How to make a bat gripper

I went through a period of time early in my ceramics career where I was a tool minimalist. It’s something that I think every potter should go through. I had 3 tools that I would use: a wire tool, a wooden knife tool, and a basic wooden rib. I was even flexible with what tool filled those 3 slots. I like the idea that it was really about how I moved the clay, not the tools or gadgets. And I also like the idea that wherever I was in the world, I would be able to throw a pot- regardless of the tools. This idea has also led me to using many different types of clay, and to throw on different types of wheels. It makes me a portable potter. So even though that’s my philosophy on clay tools…
..I LOVE TOOLS! I know how to work with the fewest possible tools, but I really enjoy working with many tools. It can allow you to do something with greater ease, or achieve a new surface, or just make you happy because of its cleverness.
At some point over the last 5 or 6 years a little boom of new tools popped up, many as a side business from a potter who was making cool tools for themselves. I’m happy to be a potter during this period. I love trying out different things, and sometimes (many times) I get hooked on one. I am going to be sharing with you some tools that I really love, and some tools that I make myself in the tool section of this blog.

A tool that I really dug was the Bat Grabber.

I loved it for teaching when I was working on a wheel that had worn holes for bat pins to stop the wobble. I also loved it under the little square bats that tend to lift a little when making a tall piece in my studio. But it had a problem where it would start to erode over time (you can see that from the pictures). And then they stopped being made (the material was no longer manufactured). So I had to do something to fill my need of a new Bat Grabber and here is what I did…

I got a roll of rubbery shelf liner. The cheapest one I could find; but I think that any would work. You can probably use a rug pad too.

With a Sharpie, I used a bat to trace out the circle and to draw in the placement of the bat pin holes. I made both a 14″ circle and a 12″ circle. Just because.

Then you cut it out, including the holes.
To use it: dip it in some water and squeeze out the excess. Then stick it on your wheel head, and use a bat on top. Circular, square, plastic, wood or foam covered. They will all stay a little bit more secure with this do-it-yourself bat gripper.

(Don’t forget to make pots when you’re not making tools…)

6 thoughts on “How to make a bat gripper

  1. I love my 2 bat grabbers, but am sad I didn’t buy more when they were available. They are starting to erode a little now too, so maybe I’ll have to try my hand at making some, thank you!

    I also like your oval vases in the post above.

  2. Thanks for the idea! I tried making one out of a thin yoga mat, but it was a little too slippery. How long does one made with rubber shelf liner material last?
    You should see the poor old worn Bat Grabber I am using! It still sort of works, but when I’m throwing a larger piece I have to put clay in the pinholes as well.

  3. What a great idea! I’ve been having a terrible time trying to figure out how to stop the bat wobble and rattle. I’m anxious to give this a try!

  4. Hello,

    New to pottery.
    I’ve tried the big blue bats with bat pins. They are not the easiest to remove, and unless your bat pin holes were drilled perfectly the misagllignment will twist the bat. Tried clay and wooden bats. Work great, but have the challenge of uneven height, and resultant wobble. They also stick too strongly, so pulling the bat is more challenging than necessary.
    Never got a chance to use the bat grabber. However, after reading this blog post I decided to try artificial shammy cloth. In addition to being superior to real shammy for rim smoothing it works GREAT with bats. Place it in water, ring out the excess, place it directly on the wheel head, than lay your bats on it. First time I tried it, I did those things then put the pedal to the metal, and the bat did not move a millimeter. After throwing a medium size pull I easily pulled the bat off the head, and with my bare hands – no tool to get underneath the bat.
    Finally, if your plaster is being used to reclaim clay you can use the shammy to knead the clay right on the wheel head. The clay does not stick. If it has one draw back for kneading clay it is that you have to be aware of the softness or stiffness of the clay your kneading. You have to ring out the shammy in proportion. If the clay is stiff, don’t ring it out too much, and it will introduce moisture to the clay. If your clay is loose/soft, ring it out as best you can to minimize additional moisture. May not be ideal, but works great in a pinch. Kind of strange that it will stick to the wheel head, and hold bats incredibly well, but the clay won’t stick to it as you knead on it.

    Hope this helps


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