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Friday, April 11, 2008

Demonstrating on a foot-powered treadle wheel...

I have a new 1800s wood treadle wheel that was designed after one of our local potters, Hervey Brooks, nearby in Goshen, CT. Hervey was a farmer who dug up red clay on his property and turned household wares and flower pots in the mid 1800s. There were hundreds of potters in the early days of European settlements in New England. Not every town had a potter and some towns had many. Potteries in the smaller towns tended to be a part time job and quite a few potteries were often passed down to sons and son-in-laws.

This wheel is foot-powered and is made entirely of wood with a steel shaft and pins. The shaft is a crank style mechanism like an old treadle sewing machine. There are no ball bearings, just a strip of leather with grease to keep the shaft from rubbing on the frame and crank. The wheel head is a circle of oak.

It goes very slow. At first I doubted I could make anything on this wheel, but after I resigned to the fact that trying to make it go faster would only tire me out and cause "disturbances". Pottery should be a peaceful, relaxing craft. And once I relaxed and got into the rythum of my foot moving, the wheel noises and adjusted my mind and hands accordingly, I learned to love it. Old machines and tools are so quiet. The sounds they do make are clicks and clacks and tend to relax you rather than the whirl of engines and modern machinery.

Below is the wheel mechanism... and a few of the tools used for trimming and decorating.
Above... close-up of the wheel head... pressing whistles in a plaster mold...

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