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The plans that follow are for a kick type potter's wheel which costs under sixty dollars, depending upon availability of necessary parts. The wheel is an exceptionally fine piece of equipment: Very reliable, fairly cheap and easy to build. The rich satisfaction you'll get from throwing pottery on a wheel you've built yourself is an added bonus. For sake of simplicity, I'll divide these building instructions into three main sections: (1) construction of the frame, (2) casting of the flywheel and securing it to the shaft and (3) aligning the bearings. You'll find a list of necessary materials included here, too. My best advice is to amass all materials before you start building. It's kind of a drag having to break the construction routine to buy some parts. OK Let's build.
MATERIALS SHAFT WOOD
1 1" X 36" steel stock Make sure it is true and has no defects. 30 ft. 2X4
Should be self aligning type. 14 ft. 4X4 1 "Pillowblock" 1" dia. shaft 2 pcs. plywood 1" X 12" X 30" 1 "Flange" type 1" dia. shaft 1 pc. plywood or birch 1" X 24" X 24" (3/4" is OK)
BOLTS 2 Pulley wheels* for 1" shaft 2 5" X 3/8" Bolts should have square or hex heads. For each bolt, you'll need 1 lockwasher, 2 flat washers andone nut. 3 -ORPipe flanges** for 1" pipe 32 6" X 1/2"
* If you use the pulley wheels, you'll also need 4 "U" bolts 2" long. 8 7" X 1/2" ** If pipe flanges are used, they must be somewhat filed out. 4 9" X 1/2"
4 5" X 1/2" 90 pounds REDIMIX is what I have been using because I can't mix components. No reason why you can't mix your own if you have the facilities. The more cement you use, the heavier the flywheel. 90 pounds gives you a flywheel of between 105-120 pounds.
4 3/8" X 2" 4 1/4" X 4"
16 2" wood screws medium weight
CONSTRUCTION OF THE FRAME
Essentially the frame is a thirty inch cube, with 4 X 4 uprights and 2 X 4 cross members. See Fig. 1. It's best to cut the wood into 30" pieces before you start. The best bit for the drilling job is a 5/8" wood bit. It works nice. A suggested layout for the holes is shown in Fig. 2. The finished bottom frame of 2 X 4's must have a true face (so the wheel will set level) so assemble it on a flat surface. Then the 4 X 4 uprights can be placed in the corners and checked for 90 degree right angles before the holes are marked for drilling. Use the 6" bolts—plus washers, lock washers and nuts —to secure the 4 X 4's to the bottom frame. In the diagram I show another 4 X 4 in the middle of the frame. This piece supports the flywheel and flange bearing. It is held in place with long nails and made rigid by four blocks of 4 X 4 bolted in place with 6" bolts. You should now have a structure which looks like Fig. 2. Now the upper cross members are added. You'll need 3 pieces of 2 X 4, 28 3/4" long if the bottom frame was constructed properly. If this is your first shop project, you may find it easier to rough-cut the three 2 X 4's about 30" long and trim them to fit on assembly. Two of the three will serve as foot supports while you're making pots and their height should be adjusted to fit the individual potter. I located mine about 15" above the bottom frame because I like to rest my elbows on my thighs as I throw. All three pieces are secured with 6 X 1/2" bolts. See Fig. 3. The next stage is putting on the supports for the seat, working table and top bearing. You'll need 4 pieces of 2 X 4, each 30" long. When putting on these supports, make sure they are as level as possible, relative to the bottom frame. (If you lined up the bottom frame and trued the 4 X 4 uprights, you should have no problem. Use a level and square.) These pieces are secured to the front and back of the frame on both sides of the uprights with the 7 X 1/2" bolts. See Fig. 4. Check periodically for level as you add these pieces. If you like a higher seat, relative to the throwing head, elevate the back two supports somewhat. This is subject to the whims of the individual potter. Two pieces of plywood, 1" x 12" X 30" will be the seat and the working table. They are secured to their 2 X 4 supports with eight 2" wood screws. See Fig. 5. Note how the working top extends inward from the outside edge to the middle of the frame and the seat extends outward from the back of the frame. I've found this to be the best arrangement. Fabricating the support for the top pillow block bearing is the last step of frame construction. Work very carefully and precisely here and you won't have any trouble when you later level the shaft. Before the top bearing support is constructed, you should mount the flange bearing in position on the 4 X 4 crosspiece of the bottom frame. Locate the exact middle, which should be 15" from either side. Predrill the holes with a 1/4" or 5/16" bit and use the 3/8" lag bolts to secure the bearing firmly to the 4 X 4. Now fabricate the pillow block bearing support out of 2 X 4's as shown in Fig. 6.
