When you get just what you want…almost

I work in a small studio. When you make things with clay, there is a lot equipment which would make your life a whole lot easier. The problem is that you have to be

  1. A: be able to afford it 
  2. B: have the space for it.

Some equipment can be both pricey and large as is the case with a slab roller. A slab roller is used to roll a mound of clay through rollers to create a large slab of clay of even thickness. The same effect can be created by rolling the clay manually with a rolling pin using two even strips of wood on either side much like rolling a pie crust (sans the wood guides). 

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This is how I had been creating slabs in my studio since my life a s a potter began. Working this way is both time consuming and limiting because I could only roll slabs large enough to make my small butterflies or 5 inch plates or ornaments. 

How I dreamed of owning a slab roller! A full size roller is approx. 6 feet long, weighs a ton and costs about $1799 on a good sale. Even some small (36”) lightweight and portable ones that sit easily on a tabletop run $499 and up. The larger ones I simply had no room for even if I had the money and the smaller ones that I had seen, even though they say no clamping to the table is necessary, looked to me like they would shimmy around on the first handle turn.

But I reeeeeally wanted one. So I started looking for an affordable, portable one that looked sturdy and truly wouldn’t need to be clamped to the table. Eureka! I found this little bad boy on Etsy. (The last place I would have looked for one without Google search)

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It was everything I needed- small, lightweight  and truly sturdy with it’s own little framework table attached. And… affordable! At $400 it was less than the smallest ones I had seen at ceramics distributors websites. 

And I loved it.

Except…

there were no markings or a gauge to tell how thick you were rolling the slab and if the two sides were at an even setting. It came with obscure directions like…”generally two turns to the right is about 1/4”.  Well, I guess that’s ok if you only roll the same thickness slab and set them once and leave them, but if you need to turn the handles up and down to different settings, it’s easy to forget where you started. 

I started putting my finger just at the beginning of the rollers to gauge wether I was going up or down with them.  I had to run test balls of clay through to judge the thickness. It was a guessing game. Sometimes I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer and maybe I was making it more complicated than it was, but it did seem to be taking too much of my time so I came up with an easy fix that I hope the manufacturer will consider implementing in future production.

First I turned the handles so that the roller was at it's lowest setting and using acrylic paints, painted hash marks on both sides.

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Then I turned the handles up until they would accomodate and rest on two yard sticks with a 1/8th inch thickness and painted different colored hash marks on both sides. 

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Next, I repeated the process using yard sticks with a 1/4 inch thickness and then 1/2" measures making marks with different colored paint at each. 

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I also painted curved arrows on the handles to show the direction to turn that would be "up". 

A simple enough fix to a an otherwise awesome product that helps me out in the studio in a big way. It is very well made and works like a dream. It was less expensive than others I saw, comes well packaged and is so easy to set up, my cat could do it. Ok, well, there's the no opposable thumbs inssue, but it is really easy to set up. 

Reading some of the Etsy feedback on it, I know this issue has been mentioned. So I'm just wondering, has anyone else out there who purchased one of these come up with a similar or different fix? Please share in the comments below.