Carving Away And Smoothing Clay

Carving Away Clay:

  • If clay is sticking to the carving tool, the clay is too wet to carve well.
  • If you want to smooth a bumpy surface, carve away the high points first by carving them lengthwise. If you drag your cutting tool over the bumpy surface, it will be like driving down a bumpy dirt road: your tool will get bounced up and down and not really smooth the surface out.
  • Use a Surform plane to remove large amounts of material. If you use a plane to carve/smooth your piece, realize it only cuts in one direction, either pushing or pulling depending upon how you hold it.
  • Use a loop or ribbon tool to refine the surface. Scrape along the surface at a shallow angle to smooth. Use care when cutting at a steeper angle, as these tools can really dig in.
  • Always cut toward yourself when using loop/ribbon tools.
  • Always have a hand inside the piece supporting the wall from behind as you carve.
  • Hold the piece in a comfortable position as you work - on your leg or in your lap for example.


After you have refined your surface as much as possible with planes and loop tools (if needed), you are ready to smooth.

  • First, scrape the surface with a scraper (a thin flexible metal rib) held at a 90° angle to the surface.
  • Next, lightly dampen the surface with a sponge and then smooth with a metal rib held at a low angle to the surface - this spreads fine clay particles into any gaps.
  • Do not rub your piece with a wet sponge - this will remove fine clay particles from the surface and make it rougher.
  • Remember that wetting your piece will make it softer - do not overdo it, and be careful when handling the piece afterward.

time well spent

closeup view Jack Troy cup, links to Jack Troy artist page

time to explore

link to newest page of ceramic artist links, including link to Scott Parady, pictured

time flies

Link to monthly image blog