Carol Bell Centers and Throws 13 Pounds with the Strong Arm Centering Tool

If you’ve ever wanted to throw a large quantity of clay, but aren’t sure you’re up for centering it, you might want to check out Carol Bell’s demonstration of the Strong Arm Centering Tool. This is a mechanism made of rotating wooden paddles and a hefty metal “finger.” The entire tool is permanently mounted onto her wheel with screws.

Here at Art Escape, we have two Strong Arms. One is attached to the wheel and the other to our stand-up work station.

In this video, she throws 13 pounds. She places it in an approximated center on the wheel head, patting the clay down firmly to make sure it won’t go anywhere when she begins to apply pressure.

Then, she pulls the wooden paddle of the Strong Arm toward the clay, anchoring it inside her right knee. It’s amazing how quickly that lump of clay becomes perfectly centered!

After her large ball of clay is centered (which happens astoundingly quickly!) she creates a shallow well in the top of the mound. Into this well, she pulls the “opening finger” of the Strong Arm tool.  This “finger” is attached to a secondary paddle that rotates forward and moves down as she pulls down on the paddle. Using water and slip to wet the clay as usual, she opens the clay with the finger, and simultaneously uses her own fingers to pull the opening outward.

When she’s done with the Strong Arm, she’s able to do a slow pull upward, compressing the rim now and then to strengthen and smooth it.  After just a few minutes, she’s pulled a generously sized, perfectly true jardiniere, or planter pot!

Strong Arm Centering Tools are handmade in New York and come in a variety of mounting styles, including wall mount, clamp, wheel mount.

They run just under $300, so they’re not cheap, but if you’re planning to produce a good number of larger vessels or if for any reason you don’t want to have to work hard to center your clay, this is an investment you will not regret.