Pottery wheel buyer’s guide: Best pottery wheels and what you need to know

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Different things may come to mind when thinking of a pottery wheel. For some, it may be ancient artisan techniques; for others, funky, modern ceramics. And, of course, let’s not forget the scene from “Ghost” (yes, we had to say it).

Pottery wheels have evolved a lot over time, opening up a world of possibilities for creatives who have always loved the art form but found the crafts’ logistics a bit unrealistic or impractical.

Today, high-quality electric pottery wheels are available for every skill set and present a fantastic alternative to more traditional potter wheels. Note: this isn’t to say we don’t appreciate the singular experience of throwing on a kick wheel!

However, an electric pottery wheel will provide undeniable convenience and ease, especially if you’re a beginner or low on space at home or your craft station. For tips on the best pottery wheels and more, read our pottery wheel buyer’s guide below!

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Best pottery wheels: Quick picks

Nidec Shimpo Pottery Wheel

Nidec Shimpo VL-Lite Pottery Wheel

  • A reputable brand suited for all skill levels
  • Interchangeable tabletop and floor setup
  • Great value for money

Speedball Clay Boss Potter's Wheel

Speedball Clay Boss Potter’s Wheel

  • Entry-level machine
  • Includes bats
  • Variable speed control

Speedball Artista Potter's Wheel

Speedball Artista Potter’s Wheel

  • Compact tabletop device
  • Models for right and left-handed crafters are available
  • Perfect for trimming and decorating tasks

What is a pottery wheel, and how does it work?

Also popularly referred to as a potter’s wheel, a pottery wheel is a device used to mold clay into round-shaped objects.

This machine is fundamental for creating symmetrical clay items, such as tableware containers, decorative vessels, candleholders, flower pots, abstract art pieces, and more.

While there are other approaches to the craft, such as hand-building and slip casting, the most common pottery-making method used by beginners and advanced potters alike is wheel throwing, which, as the name implies, requires a pottery wheel.

Read also: Best pottery and ceramic classes online

This process comprises different stages during which specific techniques — centering, opening, pulling, and shaping — are applied on a potter’s wheel to transform lumps of clay into fully-formed objects.

The potter wheel’s spinning circular table or wheel head is where this process occurs. This element is positioned at waist height, mounted onto a frame, and connected to a rotation mechanism that enables the wheel head to spin uninterruptedly — this setup will look slightly different for electric and manual potter’s wheels.

The wheel head’s constant movement allows potters to use both of their hands to apply different pressure techniques onto clay until it is shaped as desired. Therefore, it’s the combination of the wheel head’s dynamic base and the manual pressure applied to the clay as it spins that manipulates its original form.

Besides throwing, pottery wheels are also used for other tasks, whether to decorate and glaze or add textural techniques such as chattering. Tabletop electric pottery wheels are perfect for this purpose!

Electric pottery wheel vs. kick wheel

In the pottery-making world, there are several types of pottery wheels you can come across:

  • Kick wheel / treadle wheel
  • Electric pottery wheel
  • Standing wheel
  • Upside-down wheel (you’ll never need one of these)

However, most beginners, home crafters, and advanced potters opt between an electric pottery wheel or a manual kick wheel based on convenience, size, durability, and budget.

Here are a few things to know about each:

Electric pottery wheel

  • Incorporates a potent motor and foot pedal
  • May provide varying speeds for centering, throwing, and trimming
  • Some models integrate adjustable switch rotation
  • Throwing can be quicker
  • Devices have different horsepower
  • Can last up to 10+ years
  • Smaller, easy to transport
  • More challenging to wash due to electrical parts
  • Easy to store
  • Lightweight vs. kick wheel
  • It relies on electricity to operate
  • Pottery wheel leg extensions allow you to sit or stand as you craft
  • Can get loud when the wheel head speeds up
  • Learning/mastering rotational speeds may present a challenge

Kick wheel

  • More complex setup integrating adjustable seating, a work table, and a flywheel
  • A more organic, artisan pottery-making experience
  • Mastering hand/foot coordination requires skill
  • Horsepower depends on the weight of the wheel and your legs (the heavier the device, the more torque it will have)
  • Easy maintenance
  • Will last a lifetime
  • Generally quieter vs. electric pottery wheels
  • Great for right/left-handed potters and Western/Eastern throwing techniques
  • Motors can be attached to increase speed/give more assistance
  • Difficult to transport
  • Requires elaborate disassembling to store away
  • Flywheel will take time to master
  • May cause knee joint pain over time

Electric pottery wheel parts and operation

Before investing in an electric pottery wheel, knowing how to identify its primary features and functionalities is helpful.

