The New Old Wheel! — Modifying the Randall

I think if you talk to enough good people, good things happen. This was the case in speaking with a friend I hadn’t seen since we had both taken the same pottery class with Michael Connelly outside Philadelphia the year before. In a discussion about wheels, I happened to mention that I was still looking for a motorized Randall wheel and he came right back with, ‘hey, I’ll sell you mine – I’ll even deliver it’.

Deal ON.

wheelNow I know Randalls aren’t for everyone, but the moment I sat down at one to work, it immediately felt like ‘home’. It was a mini revelation for me in that I thought, ‘oh, this is the way it’s supposed to be!’. As a brief disclaimer before I start, should any reading this think I’m extremely clever in figuring this out, I assure you, I am not. Although there are various subjects in which I think I’m probably smarter than the average bear, carpentry and mechanics are definitely not in my skill set. I need to thank potter, Bill van Gilder, for explaining to me how to modify this wheel and work station, in very patient detail, and made it so, I can pass this information on to others, who may have a Randall that they would like to modify in a similar way.

photo (7)The first issue I needed to tackle was getting the bucket head off. It seemed to be stuck on there for good. Aside from the fact that I wanted to use a regular wheel head with it (issue #2), I would never be able to clean out the splash pan properly without taking the wheel head off. I first turned to Google, scanned the Clayart archives for everyone who has ever had this problem (and there were many). I tried literally all the solutions on there from rubber mallets, to heating the bucket head with a propane torch, to ‘Liquid Wrench’ and beyond. Still stuck. In speaking with Bill, he said he only ever had that problem once with a Randall and he had a mechanic come in with a bearing puller to get it off. And so, I went over the hill on the other side of the creek to a small garage owned by a nice man named, Sam Keiser. I walked in and informed him that I thought I needed an auto mechanic but not for any type of motor vehicle. He was intrigued. So, Sam came down the next afternoon and in less than a minute and a half, the bucket head was off!

IMG_0396Next, I took the now free bucket head to a guy at a local machine shop. I needed the new wheel head to be approximately 2″ above the surface of the bucket (allowing for the height of the plaster bats usually used with it). Joel at the shop came up with this idea. It centers the top of the new wheel head over the old bucket head, locking it in, but can be removed, should I ever need to use the bucket head again. Works out pretty well and much less the cost of a machined head.

 

IMG_0393

And finally, the workstation. Without a spot to put water, tools and finished pots, the wheel still wasn’t very usable. I purchased a $30 solid wood table on Craigslist, measured the height of the wheel, just below the roll of the aluminum splash pan, then cut the legs a bit shorter on the table to accomodate that height. I used the splash pan as a template, came in 1/2″ from the edge, then traced a semi circle, 9″ deep, and cut that piece of the table out with a jigsaw.

You’re probably thinking, ‘lovely, but that’s way too clean.’ It wasn’t that way for very long. I added some removable ware boards to the side of the workbench table, and a rolling cart for bat storage and pots (a $10 Craigslist find) and I’m off and running! Plenty of room for everything and easy production without getting up from the wheel.

workingwheel

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39 Comments

  1. Brandon

    Hi I just purchased an old Randall wheel off craigslist and plan to get into pottery. I do not want to go the route of plaster bats and all i have is the empty bucket wheel head. I like this idea of mounting a new wheelhead on top of the existing bucket. Where did you find this or did you have a machine shop custom make the new wheelhead?

  2. Never seen one of those wheels Nancy !!
    Welcome to our community of bloggers at Mud Colony 🙂

    • Thanks! They were produced in the 60’s and 70’s in Alfred, NY. Hard to track one down that has the motor on it, but I very much like the throwing position on these compared to the modern electric wheels.

  3. Hi……I just found you via Mud Colony (you forgot to add the link to your post). I use an old Shimpo with the same lack of workspace you had with the Randall. You have a very elegant solution.

    I took a demo workshop with Jeff Oestreich years ago. It was terrific.

    • Thanks for letting me know about the link – I’ll take a look. The site was added for me, so I’m not sure what to do about it until I see it myself. Yes, plenty of work area now, plus the ware boards to my left are easily removable so I can add more when they’re full.

  4. Liz McAdoo

    I used to have a wheel like that. I loved it but I wore myself out trying to stop it. It is an awesome wheel though and is built like a tank!

    • Mine has a ‘brake’ just under the right foot peg but I took it off. It made a godawful screeching sound as the metal hit the fly wheel. Now I just use my foot. Builds up the calf muscles 🙂

  5. Ron

    I have an old Randall kick wheel in NC if you know someone that wants one.
    Ron obxbooks@aol.com

    • John Schlottig

      Ron,

      Do you still have the old Randall wheel? I am interested if you do and want to sell it.

      John 310-493-1022

      • We have a motorized Randall for sale, but it is located in NYC. If you can get here to pick it up, it’s for sale! 212-244-4414

  6. mike cindric

    n–

    do you know of a source for a randall cast aluminum bucket head (fits on vertical shaft of the wheel above the flywheel; bats fit into the top)

    please lemmie know

    –m

    • Wish I did! Maybe someone out there reading this knows.

    • Roy Kersey

      Mike,

      My pottery instructor at the University told me that the bucket head for the Thomas Stuart wheels will fit. The kit, with the bucket head and two rubber molds (12″ and 16″) for plaster batts costs about $160. Do check with the manufacturer to make sure the shaft tapers are the same before you order it.

    • sARA tREZISE

      i AM LOOKING FOR mIKE cINDRIC WHO WAS AT isu W/ dICK hAY IN THE 70’S. anY CHANCE YOU ARE THEY GUY?