Note that the screws securing the bearing go through two pieces of 2 X 4. This whole unit must be strong, so take care that you don't split the wood when putting in the lags. Predrill the holes first with a 3/16" bit. Also, the ends of pieces No. 2 and 3 (against which the side of piece No. 1 butts) must be cut square. Now, locate the center of the working top (15" in from both ends) and mark it with a pencil. Center the bearing structure (left-right) on this mark. Then drop a plumb-bob through the inside of the top bearing and suspend it as nearly as possible in the exact center of the bearing. (It may help to lay a nail across the opening to let the string slide over.) Let the plumb-bob down and by moving the whole upper bearing support structure, locate the center of the bottom bearing. What you want is to position the top bearing directly over the lower bearing so that the shaft—when inserted through the bearings—will be (ideally) exactly vertical, or plumb. See Fig. 7. With a pencil, mark the position of the bearing support structure. There might be some wood extending over the front edge of the working top, so mark the structure underneath for reference, later to be cut off. Drill 4 holes (2 in each) in pieces 2 and 3 so that they will coincide with the supports for the working top. Mark this location on the top, and then drill through the top into the 2 X 4's. Or, you can clamp the sup port structure to the top and its supports with a large C - clamp and drill directly through all the components at once. Use the 9" X 1/2" bolts to secure the bearing support structure to the frame.
CASTING THE FLYWHEEL AND SECURING IT TO THE SHAFT FOR THE PULLEY WHEEL METHOD:
Locate the exact center of the 24" X 24" plywood or birch piece. With a pencil and piece of string used as a compass inscribe a 23" circle. Cut it out and in the center of the disc drill a 1" diameter hole. Again, make this hole as nearly perpendicular as you possibly can. If you have access to an arc welder the next step will be easier: Two inches from the bottom of the shaft, weld on the pulley, as perpendicular as possible. The more nearly perpendicular, the more nearly true your wheel will run. If you don't have an arc welder or access to one, use epoxy two-part glue and let it harden at least 24 hours. The plywood disc is then secured to the shaft and pulley wheel with the four 2" V-bolts as shown in Fig. 8. The legs of the V-bolts go through the spokes of the pulley wheel, through the disc and are secured with lock washers and nuts. USE THE LOCK WASHERS, as there will soon be cement cast around the nuts and you won't be able to tighten them once the cement is there. Now comes the tricky part of casting the flywheel. First, drill four 5/8" holes in the disc, one in each quadrant. Secure some tar paper and make a mold about 7" tall around the disc. You'll probably have to tack it into the edge of the disc. Cut four 12" long sections of 5/8" dowel and place them in the already-drilled holes in the disc. Before you pour the cement, you might set up a jig to hold the shaft and disc assembly plumb. This applies to either method (pulley wheel or pipe flange) of fastening the cement flywheel to the shaft. Make sure the assembly is rigidly supported, mix the cement and pour about 4-5" of the mix into the mold. The dowel sticks will soon be replaced by 5" bolts. Make sure the cement is poured evenly and that no side is higher than another. Also, the cement should be poured closely around the shaft in the center so that the shaft can't wobble. Slide the top pulley wheel down over the shaft and imbed it—right up to the top of the pulley section—in the cement. As the mix dries, tighten this top pulley's set screw into the vertical shaft and epoxy the set screw. Once the cement is dry and cured you can also epoxy the pulley wheel to the cement for added strength. As the cement begins to harden, move the dowels up and down to free them. As it gets harder yet— and finally sets up—replace the sticks with 5" X 1/2" bolts. Let the cement cure before attempting to move it. This will take a day or two. DON'T TRY TO RUSH IT.
FOR THE FLANGE METHOD:
If you can't get pulley wheels you can use pipe flanges to secure the flywheel to the shaft. It's more than likely you'll have to file out the threads on the inside of the flanges. Then, in the same way you secured the bottom pulley wheel, weld or epoxy two pipe flanges (one nestled inside the other) two inches from the bottom end of the shaft. Again, make sure the flanges are as nearly perpendicular to the shaft as possible. See Fig. 8.
