I have learned so much from the online pottery community. There is just no way to know what piece of information might make an impact or make some concept click. So I’m throwing my perspective out into the lake and hopefully it will help someone, in some way.
This post is about Bats!
First off… A bat 🦇 “Why would I want one, don’t they carry rabies? And if so why would I want a whole system based around a mouse with wings?”
A bat, is a board made of MDF (medium density fiberboard), injection molded plastic, plaster, Masonite and possibly other materials or mixture of materials. Usually they are round or square, sometimes textured, sometimes not, and are made to go on top of your pottery wheel via bat pins.
These bats allow you to remove your pots after throwing without picking them up and possibly distorting your piece or leaving fingerprints or marks.
There are all kinds of tricks and tools around removing your pottery from the wheel.
Your hands, if you can get the hang of it, can lightly grip the bottom of the pot, equally at 3 or 4 points and lifted off. If done right this leaves minimal markings, usually in the place where you would trim anyways.
There are flat shovel-like tools that slide under to support the base of the pot while it is lifted.
Some people use a large putty knife and water. While this does distort the pot initially, it is equally distorted in the opposite direction upon placing the pot on the drying board.
I learned and threw on a kick wheel for the first year or so. There are no pins unless I wanted to drill through the small 7 inch wide x 1/4 inch steel plate that serves as the wheel head. I had a ton of problems removing my janky pots from the wheel. I tried all kinds of tricks and ruined a few pots and I learned about bats.
If you’ve looked around on any of the message boards you no doubt have seen post after post about which brand or material is best. Really, in the end, it doesn’t matter. That is what is great about pottery, clay and ceramics; you can find your own way. No doubt there are as many different ways to ________ as there are potters who ______.
Since getting my Shimpo Whisper VL I have been getting away with having only five of the 10” MDF bats for years. They worked out pretty ok and kept me from warping or destroying thinly thrown bowls and cups while I continued to learn.
Really, five is a good number. A prime number at that, but it just doesn’t cut it when you want to do more than just the occasional thing when the muse decides she wants to show up. It’s rare that she even shows up, much less hangs out long enough for you to throw more than five pots. So at that rate 5 is perfect.
I know now that you should be producing ALL THE TIME, as much as possible, given your priorities in life. When the Muse does come, together, you will be able to make more and better. I don’t wait any longer, she is so fickle and capricious, but I suppose that is part of her charm.
I purchased the Wonder Bat System and another 6 of the inserts. I’ve used them for a few days and have to say that right away I’m loving it. The insert being 6” wide and fitting in the center cutout works great. There is no feeling of a gap or bump in throwing when your hand moves across the boundaries.
I can’t speak for longevity yet, but I do have a friend who uses them and has for years without issue.
This is the size of the inserts compared to the 10″ MDF bats.
If the price is a turn off there are a ton of other options including DIY. However I find the price to be extremely reasonable given the amount of use I expect to get out of the entire system and if storage is hard to come by in your studio, like it is in mine, it’s hard to beat.
Also, Jeff Campana has came up with an excellent alternative to the WonderBat System. It is the same initial concept except using tiles instead of the proprietary MDF type material. He also shares a ton of fantastic information on everything ceramics.