  7. Brian Koon

    I have a Randal kick I have bad knees now and need to find the motet assembly for it. I make thin neck bottles so I still want to kick. Any help would be great.

    • Mine already came with a newer motor on it when I bought it along with a new ‘hub’. I can’t remember the exact motor/engine place that it was purchased, but I heard that you can get a 1/2 hp 1700rpm motor from Grainger pretty reasonably. The ‘drive puck’ is from the belt drive of an old washing machine. I was told if I ever needed another, just go to someone who repairs old washers (the belt driven kind). Short of that, the Thomas Skutt motor conversion kits are supposed to work, but they are pricey.
      http://www.bigceramicstore.com/info/randall-wheel-motorkit.html

  8. all randall wheel parts (upper/lower bearings, motor, drive wheel) can be purchased at w.w. graingers.
    it has been many years but w.w. graingers was a common and easy resource for all randall and soldner equipment. the easy way to
    manufacture or convert a bucket head to a flat wheel head is to laminate two or three plasti-bats together with acetone and ABS
    shavings (let the shavings gleaned from drilling bat pins soak in acetone over night in a glass container) apply syrup to bats. register bats in
    place with weights on them till dry(usually over night). drill/countersink three screws through the bats & bucket head (machine bolt together with nuts and lock washers.
    you now can use your bat pins from the laminated plasti-bats. use a well ventilated area to work, with a barrier cream for hands and a respirator with yellow key filter for your health.

    • Katy Bryant

      Do you know how to grease the Randall Motor?
      Mine has been inactive for over 30 years due to my life in the corporate world……….so, cleaned it up and the motor works fine BUT I know I need to grease/lube it after all this time and don’t want it to freeze up on me.
      Got any suggestions? Thanks lots for whatever info can offer………….
      Katy

  9. Brian Koon

    Thanks for all the impute. I’ll call Grainger’s, If anyone else knows anything else it will be greatly appreciated. Or if anyone has a motor kit for sale let me know.

  10. I am so glad I found this blog. I recently purchased a motorized Randall and was wondering about how to make a work surface. Now I just need to find the right sized table at a good price! I have been working on electric wheels for many years, but learned on a kick wheel; so I wanted to have that option again. There’s something about kicking the wheel that connects the potter to their pot in a real way. Anyway….off to find a table!

  11. Melanie Harlow

    I have an old Randall that I gave up on using years ago because I could not find a solution to the bucket head issue. I had Thomas Stuart make a mold for plaster bats and it did not fit the bucket well enough. Just wondering if your guy could also make a head for mine. I still have it and sure would like to use it. Could you hook me up with his contact information? Thanks, Melanie

  12. Kelly Whittington

    I am also looking for the flat head for my Randall wheel. Thanks for the ideas but I still hope to find a flat head by Randall. WhenI ordered mine, flat heads were available.

    • Kelly – for a ‘quick’ fix, someone I know took a Randall plaster bat and centered a regular plywood bat over it and adhered it with automotive epoxy. Works like a regular wheelhead and can be easily taken on and off.

  13. john g barnegat, nj

    I have an old Randall kick wheel

    Need Head – does a Brent fit?

    Have old Frozen Motor- not sure how to attach-

    • None of the newer wheel heads fit it as the Randall has a morse taper shaft. If you have the bucket head (looks like a dog bowl) you can remove it and have someone weld a wheelhead to it like I did. You’ll have to weld some sort of bracket for a motor mount.

  14. Catherine

    The shaft comes up the center of the bucket to the recess, correct? I am trying to get mine apart but dont know where to begin!

    • Yes – it’s a tapered shaft. I was advised to find a mechanic with a wheel puller to get mine off. Worked like a charm.

  15. Judith Trotta

    I am selling a Randall wheel in FL Suggested price anyone?.

  16. jruth

    Nice, thanks. For new head on top of bucket head, should its surface be higher than the top lip of the splash bowl, for sliding ware off the head and onto a bat for drying?

    • I guess it depends how you work. I don’t ‘slide’ anything off my wheel head. Any pots going to a wareboard get lifted off from the base and put on the board. I like the wheel head to be below the splash pan edge as otherwise, trimmings go everywhere when I trim.

  17. I first learned to throw on that wheel back in 1969 though not motorised It changed my life that wheel did.
    Will always have a fondness for it.
    It is beautiful to look at too

  18. Marsha Law

    I learned on a Randall. I bought a used Lockerbie, thinking it would be similar. It was in many ways, but I still longed for the Randall. I bought a set of three (3) ORIGINAL ALUMINUM RANDALL BAT MOLDS and set out to find a Randall. Long story short, I ended up with a demo Shimpo. I’m short on space and needing to find a new home for my Randall bat molds. Does anyone care to buy these original Randall bat molds? I live near Dallas, TX.
    marshalynn3(at)earthlink(dot)net.
    BTW, I still dislike trimming without a kickwheel, I still love plaster bats,

    • Katy Bryant

      I am interested in your bat molds for the Randall. Will take all 3 sizes.
      Let me know if still have them AND how much?

  19. Katy Bryant

    Need help locating bat mold and flat wheel head ……….

    Have my Randall wheel from grad school. Getting back into pottery after years of absence. Learned on this wheel, like having the option of kick and motor as feel more part of the pot. Looking to buy plaster bat molds, all 3 sizes, AND the metal flat wheel head as I have the bucket type. Any leads as to where I can find these items much appreciate. Thanks lots !

    Katy
    Atlanta, Georgia

    • karg pottery sells plaster bat molds to fit the Randall wheel. I have been looking for a metal wheel head for my randall for quite some time and still have not found anything. good luck with your search.

  20. I just bought a used Randall’s wheel, but it didn’t come with a splash pan. Any idea where I can buy one?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

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