Welcome Back, Tried & True: Bisque Tile Bats

dragonfly landingI’m afraid its been another long while since I’ve been able to post here.  The end of school year means a whole lot more demands at home and an adjustment period for everyone until we all settle into the new summer routine.  That compounded by a week of being laid up with an intestinal bug (moms are the last to get these things it seems), I am more than ready to get back to the clay.   Well!  Where shall I start?

When I first learned to pot, I learned to throw right on the wheelhead. I remember struggling after running the cutting wire under freshly thrown pots and trying to slide the pot off the wheelhead without distorting it. I wasn’t always successful, I believe partially because I didn’t seem to have the coordination at the time,  I didn’t know the material (clay) that well,  and my newbie pots were usually full to saturation with throwing water, making them particularly easy to smoosh.

Needless to say, I was very excited when my teacher finally let me try throwing using a bat.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a bat is simply a rigid piece of wood, plastic, plaster, tile, etc., that becomes a throwing surface placed over top of the wheel head.  Once a pot is completed, the bat and pot are removed together and the pot can remain undisturbed on the bat until its leatherhard and ready to trim.

Yes, I know, bats aren’t absolutely necessary.  I find it useful to  throw some things off the hump  and other times, I just pick pots directly off the wheel and put them onto a ware board.  No biggie.  I do still like to use bats for some things.  It just works for me.

For the last 9 or so years, I’ve been using, for the most part, plastic bats made by Creative Industries, as well as some amazingly rigid Plasti-bats from Amaco.  Don’t get me wrong, both are great, but if you look at any of the pricelists out there, you’ll notice they are not cheap  ..nor is any commercially manufactured bat it seems, for that matter.  I was noticing just today that the price of some bats out there on the market were more expensive than a kiln shelf!  Hello.   Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?  ..regardless

Tile-Batt pottery throwing bat systemIn my last studio,  however, I used less expensive pressed-wood/MDF bats from my local supplier,  as well as a bat system (which I made out of marine plywood and masonite, modelled after one my teacher had ) , with a recessed area cut out in the center to accomodate a bisque 6×6 commercial tile.  I remember being pleased with both at the time.

Last spring, in an online discussion about pottery bat systems, someone had mentioned they had seen one using bisque tiles.  I was curious, so I followed the link.  Sure enough, there was the one I used years ago, only the price was less than if I were to try to make one myself.

Tile-Batt with 6 inch Dal-tile bisque tile insertI went ahead and called Pottery Supply House and ordered one (they have it listed as a “Tile-Batt“) and am so pleased I did.

It only came with one tile, but I decided I would forego the shipping from Canada, and try and get more tiles locally.  I went online and found a Dal-tile distributor right in Foley, not 10 miles away.  Since the bisque tiles aren’t a stock item, they had to be special ordered and it took about a week to come in, but that was okay.

There are lots of reasons why I like this particular bat system. I think the chuck cost me all of $11 USD plus shipping, and a box of 25 Dal-tile bisque tiles worked out to be around $0.75 a tile or so from my local flooring distributor (vs $1.10 a tile from the ceramics supplier over in Gulfport, which is actually an hour and a half away from here).  I really didn’t think that was such a bad deal, especially considering the CI plastic bats around the same size were about $7+ a piece.

I also like using the bisque tiles because they stay rigid and are porous (whereas the plastic bats can bend and it takes considerably longer for the clay to come away from them).  Using these tiles, I can throw mugs in the afternoon and by evening they detach nicely from the tile and are ready to flip over. The mug is a nice even consistency from top to bottom and ready to trim and handle a lot sooner, which translates in less chance of joins cracking and faster production.  The tiles also take less room on my ware boards, and if they break, they are easy and inexpensive to replace.

Modified PSH Tile-Batt with additional pin holesYou may notice here in this photo  that I made a couple of changes to the chuck when it arrived. I had to drill an additional set holes  to accomodate the bat pins for all our wheels in addition to the Soldner (Bat pins on a Soldner wheel are set a bit wider than on other wheels), plus I added a little additional notch to help remove the tiles a little easier, but that’s about it.

Even Lowell seemed impressed,  so  I just ordered a second Tile Batt, only this time for him, and picked up 2 more boxes of bisque tiles.

