Speedball Clay Boss Review with Sweet Tarnation
My first wheel was a Christmas present and was meant to help me figure out whether ceramics was something I wanted to pursue. It was a great value, considering it did the job for over a year and got intense use. It was purchased off Amazon and cost around $200. The motor and belt were completely exposed and I only have outdoor space to dedicate to ceramics. While I kept the wheel covered, it has endured a decent amount of abuse not intended for electrical appliances. There have been some iffy moments with this wheel: it doesn’t have a mechanism for weight compensation, the belt has slipped off multiple times, and the wheel speed wasn’t always predictable. I wasn’t wise to how a well-built wheel actually feels, so it was a good teacher in learning from the beginning how to throw under less-than-ideal conditions. I’ve always believed that if you can learn a skill using bare-bones equipment, you’ll take off when you get your hands on the good stuff!
Click here to go to vessels made on the new wheel!
When I started searching for a wheel upgrade, I knew I needed a workhorse. Currently I get on the wheel 4-6 times a month, but I need something that can scale up in production as I do. I dove into the review rabbit hole and by far, the Clay Boss by Speedball had the most consistently good reviews for reliability and durability. Mine is from Dick Blick (online) and was just under $1000, paid for by a generous patron (Thanks, Mom! You’re the absolute best). Its capacity for up to 100 lbs. of clay and the load-sensing control that maintains the wheel speed were definitely working in its favor. The 14” wheel head was a bonus. I typically throw smaller forms, but having the option to go bigger fits with my desire for growth capacity.
This is a wheel designed for entry-level ceramicists and, while it has a lot of features that can grow into intermediate-level use, it’s not a top-of-the-line model. I knew that going in and am anticipating upgrading at some point. Given how many reviewers said they were reviewing their second or third Clay Boss wheel, and many still had the original as a back-up or just needed another production wheel, I have a feeling this one might even outlast me.
The height of the legs is adjustable, which has greatly helped with hunching and back pain. It’s small enough that you can move it around easily without killing yourself. That’s essential for my practice as I have to move it under cover after each use.
With the first use, the Clay Boss proved it’s consistent and sturdy. It’s much quieter than my starter wheel and the speed settings are much more reliable. I love the large wheel head and am very happy to have the enclosed motor since my studio is currently outdoors. The provided pins fit standard bats and the wheel I purchased came with a couple of plastic bats.
I have found the pedal that controls the speed is a bit fussy. It’s taking some practice to find the speed settings that work for me. I appreciate that the wheel stops completely when you slow it down all the way. That wasn’t always a given with the starter wheel.
It can take some scrubbing to get all the clay out of the grooves in the wheel head. I just make sure it’s unplugged before I clean so I can use enough water to get those grooves clean. Then I make sure that no water is left afterward, on or under the wheel. The table surrounding the wheel wipes up very quickly.
I haven’t tried more than 5 lbs. of clay on it, so I have yet to see whether it can handle large hunks of clay without issue. I was able to throw up to 7 lbs. on my starter wheel, so I imagine the Clay Boss will take at least 10 lbs. like a champ. I doubt I’ll ever really have use for the advertised 100 lb. capacity, but it’s good to have aspirations!
Overall, I would definitely recommend this wheel to someone graduating from their first wheel or if you’re looking for a wheel that can grow with you. It has definitely made wheel time more fun and I can’t wait to keep working with it. It’s true that having quality equipment and tools makes creating way more enjoyable!
Update: I threw a 4.5 lb. vessel and the wheel didn’t flinch. Where I am finding a little resistance is when I am going to town on trimming and my tools are biting into the clay deeply. I don’t know how many pounds of resistance that is, but I definitely notice a change in the motor strain. I haven’t experienced any slow-down of the wheel speed, I can just tell the motor is compensating by the change in sound. It’s not a problem, just something to note.