I have a long way to go to make my studio as ergonomic as it should be, but since I spend more hours behind a desk than behind my wheel, it hasn't been too much of a problem. But if you are spending long hours in the studio, a key part of keeping yourself healthy is working in a position and posture that is comfortable. Since this can vary from project to project, an adjustable table is super helpful.
In today's post, Adam Field explains how to make a great one on the cheap.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
p.s. This project is also demonstrated on Adam's DVD Precision Throwing and Intricate Carving.
Creating an adjustable work table
by Adam Field
My studio, by design, is a comfortable place. With good music and a warm wood stove, I am eager to spend time making work. A big part of a comfortable studio also comes from having the right tools, which makes my job easier, and allows me to be more efficient and productive. The more time I spend in frustration over the wrong tool for the job, the less excited I am to spend time in the studio. Much of my studio time is spent carving my porcelain pots.
When I first began carving pieces, about 10 years ago, I quickly learned how painful it could be to spend long periods of time carving on a tabletop that was not the right height. My solution was to scour the studio for random objects to pile up under my banding wheel until it was at the right height. Problem solved, until I needed to change the height of the working surface (or use any of the bats, books, buckets, etc. from the pile). The time spent messing with the pile was a distraction to my workflow.
Create elegant pots!
Learn to throw and decorate elegant pots using a blend of Eastern and Western techniques. Master potter Adam Field leads you through 5 easy-to-follow step-by-step demonstrations covering a variety of forms where you'll learn the secrets of throwing and carving porcelain that will change the way you work.
My search for the right adjustable-height work surface began online where I found expensive and bulky sculpture stands. I needed something relatively inexpensive that could be folded up and tucked away when I wasn’t carving pots. While shopping at a home-improvement store, I noticed a portable, adjustable-height work support (think fancy saw horse) that was similar to what I was looking for. With a few modifications—stabilizing the work support’s stand and securing a larger work-top surface—I was able to come up with the right tool for the job at about half of the price of those bulky, online stands (1–2).
To assemble and modify the table, remove the plastic flip-top platform that comes with the work stand. Pre-drill this plastic platform and a laminate board. The pilot holes/drill bit (standard bit for wood) should be slightly smaller than the diameter of your wood screws. Fasten the plastic flip-top to the underside of the new, larger work surface with wood screws (3). Be sure to use short enough screws to keep the screw tips from piercing through the top of the board. Replace the new, modified work surface onto the metal stand and secure it with the nuts, bolts, and washers (this hardware is not included in the original manufacturer’s parts and is additional hardware, purchased separately and listed in the materials section). The table may need to be altered to fit the new hardware.
For this table, I had to break off a small piece of non-essential plastic to fit in the bolt. To stabilize the work surface so it won’t wobble, use the washers to fill any gaps between the plastic top and the metal stand frame (4). I found it helpful to tape multiple washers together and use needle-nose pliers to hold them in place while assembling the hardware. Now the height of the table is easily adjusted, making for smooth transitions between different tasks. Gradually, I have found this table to be the right tool for many jobs in addition to carving—wheel-side for my throwing tools, next to the wedging table while making handles, or by the ware rack as a portable wax-resist station.
For more great homemade tool ideas, check out Ceramic Decorating Tool Techniques: How To Use Clay Pencils, Slip Trailers, Glaze Pens, and Carving Tools to Decorate Ceramics, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily subscribers.