Using a Leach Treadle Wheel

There is a surprisingly large group of people using, and loving, Leach Style Treadle Wheels. Many people ask “WHY?!”. Usually these people want a logical explanation as to why you would manually pump on a Treadle arm when in this marvelous age of technology you could just have a motor turn your wheelhead for you! That is exactly the reason for using the treadle wheel! By having a machine do the work for you, you are removing your “touch” one more step from the creation process. And actually, the amount of effort required to operate a treadle wheel is actually quite minimal.

You do have to adopt a different mindset to use it though. You will not be able to whack down 100 pounds of clay and try and muscle through centering that on a treadle wheel. In fact, there is almost no muscling through anything on a treadle wheel. Things are done much slower than on an electric or kick wheel. You may need to wait a revolution or two as you are learning the nuances of the wheel before exerting at the right point to bring the clay back to center. You will find that this waiting time will either frustrate the heck out of you or allow you to take more time with your work, and become more efficient and deliberate with your movements.

Here is a video of Tim throwing a bowl on a Treadle wheel (10MB).

One of the best qualities of throwing on the treadle wheel is that you’re body is directly connected to the speed of the wheel. As you get more used to throwing with it you will speed up and slow down the wheel as second nature and you will never accidentally hit the pedal and have you’re 60# bowl flatten out after getting the shape just right. Don’t think that you cannot throw large work on a treadle however! I regularly throw up to 30# bowls and occasionally throw a piece in many parts and end up with a much larger piece than that!

Learning to throw on a Treadle is a very humbling and wonderful experience. In my learning process, I found it frustrating to throw work on an electric wheel. Sure, I could throw a perfectly round bowl, with a shape that was just so, but I always felt that it was lacking something… some character. On a treadle wheel. INSTANT CHARACTER! My pieces were wobbly, wonky and just great! Still beginner pieces, but I felt it liberating to be freed from the perfectly round bowl and began to be able to look at the many other qualities that make for enjoyable pottery.



I would love to add more thoughts on using a treadle wheel. If you have any more please email me:

Updated 2 August, 2005 page views since July 25th, 2005