Tag Archives: Bison Trimming Tools

Blog odds and ends

Perhaps a little more than usual, this week has been a bit of a balancing act between working in my studio and working on this blog.  I’ve been on a roll getting the new site for my blog up to where I want it to be (obsessed, some might say). But I’ve also been building up for a soda firing all week.  Surprisingly, I think I’ve actually been making good progress in both sides of my clay world.  I’m spending my Sunday firing the my first soda kiln of 2009.  There are some espresso cups and saucers that are at about 2200° I’m dying to see in a couple of days!

Today’s post is a bunch of odds and ends about blogging that I’ve been meaning to write about. Nothing big enough for it’s own post, so I threw them all together.

Exploring pottery blog(s):

  • pottery-blog-archivesTake a look at the visual archives (also located in the top tab labeled “Archives”).  When I was digging through the old posts and tagging and categorizing everything, I came across a lot of information that is pretty timeless.  I wanted to make these older posts really accessible to dig through and came up with this page.
  • Also take a look over at the sidebar categories  (located in the right hand column. I can’t give you a direct link, you’ll just have to look to the right side of any page). As I mentioned above, I spent a lot of time re-categorizing and  retagging all old posts so they’d be extra easy to search through and I created a parent/sub category system that I think should be pretty easy to dig through to find what you may (or may not be) looking for. This took a shocking amount of work, but now that the archives are done, I can move forward and just keep things properly categorized as I go so there won’t be such a big chunk of work moving forward.
  • Another new feature that can be found on the right sidebar is some shared posts from other bloggers from my Google Reader.  I have been in the habit (not always very consistently) of “starring” posts (a GR thing) that I want to look back at, share a link or maybe comment on.  I turned this into a list of posts that you can read on it’s very own page and even subscribe to.  Now that I have created this way to share, I’m planning on being a bit more consistent with marking posts that I want to share. If you want to share items from your blog reader to your friends and readers, this will help you get started on your own share page.
  • Even if you spent some time checking out my pottery blogroll last week, you should take a minute and check back.  Several new blogs have been added.  And if you’re interested in using Google Reader but feel like you need a little more help, you might find this interesting.

Commenting:

One of my goals (or resolutions if you prefer) with this blog and other clay blogs I read is to do more commenting and replying to comments.  It takes some time and energy, but it is a big part of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy.  I like the commenting/ reply system on WordPress better than Blogger and I think it’ll be easier for everyone (including myself) to continue the conversation on beyond the actual blog post. And I’ve been adding in a couple of features that improves upon the commenting system just a little bit more.

  • If you’ve been doing any commenting on my blog over the last week, you might have noticed the little pictures (gravatars) that are showing up by some of the comments:

gravatars

A gravatar is a globally recognized avatar. You can create your own little image and connect it with you email address(es) and it’ll automatically show up with your comment on this blog and on many others.  I really like the extra personal touch.  It becomes a little more like a conversation than just commenting.  It’s easy to make your own gravatar and it only takes a couple of minutes.

  • To help continue the post-post conversation: Each time you comment, you’ll see a little box that you’ll need to check so you can get an email when there are more comments and responses to the post that you just commented on.

Some things for bloggers and potential future bloggers:

  • Make your own little favicon for your site with this site and this plugin.  If you’re on my site, you’ll see a little tiny mug by the url. This little detail makes me very happy.
  • This plugin for WordPress will make a nice little excerpt and choice of thumbnails when you post your blog to Facebook, etc…  I’ve been really happy with this feature. My old blog would just have the URL, no image and no text which made it not very interesting to post something. Simple and spiffy.

And on a totally unrelated topic: You might remember an earlier post about Bison Trimming Tools.  I just got a tip from Jeanette Zeis that Bison Tools are now being sold through Etsy!bison-trimming-tools

It’s time for me to head back to the kiln and put the second round of soda in.  I’m enjoying the warmth from the kiln on a very chilly (and snowy) Chicago night.  Pictures of the new pots will come soon!