Spinning table/wheel head

This is the circular metal surface where clay is thrown. This tool commonly features bat pins to secure pottery bats.

Bat pins and pottery bats

Bat pins are incorporated into the wheel head to secure/lock a bat. A pottery bat or batter board is a removable, flat, circular slab you place onto the wheel head before throwing your clay.

This tool allows easy removal of your work once completed without having to carve it directly from the wheel head or risk breakage.

Splash pan

This is an essential part of all pottery wheels for beginners and consists of two detachable parts that connect around the wheel head, creating a protective boundary. Its primary function is to collect water, clay, and slip as you craft, preventing messiness — whether on you or the floor!

Pottery wheel motor

Electric potter’s wheels run on a motor; therefore, evaluating how much power is provided per device as well as centering capacity is crucial. Remember that the need for more or less horsepower will depend on the weight and amount of clay you intend on throwing.

Foot pedal

Electric pottery wheels incorporate an electrical foot pedal to manage the speed and rhythm of your wheel head. Kick wheels feature a more complex system, combining a foot pedal and a large flywheel for movement.

Support table

This flat tabletop surface is integrated into the pottery wheel and provides a designated area for complementary tools and resources as you throw: water recipients, cleaning cloths, shaping tools, etc.

Electric tabletop wheel vs. electric seated pottery wheel

Two main types of electric pottery wheels are available: seated and tabletop models.

Seated electric pottery wheels have an integrated support table with a built-in wheel head. These models are waist-high floor devices with legs that require sitting to throw — much like a standard kick wheel. These require a lot of floor space, so keep that in mind before purchasing.

On the other hand, tabletop electric pottery wheels are designed to be positioned on top of a table or flat surface. Sometimes these include leg extensions, but this isn’t always the case.

Also, tabletop devices are naturally more compact, lightweight, and easier to transport. As a result, these models are mostly favored by young students or home crafters with limited space.

Best pottery wheels to buy

And now, let’s dive into the best pottery wheels for beginners and advanced potters!

Best overall: Nidec Shimpo VL-Lite Pottery Wheel

Nidec Shimpo VL-Lite Pottery Wheel

The Nidec Shimpo VL-Lite Pottery Wheel is at the top of our list for its excellent quality and comprehensive features, an enticing suggestion for both beginners and experienced potters.

This belt-driven pottery wheel is intuitive to learn and lightweight while being sturdy enough to accommodate large amounts of clay. Besides its 1/2 HP, 100-watt reversible DC motor and durable steel body, this device features a 12-inch (~30 cm) wheel head with bat pins.

A splash pan, support table, and a foot pedal are also included. However, if you want to use a bat, this will have to be purchased separately. The centering capacity of this item is 25 lb (11 kg) which is a great starting point — you’ll have plenty of throwing possibilities with this range.

Besides its smooth wheel rotation, this machine’s motor is pretty quiet compared to other models. We also love how versatile this pottery wheel is — the structure’s legs are removable and, therefore, can be transformed into a tabletop device in a matter of seconds!

Although this isn’t a cheap pottery wheel (under $800 on Blick), it does have an excellent price tag considering the average price of similar high-quality electric pottery wheels.

Best for beginners: Speedball Clay Boss Potter’s Wheel

Speedball Clay Boss Potter's Wheel

Suppose your goal is to start your pottery ventures with high standards while keeping things sweet and simple. In that case, the Speedball Boss Potter’s Wheel is a great choice, providing an effortless, intuitive experience.

While not a cheap pottery wheel, this entry-level machine is one of the more affordable options you’ll come across, offering undeniable value for money.

Read also: Best pottery and ceramic classes online

Featuring a powerful 1.0 HP motor and a generous centering capacity of 175 lb (79 kg), this is a convenient pick if you want to keep your options open and aim to build your skill set to tackle larger clay projects over time.

The wheel head is supported by a sturdy steel frame table and measures a standard 14 inches (36 cm). This machine also contains a detachable splash pan, a foot pedal with variable speed control, and two bats — we love that this brand always adds these tools!

Want more crafting space without having to DIY? If you’re willing to pay more, the Speedball Big Boss Elite SQ Potter’s Wheel with Shelf model is just as beginner-friendly!

