepower can center clay weighing 150lbs (that’s quite a large amount of material when you consider a coffee cup equates to just 1lb).
Also, check how much clay can be continuously thrown on the wheel. You want to look for how much ‘continuous duty’ power you get, not only peak-duty power. For example, a 1/3HP continuous duty motor may have more power than a 1HP peak-duty motor.
Diameter of Wheel Head
The wheel head is the part of the pottery wheel that you throw your clay onto. They are usually constructed from a flat sheet of metal and often contain pins that secure the bats into place. Some wheels offer removable bat pins, which means you can trim the ware into your preferred shape.
Most wheel head’s have unique pin configurations. This means the number of pins and their size can be different, plus their distance from the wheel’s center can vary between models. This is worth taking note of, as you’ll need a specific pin layout to support certain bats.
The diameter of the wheel head dictates the size of the pottery pieces you’ll be able to throw. Most prefer those that are at least 14” so that you can throw pots with a large, wide base. Overall, the wheel needs to be wide enough to support the work you’re going to carry out.
An electric wheel can be easier to pick up and move around than kick-wheels. In particular, electric models are smaller and lighter, so would make a good choice for any potters that like to move their home studio equipment about frequently. Lightweight designs also make participating in exhibitions or craft shows more of an option too!
Splash Pan and Work Areas
Some pottery wheels are simplistic, including just a wheel-head, power source, and a support frame which you’ll something for it sit on (an adjustable craft table is a good idea).
Others come with built-in worktables or raised edges to shield you from splashes and mess. Extra workspaces can make a handy storage area for tools and materials but may add weight and cost to the kit. Overall, choosing the right design here depends on how much equipment you need to store and the amount of space you have in the studio.
Do you imagine yourself as a messy potter? Pottery wheels come with different sized splash pans and larger workspaces which helps keep the mess to a minimum, especially if it’s a really good sculpting clay.
Best Pottery Wheels For Beginners – Product Round-up & Reviews
Artista Speedball Portable
Speedball’s Artista Portable pottery is an electric wheel that includes a ton of high-quality features. The best aspect here has to be the ⅓ Horsepower motor and variable speed control that provide you with a really smooth, consistent spin. The whole design is also noiseless despite being pretty powerful and can spin between a range of 0-220rpm. The wheel head itself is 11” in diameter and has a 25lb centering capacity, to meet most potter’s throwing requirements.
The pins here are ⅜” and arranged as standard, on a 10” center. The manufacturers have also included a two-part splash pan to catch any excess material and reduce mess. The only problem we found was that the bat doesn’t lie completely flat, which can cause some minor issues when you start trimming or centering your clay. That said, you could always purchase a different one for a small extra cost.
Speedball has designed the Artista to be lightweight and portable, so you can pack it away if you need to use your space for other projects. This is also great news if you want a potter’s wheel that can be transported to exhibitions!
Overall, we’d recommend the Artista to anyone that needs a really reliable electric-wheel that they can move around a lot. Just remember, you might need some extra cash saved to buy a new bat.
- Powerful motor – Kicks out ⅓ horsepower and up to 220rpm.
- Variable spin speed – Motor can be adjusted by hand to spin between 0-220rpm.
- Portable – The Artista is lightweight and is easy to carry to move around.
- Bat doesn’t lie flat – This can make it harder to trim and center your material.
Let’s take a look at this product…
Skytou Pottery Wheel
If you’re shopping on a budget, or you’d like to give it a try without it costing an arm and a leg, this budget pottery wheel might do the trick.
With a 9.8″ inch diameter wheel and a rotary speed up to 30 RPM, it’s perfect for beginners or to buy for your kids. The maximum amount of clay it can throw is around 7-8 lb though, so it’s better for smaller projects.
The easy cleaning ABS removable basin is quite handy too, as is the 8 piece set of shaping tools they include too.
- Decent quality for the price
- Can’t throw large amounts
- Probably not a long term purchase
Brent C Wheel
If you’re looking for the best money can buy, this handmade wheel made in the USA is right up there. It’s a superbly constructed wheel with a heavy-duty iron frame that supports the tough, 12” aluminum wheel head.