After it has dried—if epoxy is used—attach the pipe flanges to the 23" disc with wood screws and epoxy the outside of the outer flange to the wood. In fact, even if you were able to weld the flanges, use the epoxy here. The finished unit must be rigid. Drill the four 5/8" holes in the 23" disc, as described for the pulley wheel method, and attach the 7" high tar paper mold around the edge of the disc. Cut the four 12" long sections of 5/8" dowel, place them in the 5/8" holes, rigidly support the shaft-disc assembly with the shaft (ideally) absolutely vertical and pour in the 4-5" of cement. As the cement hardens, replace the 5/8" dowels with the 1/2" bolts. OK. Here's the major difference between the pulley wheel and flange methods of attaching the flywheel to the shaft: Whereas the top pulley wheel was embedded right in the cement, the top flange rests on the cement and is fastened to it with screws and concrete anchors. Here's how you do it: When the cement is absolutely dry, slide the top flange down over the shaft, let it rest on the cement and mark on the concrete the position of the holes in the flange's flared tip. Depending on the brand of the flange, there will probably be either three or four of these holes. Slide the flange up off the shaft and, using a masonry bit, drill holes in the cement to accept plastic or lead anchors. Place epoxy in the holes, insert the anchors, slide the flange down the shaft into place and insert some flat head wood screws 2" long. The holes in the concrete must be more than 2" deep for this method. Naturally, you'll have made sure the diameter of the screws, the size of the anchors and the diameter of the masonry bit all match properly. The clerk at the hardware store can help you if this is your first experience with concrete anchors. Actually, they're quite easy to use if you have the right size for the job.
ALIGNING THE BEARINGS
A word of advice: NOW is the time to locate the wheel where you want it because, once the flywheel is in place, this is a heavy unit to move. When you have the frame positioned, check it for level and shim under the corners if necessary. You may have to remove the seat from the frame to get the flywheel in. Maybe not. In any case, remove the top pillow block bearing, lift (careful!) the flywheel unit and gently place it inside the wheel frame. Rest. If you can get a small (about 3/8") steel ball, grease it and place it in the bearing cup of the bottom flange bearing to absorb some thrust. If you can't find one, no sweat. It's not at all necessary (the bearing will take the thrust) but do make certain that the bottom of the shaft does not rest on the wooden 4 X 4. If it does, either cut off the end of the shaft or relieve a spot of the 4 X 4 directly under the center of the flange bearing. Now lift the flywheel unit and place it in the bottom flange bearing (phew!). Tighten the set screw. The bearings are self-aligning, which means you'll only have to check for 90-degree plumb with a plumbbob. Slide its upper pillow block bearing down the shaft, secure it in place on the bearing support structure and tighten its set screw. Use the plumb-bob to check alignment of the shaft. If necessary, you'll probably be able to loosen the lag screws that hold the top bearing in place and slide it slightly left or right as needed. Your wheel is now complete, save for the wheel head. Shellac the frame and let it dry. The wheel head is a hassle. American Art Clay Co., 4717 West 16, Indianapolis, Indiana 46222 sells a few but they're expensive. American Art has two kinds: A flat circular metal disc for $15.00 and a recessed head, which accepts plaster bats, for $23.00. The recessed heads are nice. When you finish a pot—instead of cutting it off or waiting around for it to dry—you just lift the plaster bat, pot and all, off and go right on. I dug up the bread for one of these. If you do buy from American Art, specify that you want a head for a one-inch diameter shaft. Most of their heads are for a standard 5/8" shaft but they'll bore one out for you. The company also sells a mold for the plaster bats. I've heard that The Craftool Co., 1 Industrial Road, Wood- Ridge, New Jersey 07075 has less expensive heads. It's worth investigating. Your wheel is now finished. It's rugged and will need little or no maintenance other than an occasional tightening of a bolt. The Sealmaster or Timken sealed bearings never need lubrication. If you happen to use unsealed bearings you might have to add a couple of drops of oil to each one once or twice a year. ONE DON'T: Never step directly on the flywheel. You'll weaken its supports and it may then someday spin out.
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