How to Wedge Clay Using the Cone Method

  • 01 of 06

    Make a Ball of Clay

    Ball of clay ready to be wedged in the cone method.
    Ball of clay ready to be wedged in the cone method. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    Wedging is used to homogenize clay and remove air pockets. Cone wedging clay compacts it in a spiral action and leaves it in a cone shape, which many potters prefer when the clay is to be thrown on the potter's wheel. This method is suitable for one to ten pounds of clay (or up to twenty pounds if your wrists are strong enough).

    I prefer cone wedging my own clay as I find that I can rock the clay back and forth through the cycle without having to stop and adjust the clay's placement on the...MORE wedging table very often.

    Here we see clay that has been patted into a ball shape, ready to be wedged in the cone method. As you are learning this method, work with a ball of clay about the size of a baseball or grapefruit.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    The First Action Step to Cone Wedging

    The first action step of cone wedging clay.
    The first action step of cone wedging clay. Note that the photograph is from the front, as you are facing the person wedging. The line drawing inset shows the hand placement as if these were your hands. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    Place the ball of clay on your wedging surface (canvas or plaster). If you have shaped it into a cone already, the small end of the cone points to the right and the thick end is at the left. Place your right hand on the right-hand side of the clay and your left flat on the left side. You left hand should be close to perpendicular to the table.

    Push downward and away from you, working mainly with your right hand. The clay will move away from you slightly, leaving about one to two inches of clay...MORE jutting from the right side of the cone.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    The Second Action Step of Cone Wedging Clay

    The second step in the cycle of the cone method of wedging clay.
    The second step in the cycle of the cone method of wedging clay. Note that the photo shows the action from the front, as if you were facing the person wedging. The inset shows the action from your own perspective if you are the wedging. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    Using your left hand, rock the clay back toward you, so that it is standing on the one or two inch tail of clay left after the first step. Apply a bit of rightward and downward pressure with the left hand as you bring the clay back. The pressure you use should be less than what your right hand had just applied.

    As your left hand rolls the clay onto its tail and compresses down and to the right, the original tip of the cone will drift to the left and the tail should rumple up under the cone.

    Repeat...MORE steps one and two for twenty to fifty cycles, until the clay is completely homogenized and air-pocket free.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Appearance of the Cone During Wedging

    Clay wedged with the cone method showing the tail of clay.
    This cone is shown as if you had been working the clay. Note the rumple lines on the bottom right, showing how the clay has been compressed down on itself. If you follow the lines to the left, you can see some of the spiral on the butt end of the con. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    This photo shows the clay as if you had been the one working it, with the tail facing you. The cone is on its side, ready for the next cycle of step one - step two.

    You can see the vestiges of past tails in the compression lines at the bottom right of the cone. You can also see some of the spiraling of the clay on the butt end of the cone, which is at the left.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Shape the Bottom of the Cone

    The bottom of the cone after cone wedging clay show the spiral of the clay.
    The bottom of the cone after cone wedging clay show the spiral of the clay. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    Once you have completed the wedging process, you will very likely have a whirlpool effect on the butt end of the cone of clay. This is due to the spiral action of the wedging, which is what you want.

    You do not want that whirlpool dimple left on the bottom, however. If you were to smack this onto your wheel as it is, you would have an air pocket between the clay and the bat. Firmly smack the clay around the edges of the cone's bottom, rounding the bottom surface and eliminating the dimple. Be...MORE certain not to fold the clay over on itself.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    The Final Cone-Wedged Clay

    Cone wedged clay that is ready to be used on the potter's wheel or in hand building.
    Cone wedged clay that is ready to be used on the potter's wheel or in hand building. Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

    This is a batch of cone-wedged clay ready for throwing on the potter's wheel or in hand building. It is finally set on its bottom, which had been on the left-hand side as it was being wedged and then shaped to remove the whirlpool dimple.