In fact, the design is so well-made that it can center up to 225 lbs. of clay at a time. Another great feature is the mighty 3/4 hp, 7 amp DC motor that can be adjusted with the Brent Classic Controller foot pedal, which among other things, offers optimal torque at all speeds.
It also comes with a handy polypropylene splash pan and high-density, laminated poly table for you to put your materials on.
It isn’t cheap, but if you’re looking for something that will last the years, or you’re buying for a school or art center, its a great choice. It’s also the wheel Danny Meisinger uses to throw his towering pieces, so you’re in good company.
- Durable – The heavy-duty iron frame and aluminum wheel means this equipment is built to last
- Powerful – Motor can be adjusted to provide up to 3/4 horsepower, even with 225lbs (100 kilos) of clay continuously
- Automatic belt tensioning — keeps the 6-groove poly-v drive belt tight for maximum performance
- Quality build and handmade in the USA
- Pricey – The price isn’t for the faint-hearted.
- Heavy – All this industrial-strength material adds weight to the design
Cool Maker Pottery Studio
The Pottery Studio by Cool Maker is bright, fun, and full of creative potential. But the best feature here has to be the extra project molds that are included. This means your kids can create and customize up to six designs, including a mermaid jewelry holder and a smartphone speaker, using the included sculpting tools and metallic paints.
Another great aspect is that Cool Maker has included clay that will air dry after being sprayed with water, which means you don’t have to find a kiln to set it. The downside is that the electric motor runs on four C batteries, with no option of using a plug-in adapter. As well as this, the wheel itself doesn’t handle resistance well, which means any medium to large amounts of clay will prevent it from spinning properly. That said, the wheel’s plastic surface is easy to clean up after use.
In summary, the additional bits and bobs (molds, etc.) they include will give your kids all they need to get creative immediately. So for the price you get a really good value package. With that in mind, the Pottery Studio is best for older children, as spinning the wheel while shaping and spraying the clay simultaneously can be tricky.
- Extra equipment – The Pottery box includes ten metallic paints, clay, molds, and sculpting tools
- Fun – The aesthetic is bright and Cool Maker has included six fun designs with instructions to follow
- Easy to clean, plastic wheel, and workspace
- Only takes batteries, which can be annoying and costly if you use the electric wheel a lot
- Motor isn’t particularly powerful and loses spin speed with moderate amounts of clay
Hearthsong’s Pottery Wheel for Kids best feature has to be the tough, yet portable design. The manufactures have constructed this equipment so that it functions as a professional wheel that will fit onto a table. In total, the entire package only measures 12″L x 16″W x 5″H, making it conveniently compact. As well as this, the kit can be powered by both batteries and a power adapter, so you won’t need to worry if you run out of C batteries.
The kit itself comes with plenty of handy extras, including 2lbs of air-dry terracotta clay, sculpting knives, paints, a cutting chord and some examples to create using instructions. So your kids will be able to get creative as soon as it arrives. The clay is easy to prepare by simply mixing with water and it will set overnight, so you won’t need to use a kiln to heat it.
The disadvantage here is that the electric motor doesn’t provide much power, so even when you throw just a small amount of clay onto the wheel, you’ll notice the spin speed decrease. As well as this, if you want to power it without the adapter, you’ll need to use eight C batteries at a time!
Overall, we’d recommend Hearthsong’s kit to younger or inexperienced children that want a pottery wheel to practice on. The electric motor isn’t powerful enough for professional or standard use, but it is still a good way to develop your child’s hand-eye coordination and is an enjoyable way to get creative.
- Includes air drying clay – So you won’t have to set your creations in a kiln
- Takes batteries and an electric power supply
- Includes paints, clay, instructions and sculpting equipment
- Requires eight C batteries to run without the power adapter
- Electric motor is weak and loses power with even small amounts of clay on the wheel
Let’s take a look at this product…
Next up is the Pottery Wheel for Beginners by Mindware. The best thing about this model has to be its versatility. Mindware has included a handy switch that changes the wheel’s spin direction so that both left and right-handed children can use it no problem. The wheel itself is also tough and easy to clean, so it will happily take on heavy use. As well as this, the wheel will stop spinning if too much pressure is applied, to help develop good technique and stop the motor from getting damaged.
