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All Wheels Are Not The Same Where It Matters...

At Handsnclay, we have received so many intelligent questions lately from our customers, asking us about the real differences in potter's wheels, that we generated a short article to discuss some of the primary differences in objective terms.   We know that your wheel buying decision can be a confusing one. 

Some of the wheel manufacturers can be very creative, or even somewhat over-ambitious with their marketing, specifications, performance claims, quality boasts, etc.  Remember, just because a wheel manufacturer claims they have high relative horsepower, that does not necessarily mean that the wheel has comparable torque or "twisting" power.  Diesel engines have lower relative horsepower than comparable gasoline engines, but their torque numbers are usually much, much higher.  And it is torque, not horsepower, that is the hallmark of a quality wheel.  Torque is what you need when you center, and when you simply want the wheel to spin at a smooth, constant speed, even under any load with which it is challenged.  Torque is what you need to prevent the wheel from stalling.  Torque ensures your wheel will last a long time.  There is no substitute for a physically large motor and a robust drive train that has been accurately designed to supply sufficient, end torque to the wheel head.  Watch out for wheels that try to achieve higher torque, using physically smaller motors and extensive gear/belt reduction techniques.  After all, even the smallest of motors can "center" a large amount of clay, but never under sustained and controllable speeds.

With respect to frames, don't be misled that one type of frame material is better than another.  Steel is not necessarily any better than aluminum or other lighter materials, especially for use in a potter's wheel frame.  Lighter weight materials can be engineered and formed to provide exceptional strength, even in excess of plate steel.  Finite element analysis, the mathematics behind the development and verification of structures, can illustrate that any material can be designed to produce a member that is strong and reliable for use in any application, including potter's wheels.  Consider the strength of aluminum the next time you fly on an airplane (which is comprised mostly of aluminum).  When you purchase a wheel, you are looking for engineered strength and rigidity in the structure, not simply a lead weight!  It is the intelligence of the design that is most important.  Now, in the wheel head itself, demand metal every time.  That is where you put your weight when centering.  That is the component of the wheel that you want to be true, with no perceptible "up and down" motion.  The better wheels use extremely true, cast, structurally reinforced, aluminum in their wheel heads.  A cast aluminum head does not bend or distort as plastics tend to do in this critical component application.  Aluminum is also very resistant to tooling wear, unlike plastic.  Some of the lower wheel brands use wheel heads made from plastic...something they don't advertise.  But be a smart shopper, aluminum heads are silver/grey in color, plastic heads are brown/dark brown.  If in doubt about your purchase, ask the seller about the materials used. 

So, when you look for your new wheel, take a look at the physical size of the motor (similar to displacement in a gasoline engine) and go for the wheel with the largest motor (dimensionally) you can afford.  Because in potter's wheels, it is the size of the motor that is more relevant than the "creatively" marketed horsepower ratings.  Like in a truck, wouldn't you rather have a V8 or even a diesel if you need the truck to work hard, tow, and be reliable for a long time?  Contact Us and we will tell you who has the largest motors.

We also invite you to read the following, informative Wheel Comparison article to help you understand some of the significant engineering differences in wheel technology before you make your purchase.  Simply click on the following article to learn more about what goes on "under the hood" of your wheel, from an engineering perspective.  Now you can be the judge as to what constitutes a "quality" wheel.  Want to see actual performance data from real operational testing (torque under load, motor temperatures, speed consistency, pedal precision, etc.), we are working on that for future articles.

This article is in Adobe .PDF format. Please get your free copy here if you cannot open.