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6 Pottery Carving Tools To Expand Your Carvings

Every potter knows how delicate of an art carving clay truly is. Once a notch or cut has been made, it’s not so easy to erase a mistake.

That’s why having the proper pottery carving tools is so important!

When you’re trying to make that perfectly smooth groove or cut that impeccably straight line, the tools in this list are the ones you need to get the job done!

So read on for descriptions of the five best types of pottery carving tools to have in your toolbox and some tips and tricks for how to use them.

pottery carving tools

For Detailing

1. Potter’s Needle

In terms of pottery carving tools used to add intricate details, there’s no better option than a potter’s needle.

This long, stylus-like instrument works almost like a sharp-tipped pen. The sleek handle gives you all the dexterity you need to easily slash smooth lines and patterns across the surface of your clay projects.

And that’s just the beginning! A potter’s needle can also be used to:

  • Smooth out the seal of two attached pieces
  • Carve out intricate shapes
  • Smooth out edges
  • Trim the rim of your piece

Any project that needs a controlled and gentle touch to complete needs a potter’s needle!

When buying this tool, make sure you pick something made from stainless steel. Without a durable and strong material that will stay rigid against the clay, the needle could bend or warp over time and ruin your work.

2. Wooden Modeling Tools

No pottery carving tool kit is complete without a good set of wooden modeling tools!

When it comes to adding texture and perfecting the shape of your clay masterpiece, you need the variety of shapes and sizes that wooden modeling tools afford you.

Not to mention the benefits of the wood itself! Unlike their rubber or metal counterparts, wooden tools:

  • Conduct less heat into the clay
  • Are soft enough to not leave scratches without compromising their effectiveness
  • Are easy to modify for your specific needs
  • Hold up better against the wet and dry atmosphere of the pottery world

If you’re having trouble choosing a set, here are some of the wooden modeling tools you need to have in your kit:

  • A ribbed tool for creating texture
  • A curved edging tool
  • A straight edging tool
  • A small pointed tool

As long as you have those four basic tools, you’ll be sculpting, scoring, and carving your clay in no time!

3. Ribbon Tools

With ribbon pottery carving tools, you’ll be able to cut beautiful valleys and dimples into the surface of your clay creation in no time!

Unlike rounded wire loop tools, the sharp, flat-edged design used for ribbon tools easily slices through the clay. With the ribbon- style, you won’t have to worry about any pull or drag on your piece that could mess with the throwing process.

Ribbon tools also come in a large variety of shapes that open up your carving possibilities:

  • Use the triangle ribbon tool to carve precise angles into your piece
  • Use the flat ribbon tool for smoothing
  • Use the serrated ribbon tools for creating texture and scoring
  • Use the needle ribbon tools to create thin, detailed cuts

All these versions and more are a necessary part of your pottery carving tool set if you’re looking to expand your work!

pottery carving tools

For Shaping

4. Carving Knives

If you’re the type of potter who’s not afraid to dig into your work and expand the depth of your art, you’ll definitely want some carving knives.

Unlike ribbon tools and wooden modeling tools, knife-style pottery carving tools offer a large blade that is perfect for creating wide pitted designs. What would take a ribbon tool multiple passes to accomplish, carving knives can do in one go!

Knife carving tools are also a great way to:

  • Hollow out a piece
  • Smooth out the surface of your clay
  • Trim the edges
  • Contour and shape your art

For some of those tasks, a simple kitchen knife could accomplish the job without too much trouble. But only true pottery carving knives, made with curving blades and dexterous handles, can turn clay into art!

5. Calipers

Looking at a pair of calipers, you might think they’re weird clamps that aren’t worth getting. But these handy devices are essential for measuring your clay throughout the building process!

While you work, calipers are used to:

  • Ensure the thickness of your clay walls is uniform
  • Keep symmetry in your art
  • Measure the opening of a piece so that you can make the perfect-sized lid

This tool is especially important when you’re making functional items like plates, bowls, and other kitchenware.

Without portable calipers to easily secure the precise measurement that you’re looking for, your projects could warp or explode in the firing and glazing process.

6. Wire Clay Cutter

Last but not least on this list of must-have pottery carving tools is a wire clay cutter.

This simple tool consists of a durable, thin wire with handholds built into either end. By pulling the wire taught or wrapping it around the circumference of your work, you can easily cut through large slabs of clay.

It’s also the easiest way to cut your project off of the wheel without creating any damage to the base of it.

If you’re looking to take on larger projects, you’ll definitely want this pottery carving tool to cut the blocks of clay into more manageable pieces. Or even cut the block into a rough shape before you start using the smaller tools to refine it.

pottery carving tools

Improve Your Craft With These Pottery Carving Tools!

Delve into the intricate world of clay projects with these five essential types of pottery carving tools. No matter what style of pottery you prefer, these items are must-haves in your tool kit!

And if you’re looking for a little inspiration to help you try out your new tools, check out our article on Beginner Pottery Ideas!