About two weeks ago I was at the Hawaii Potters Guild trying to throw Coleman porcelain and had four pieces in a row slip off of my masonite bats. I'd done everything I thought I should do to get the porcelain to stick to the bat: slightly wet the bat, roll the base of the clay into a point, slam it onto the bat, give the top of the clay a few good wacks on top to secure it, etc., but nothing seemed to work. I usually don't have a problem like this with other clays, but I've had an ongoing problem with porcelain coming off of the bat. It's maddening when I'm doing something like shaping the neck and suddenly the clay detaches from the bat. I've tried to put the clay back on center, but it's never worked. So after four pieces in a row had detached, and I'd voiced my frustrations four times in a row, an older gentleman sitting across from me wiped off one of his plastic bats and handed it across to me. "You wanna try one of my plastic bats?" "Uhhhhh, no," I thought, "I don't want to try one of your plastic bats." I had a prejudice against plastic bats because I assumed they would be more slippery, not less slippery. That would only make my problems worse. But I reluctantly reached across and accepted his kind offer just to make him feel better. And then I placed it on the wheelhead. It slipped on smoothly and felt solid, not the slightest jiggle back and forth on the pins. It also sat flat without any wobble. And what surprised me most of all is that my porcelain stuck to the bat and didn't come off. I tried a few other plastic bats from other potters but none worked as well as the first one I'd tried. They're made by Amaco, and I ordered four of them (14 in.) from Blick (www.dickblick.com). I've used several different types of clay on them, both stoneware and porcelain, and all have worked perfectly well. I suppose there are a few negatives to report. The plastic won't absorb moisture, so you have to cut pieces off the bat fairly quickly (I was told this by one of my instructors), and the textured side can be rough on the hands. I also had trouble centering clay on the textured side. Now I use the smooth side exclusively and have no problems with centering. The older gentleman told me he'd had his plastic bats for many years. Compare that to my less expensive masonite bats. After a year and a half my masonite bats are getting warped, the holes are getting loose, and the surface is getting worn. They're almost shot after a year and a half. And they're harder to clean! So if you haven't tried plastic bats, give the Amaco bats a try. I'm sure glad I did.
I hope this blog will be encouraging to potters, especially beginning potters, and a source of helpful information and comment.