Dude, Hand(le) Me That Probe, Dude…

My blogging buddy Joel over at Fetishghost and who is always posting cool how-to things left a comment asking to see how I do the handles on my mugs. I thought about it a while and started to think… maybe some potters don’t do their handles this way. Then I started thinking that as it just evolved this way that maybe someone might think I’m crazy for doing this way. Anyway, here’s a step by step of my handling a mug and keep in mind that with most shaped cups/mugs, although it might take longer than other methods, it would still be significantly faster than the mug I happen to be showing because I’ve been on this “M1chelin Man”-shaped kick lately. So here goes… first I pull handles just like everyone does and loop them over a stick in loops. When they get hard enough, I slide them off the end of the stick and have a pile of handle loops…

I also need a whole bunch of cups/mugs that have already been trimmed and are leather-hard…

Pick a couple mugs and a couple handle loops that seem to be the correct size…

Next, cut off the extraneous part where the loop was originally stuck to the stick…

At this point, the handle should have a little extra length but before trimming it, I use this little plaster cylinder I made when I started years ago (it has my “logo” thingie on it and I was gonna use it to put chops on my pots but for various reasons decided not to) to support the inside of the loop while I press against the outside to get the profile shaped like I want it…

Now the extra long handle is held up to the profile of the mug to get a sense of how to cut it so that the surfaces of the ends of the handle rest flush against the surface of the mug (as pictured, because of the shape of the mug and the fact that I like to have the top of the handle rest in the valley between the two bulges, there’s a double trim that has to be done to get it to fit in there)…

A little trial and error gets to this point…

Because the mug is so bulbous and really all the cups/mugs are round anyway, the flat cuts on the ends of the handle touch in the center but there’s not much surface area to make it adhere so I take this little sgraffito loop tool and carve the touching surfaces concave…

Then, although I couldn’t get a picture because I would need a third hand, I hold the handle in place and trace where the ends touch onto the mug with a probe (since I’m a child of the sixties, I refer to this tool as a probe and not the politically correct “needle tool”, I like the word probe because it sounds funny and reminds me of proboscis and I’m still at a loss that a committee at F0rd M0tor Co. actually agreed to name one of their cars a probe.)…

Then with the same probing probe, I score the traced areas on the mug (although I’m seriously thinking of getting one of these wee rake tools that I’ve seen Joel use on his demos and is pictured here on Michael Mahans blog post)…

Then the handles ends are scored with the probish probing proboscis probe

After a couple dabs of water or slip on all scored surfaces and a couple minutes for the water to make things a bit mushy, hold the handle pressed against the mug and count to 15 or so…

After this sets for a bit and I work on another, I go back and use the probish probing proboscis to clean up the area around the attachments (I also use one of those smusher tools with the rubber tips sometimes)…

And, voila…

I really have no idea how many other ways people attach handles. I know that many people attach the clay to the mug and pull the handle right on the piece. There’s a certain elegance to this method and I’ve done it (not very well) before but it seems to not allow me to have obsessive control throughout the process. I keep thinking about how much an individual’s personality plays into the methods they employ and how differently everyone goes about the same tasks. In retrospect (and I guess I’m a control-freak about it), I seem to have elected to do things throughout the process that I like personally but have somewhat unnecessarily (or necessarily) lengthened the overall process and they run the gamut from the way I throw to how I attach handles to how I decorate. I’m not sure what it says about my personality, state of mind or ability to make a living. Here’s the cups/mugs all handled up…


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13 Responses to “Dude, Hand(le) Me That Probe, Dude…”

  1. ang Says:

    now dude that’s my kinda handle!!!! but you already knew that eh….

  2. becky jo Says:

    Whoa.. I really like that type of handle making. I do the Simon Leach kind of handle making where you pull it, put it flat on a board to dry some, attach it, REpull it and connect the bottom… but I’m kind of a control freak too, so I might try this way and see how it goes. Thanks for the step by step. 🙂

  3. Brian Says:

    Very nice handles. I like the roundness of the profile. Even though you say you pull handles ‘just like everyone does’, I don’t think I’ve seen that round of a profile. They’re usually the flat/oval 2 or 3 groove variety.
    It’s nice to see that a handle can be pulled and still very round.

  4. cynthia Says:

    Timely post – I attached some handles to some mugs last week that I threw 1.5 weeks ago and then in a fit, tore them all off. Going back today to try again if the mug bodies aren’t too hard – otherwise into the recycle bin they’ll go.

    I have the wee little rake – and just remembered that I need to find it before heading to the guild this morn.

    teehee on the probisms…

  5. Cheryl Says:

    This is a brilliant way to tackle handles. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Zygote Says:

    Brian is right… you make freaky handles that are completely unlike anyone elces. I’ve never seen anyone pull rounders before. I love how they look and I love feel.
    Great post Jim!

  7. Eugene Hon Says:

    Fabulous approach, a marvelous account of your technique and beautifully illustrated. You are ever so clinical at everything you do. I cant throw at all, however I have to attach my Rats tails and follow the same process as you do. However I make use of a paper clay mixture to attach the tails, I therefor do not have to score that much. It works wonders. Its like glue and sticks perfectly, even when it is almost to dry to attach. With time it discolours (the paper clay mixture) to a grey colour, making it easy to see where the paper clay mixture was painted, should you wish to remove the access without changing the shape and form of the ceramic product.

  8. meredith Says:

    well done — I use to call the old black kidney shaped plastic thingy a rubber- use to crack up one of my old potter buddies.
    What else would you called it I asked him-after he was taken back when I asked him to hand me a rubber.
    For the life of me i can’t think of a better word. It is shorter then hand me the red Michael Shirrel(SP) tool- oh right- its a rib.

    I spent most of the weekend nibbling baby toes…. I bet it was fun to see video of the bug. We did not have that with ours. Maybe better I can get all weepy with just the pictures.

  9. ron Says:

    he he you said ‘probe’
    nice muggage!

  10. Amy Says:

    thanks for this post. I don’t like making handles for a bunch of reasons, so it’s good to read about that process for you. This reminds me why in part, I like yunomis more and make more of them.

  11. Michael Says:

    Great pictures and explanation of how you handle. Your handles fit the mugs nicely. I think the mugs express a whimsical formality, if that makes any sense.

  12. Emily Says:

    I’m going to print this off and study it!

  13. naomi Says:

    Nice handles. I took a workshop with Richard Burkett and Pete Pinnell a few years ago (amazing) and Richard had a bunch of champagne corks and needle packets. He slit the champagne cork, squeezed in super glue, stuck the eye end of the needle pack in, and handed each to one of us. We held them tightly ’til the glue set, and I’ve been using that tool ever since. It can poke painfully, though, I’ll warn you.

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