The kit comes with convenient air dry clay, which only requires water to mold into shape. Plus there are also twelve paints, a set of sculpting tools, a paintbrush and some fun instructions to follow.
One thing to remember, however, is that the motor is only powered by an AC adaptor, so you don’t get the option of using batteries. As well as this, the motor itself is pretty noisy too! That said, the design is more alike to professional electric models than most children’s options, seeing as the motor’s speed is controlled by pressing down a foot pedal.
Overall, we’d recommend Mindware’s Pottery Wheel to anyone who wants their kids to learn to craft on something realistic. The hardwearing wheel and footswitch will enable them a good technique in the long run. The only downside is that the kit is slightly more pricey than other children’s models.
- Supports left and right-handed users
- Footswitch to control the wheel’s speed
- Promotes good technique – The wheel stops spinning when you apply too much pressure.
- Slightly more pricey than other kids’ pottery wheels
- Only powered by an AC adapter, making it less portable
- Noisy motor
Let’s take a look at this product…
The Do Art Pottery Studio is the best kit we’ve found for kids. In particular, we were impressed by the fact that the instructions teach good technique along with a little pottery history. But as well as this, the set-up itself is high-quality, including a foot pedal to change the wheel speed and a durable, wipe-clean wheelhead surface.
The kit comes with 3lbs of air-dry clay, six different sculpting tools, a sponge, paints, a pottery glaze, inspiring craft instructions and a protective table cover and apron. So you get a lot of equipment for your dollar.
The downside is that the Art Pottery Studio is a little noisy and solely powered by C batteries, so you’ll need to keep some in stock for when they run out of power. As well as this, the clay that comes with the kit tends to be prone to flaking once set. So you may want to invest in some of a higher quality. However, it is non-toxic and extra-safe for children – containing fewer microbes than organic clay – which is what you want to hear if you’re a parent.
In summary, we’d recommend Faber-Castell’s Pottery Studio to older children that want to develop their pottery skills on a wheel that resembles a professional model. Here you get all the necessary equipment you need to get creative straight away, plus some extra educational material too. This kit is certainly value for money, considering the equipment you get for an affordable price.
- Realistic feeling footswitch to control the wheel’s spin speed
- Educational – Faber-Castell have added a little pottery history to their instructions, so you can learn whilst you work
- Safe clay – Designed to be microbe-free and non-toxic
- Clay can crack if you don’t use enough water to mold it before setting
- Only runs on C batteries with no plug option
- Motor is noisy and can get annoying.
U.S. Art Supply 3/4-HP Table Top Pottery Wheel
This is a well built, heavy duty tabletop pottery wheel with a powerful 3/4 hp motor, an 11″ wheel head, and a two-part slash pan.
You can throw up to 25 lbs. of clay at a maximum rotary speed of 300 RPM, which is considerable for the size of the machine. Similarly, the 11″ bat it comes with provides a reassuringly flat surface for sculpting, molding, and shaping clay.
It’s also remarkable portable and despite being a tabletop machine, is surprisingly sturdy with little shifting and wobbling when its in operation.
In addition, you get a foot pedal attachment (to control the pottery wheel rotation speed) for hands-free operation. The pedal is pressure-sensitive allowing users to adjust the required speed for their work.
- Easy to use
- Speed and rotation adjustment on clear display
- Optional foot pedal
- The wheel is reversible, so ideal for left or right-handed use.
- Price may be put some people off
So, Which Should I Buy?
When it comes to picking the perfect pottery wheel, there’s no completely right or wrong choice. It simply depends on what your needs are as a parent or artist. Of course, professional or industrial potter’s wheels will cost a small fortune, but there are affordable, quality models out there.
If you’re looking for something that you can transport between your home studio and exhibitions then the Artista is a good choice. This kit is specifically designed to be lightweight and portable.
On the other hand, if you want something that’s as close to a professional potter’s wheel you can get, then try out the C Wheel by Brent. This device features an industrial motor for extra power and control.
If you’re shopping on a budget, the Skytou wheel is hard to beat.
Finally, if you need a child-friendly pottery wheel, then Faber-Castell’s kit is educational as well as good quality. If you’re buying a pottery wheel for a left-handed kid, then the Mindware kit is a good option as it has a switch that lets you change the wheel spin direction so that both right-handed and left-handed children can use it.