Best tabletop model for beginners: Speedball Artista Potter’s Wheel

Speedball Artista Potter's Wheel

The Speedball Artista Potter’s Wheel is the perfect tabletop pottery wheel for beginners and one of the most affordable options on our guide at a little over $500 on Blick.

This compact tabletop pottery wheel includes a splash pan and a large enough support surface to accommodate two small buckets. Apart from a 1/3 HP motor and variable speed options, this set also includes two bats.

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If you want to add more accessories to this device, items such as folding legs, static legs, and a foot pedal can be purchased separately. However, while this 11-inch (~27 cm) wheel head is slightly smaller, it has a pretty standard centering capacity of 25 lb (11 kg).

One of the features we particularly love about Speedball’s Artista line is that it offers a variation for right and left-handed potters!

It’s also the right size for starters who fear being overwhelmed by more elaborate wheels, yet just as useful for experienced crafters looking for a more compact base for trimming and decorating purposes.

Best tiny pottery wheel with hand crank: Nidec Shimpo Aspire Pottery Wheel

Nidec Shimpo Aspire Pottery Wheel

Nidec Shimpo makes this fantastic, durable mini pottery wheel to ensure a straightforward pottery-making experience with its easy-to-manage hand crank and compact size.

Lightweight and portable, this tabletop mini pottery wheel features a hand lever vs. foot pedal and a smaller-than-average 7-inch (~17 cm) wheel head. In addition, it has a centering capacity of 20 lb (9 kg) — more than enough space for intro-level potters!

Read also: Best sculpting classes

This machine runs on a 1/3 HP, 100-Watt DC motor and includes a removable splash pan and two bats. Note: this device is not compatible with bats made by other brands.

The fact that this mini pottery wheel is hand-operated makes it an excellent stepping stone for newbies. Surprisingly, it doesn’t present much of a delay compared to most foot pedals, as one would suspect! Nevertheless, this model doesn’t feature a reversible option.

If you still prefer a foot pedal, you can buy a version of this machine with this accessory for a slightly higher price. Nevertheless, we really like the ease and convenience presented by this hand-controlled mini pottery wheel! For a super cheap pottery wheel, Amazon sells this tiny VEVOR Mini Pottery Wheel, although the quality is severely lacking.

Best heavy-duty pottery wheel: Brent Model B Wheel

Brent Model B Wheel

Ideal if you’ve been looking for more elaborately designed, heavy-duty electric wheels, this free-standing Brent device is an excellent pick for daily pottery-making.

As one of the most expensive items in our guide, the ~$1600 Brent B pottery wheel boasts a sturdy structure and features standard, neutral, and reversing speed options controlled by an easy-to-toggle switch to simplify adjustments.

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In addition, the set includes a modular-style foot pedal to aid speed precision. This machine runs on a 1/2 HP motor, features a splash pan, a 14-inch (35 cm) bat, and an impressive centering capacity of 150 lb (68 kg).

Made to withstand long hours of crafting, this is a great choice if you’re running a small ceramics business, are an avid hobbyist, or teach pottery. And for additional guidance, this pack also contains an in-depth booklet on wheel throwing.

If you want something even more heavy-duty, the Brent Model C Power Wheel can accommodate 225 lb (102 kg) of clay. However, as expected it runs even more expensive.

Best quiet performance: Nidec Shimpo VL-Whisper Potter’s Wheel

Nidec Shimpo VL-Whisper Potter's Wheel

The last Nidec Shimpo device on our list (we can’t get enough of this fantastic brand!) is the VL-Whisper Potter’s Wheel — one of the most popular options for potters looking for a quiet pottery-making experience.

Perfect for crafters who share an art studio and classroom environments, the VL-Whisper Potter’s Wheel features a direct-drive beltless system and a 1/2 HP DC motor that keeps noise to a minimum when powered.

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This machine is composed of a 14-inch (36 cm) alloy wheel head with bat pins and a centering capacity of 100 lbs (45 kg). Nevertheless, it doesn’t include bats, so be sure to check compatibility if you’re planning on purchasing these through another brand.

We especially appreciate this device’s reversible motor, providing versatility for left and right-handed potters. Another design feature worth highlighting is this potter’s wheel’s adjustable legs: we love the benefit of being able to adjust and customize your workspace with five different height options.