Tool Review: Bison Trimming Tools

You might have gathered from previous posts that I like tools. For years I limited myself to a the basics. Just a handful of adequate tools that did their job, but they weren’t anything special. I wanted to be able to make pots no matter where I was and no matter what tools were available. After I felt like I was I had pretty much achieved that point, I started collecting tools. I have a thing for well designed tools. A tool that doesn’t wear out in less than a year. One that is so comfortable to hold that it’s basically an extension your hand. One that does something that no other tool can do quite as well. I still only really use a handful of tools on a weekly basis- but instead of being just adequate, they are a pleasure to use.

Bison trimming tools fit my definition of a really great tool. At first, I was quite apprehensive. They are definitely on the expensive side. ($58 for the one below.) But I had been feeling frustrated my trimming tool situation and decided that I would try to solve my dilemma problem several years back during NCECA in the exhibition hall. I had been using Dolan tools for a couple of years. They were quite nice, (the nicest trimming tool that I had ever used up to that point) but I was wearing through them on a regular basis. My main clay body is pretty gritty which was causing a lot of wear. I stopped by the Dolan booth to ask their advice. They said if I was actually wearing through them, there wasn’t much to do. So I headed over to the Bison booth where they had a wheel set up with leather hard pots to trim. I sat down at the wheel, picked up a trimming tool and starting trimming off ribbons of clay. It definitely wasn’t like any other trimming tool that I had ever used. It sliced into the piece with almost no effort. After less than I minute I was hooked. I knew that I could never go back to using any other trimming tool. This sounds dramatic, but I’m serious! This is the tool I ended up bringing home with me from the conference:
I’ve had the large loop tool for about 4 and a half years and have never regretted shelling out the big bucks. It’s sharp, comfortable and the loop is the perfect shape for me. I just love how the sharp edge cuts into the leather hard clay. Eventually, I decided that I needed to add a second tool, a small loop tool for smaller pots and detail work. I ended up picking up a small loop tool at NCECA 2 years later. Again, I fell in love with my new Bison tool. I now have two trimming tools that cover most my trimming needs.
Bison trimming tools are quite different than other trimming tools. They are made of tungsten carbide and are quite brittle but will later forever if cared for properly. Here’s some info about the material they are made from from the Bison website:

All tools are made having tungsten carbide cutters. Tungsten carbide is not related to steel in any way. Nor is it ‘springy’ or bendable in the fingers. Do not twist the end to see how strong it is.

All tools are entirely non-ferrous, and there should be no contamination of porcelain from any oxidation from the tool.

Tungsten carbide is a very hard, dense material. As a consequence, it is somewhat brittle in applications where these unsupported slender sections are extending out from the end of a little stem. One must take care to keep them from spills, falls, or being jumbled in a tool box when traveling. Keep them safe.

One should not tap the tool against things to dislodge a gob of clay, nor should one allow others to do so. Just as with our pots… do not drop them.

 
 

I have actually dropped my large loop tool once onto my concrete floor. My heart stopped for a second, but somehow it didn’t break. I am very careful with these tools, making sure they always has a safe resting place when I put them down.

 

I think that I will need to get my large loop sharpened sometime this year. You can send your tools to Philip Poburka, the maker of these fine tools to get them sharpened. It’s $10.00 for medium or large tools, or $7.00 for smaller and miniature tools plus return shipping. I will plan it so the repair will coincide with a vacation. I don’t want to be without them!

The Bison tools and the Mudcutter are definitely three of the most expensive hand tools that I own. Part of the reason why I wanted to review them was to share my experiences with you to help you judge if it’s worth the money for you. Most of my tastes in tools aren’t so expensive. At some point soon I will be writing a review of a tool that I absolutely can’t live without… and it only costs $1.85 (usually marked down to $1 at NCECA).