Although not the priciest, this pottery wheel is costly: ~$1400. That said, if you’re just starting, we recommend something more accessible at first. On the other hand, this is a reliable investment if you’re inclined to get a potter’s wheel that will last a lifetime!

Best torque: Laguna Pacifica GT400 

Laguna Pacifica Glyde Torc 400

Pacifica pottery wheels are reputable for their high rpm, and the Laguna Pacifica GT400 is a powerful, high-torque model we recommend if your goal is to work with significant amounts of clay for larger projects.

The state-of-the-art GT400 boasts a modular construction and a heavy-duty steel frame with three sturdy legs. A 13-inch (33 cm) cast aluminum wheel head, two-piece splash pan, spacious tabletop, and set of bat pins are all featured.

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This model is most acclaimed for its extra torque and consistent rpm, even when running at slow speed. In addition, it’s designed with a load sensor that increases the drive current in proportion to the clay’s load, providing constant speed up to 260 rpm!

The Laguna Pacifica GT400 has a unique, finely tuned controller to assure smooth rotation at all speeds — including reverse. Its reversing switch is compatible with both right and left-handed crafters.

With a centering capacity of 80 lbs (36 g), this machine is a great match for demanding crafters and is particularly suitable for intermediate and advanced potters.

Best for younger potters and students: Skutt Thomas Stuart Prodigy Potter’s Wheel

Skutt Thomas Stuart Prodigy Potter's Wheel

Last up is the 1/3 HP motored Prodigy pottery wheel by Skutt Thomas Stuart, an excellent fit for younger entry-level potters and students.

Built with learning environments and classrooms in mind, this model offers a high-quality pottery experience while keeping things simple and straightforward.

Read also: Best hand casting kits

For instance, this device does not feature a reversing switch. On the other hand, it prioritizes an extra spacious support table and a very thick, 12-inch (30 cm) wheel head to provide an intuitive, easy crafting experience. Another advantageous feature of this potter’s wheel is its unique, continuous-duty motor.

That said, potters will have the ideal conditions to mold different clay weights into varied project sizes over extended periods. This potter’s wheel also incorporates an industrial-strength SCR Controller, which is crucial in managing temperature during lengthy potting sessions.

We can’t forget to mention the foot pedal that comes with this pottery wheel! Constructed to endure hours of crafting, this brand has designed an ergonomic cast aluminum pedal that ensures durability, smoothness, control, and comfort — undoubtedly, a step up from plastic pedals!

FAQs

How much does a pottery wheel cost?

Generally speaking, pottery wheels are expensive, and quality products can cost between $200-$2000. That said, electric pottery wheels are built to last 10+ years and kick wheels a lifetime (!), which justifies the hefty investment.

However, you can find a pretty good, high-quality pottery wheel within the $400-$500 range. If you want something incredibly cheap, brands like VEVOR sell potter wheels for a little over $100.

Why are pottery wheels so expensive?

Apart from features like reversible switches, sturdy steel frames, and a robust wheel head, the main reason behind the priciness of an electric pottery wheel is its motor.

Without a powerful motor to keep wheel heads spinning smoothly, you won’t be able to work. Motors also need to ensure durability and consistent rotation over time, which demands expert construction and, therefore, higher price tags.

Can you keep a pottery wheel outside?

While this won’t be a problem if you own a kick wheel, placing an electric pottery wheel outdoors could be tricky. Because these models have motors and plastic parts, factors such as moisture, sunshine, and heat could damage your device.

Do you need a pottery wheel to make pottery?

No! Hand-building projects and techniques are also very common in pottery-making. For example, you can pinch pots, slab build, coil build, etc.

Nevertheless, a pottery wheel is undeniably best for achieving symmetry and roundness. Hand-building also requires lots of skill tweaking; therefore, it may not be the best approach for complete newbies.

Where can I buy a pottery wheel?

You can buy pottery wheels from online art supply stores such as Blick. Amazon and Etsy sell some models, but these are cheaper, smaller, and more generic pottery wheels. These may be reasonable temporary options, but we advise aiming for quality right off the bat!

Where can I find a pottery wheel and kiln for firing?

Several places rent pottery wheels and kilns for a small fee. We recommend looking into local pottery studios, ceramics shops and art suppliers, local community centers, and even college campuses!

Using social media to research close-by options or contact local potters is also a great way to connect with other crafters and get insider guidance and tips.


That’s all for this pottery wheel buyer’s guide! Which pottery wheel will you be getting to start your pottery journey? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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