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19 Responses to “Welcome Back, Tried & True: Bisque Tile Bats”

  • LoriNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Anne!
    The link works.
    I’ve been using the same 1-inch thick, pressed wood bats I got from Continetal Clay in 1994. They are porous, and they don’t warp. I think they may have been a bit pricey at the time, but after a decade taht ceased to matter.
    One thing I like about his system is, for small things, you really only need one bat, so it takes up less space then a whole big stack of them.

  • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

    I see the new link now. Thanks Lori :)

  • cynthiaNo Gravatar Says:

    Wow – thanks for the link to “tile bat” – that seems like a really good price to boot! I need something like this myself.

    I totally know what you mean about the adjustment after school ends. We just finished our first week of summer vacation and I think that’s partly why I was in a bit of a funk. After having an imposed schedule premade for me with school hours, now I have to be more disciplined.

    • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

      I’m always amazed at what you accomplish, Cynthia. But its true, when you’re super busy with a lot to accomplish, i find it very hard to just jump into a new routine. I kind of have to get my head around it and digest it before I can start moving forward again.

  • UndauntedNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks for all the information, it’s really interesting. I’d still love to try throwing again but I don’t really like the wheels at class. I’m going to look out for a second had wheel at our local auction to get me started. Mind you, I am loving hand building. I had a problem with using a plastic lid to build a bowl on – the bloomin’ thing didn’t want to come off! So I’ll be using ply-wood in the future!

    • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

      Hi Linda :) Has anyone suggested to you putting a piece of newspaper between your clay and your work surface? So simple and works really well.

  • UndauntedNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks Anne, I think someone has suggested it, but I don’t want the piece to move around while I’m working on it, which is what I imagine would happen. It’s worth giving it a try though. Thanks :)

  • Rob Lorenz-Simple Circle StudiosNo Gravatar Says:

    I seem to remember reading an article about how to make something like this with a plastic 7 1/2 inch bat and quarter-round moulding. I was thinking about making one, but this sounds pretty good too, especially for $12. I wonder how difficult it would be to make your own tile inserts?

    • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

      Yes, its a pretty simple concept. If I had larger bisque tiles I think I might consider making one for them to accommodate wider based pots.

      You could make wooden inserts quite easily.. just cut them to fit. If you can make tiles, I doubt it would be hard to make your own tile inserts, it would just tedious and labor intensive.

      I don’t know, I like the commercial tiles because they are not expensive, they’re uniform, and for me, its more worth my while to buy them than to try making them. When I take into consideration materials, firing, loss, and my labor, I doubt making them would represent much of a (if any) savings.
      But as i mentioned, I like how the tile works when you use them. Being able to take my pots off the bat sooner makes a big difference.

  • FrankNo Gravatar Says:

    Hey Good idea for clay tiles not labor intensive and quick and easy…I found using SoulMat works great to make super smooth surfaces w/o clay sticking..and they work great as a work surface might be worth a try for you.. they are the cheapest slabrolling material I found that works better then using tar paper or canvas.

  • glass tileNo Gravatar Says:

    I find it useful to throw some things off the hump and other times.

  • Toshiba Portable DVDNo Gravatar Says:

    Wonderful article. Thank you for publishing this blog. Will definetly come back for extra attention-grabbing information.

  • Fraser LangfordNo Gravatar Says:

    Thank you for the bat information. The tile bat system looks like it’s worth a try. I’m using several different bats. Do you like the tiles better than Wonder Bats? I trim most of the bottoms of my pots and find that the bottoms are too dry when they finally pop off of the Wonder Bat.

    • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

      I like using the tiles better than any wooden bat. Since I only use 6×6 bisque tiles, I am, of course, limited to the size foot of my pot I can throw on them. For platters etc i have to resort to my plastic and particleboard bats. Just so you know, I always run a wire under my pots after throwing on the tiles which allows me to remove the pot from the tile as soon as its firm enough to pick up. The bottoms are never too hard to trim.

      I’ve not tried wonderbats, per se, but as I mention above, i do have some particleboard ones that I’ve drilled the holes on myself, which are quite a bit cheaper than the wonderbats. The grommet on the holes is a nice idea though.

      I replied to your other question on the other post, re tile distributor.

  • Fraser LangfordNo Gravatar Says:

    Please send me the address of your tile supplier. I’m going to order the system which comes with one tile. Clay Planet in San Jose has bisque tiles at $1.49 ea but they are 1/4″ or about half the thickness of the wonderbat.


    • Anne WebbNo Gravatar Says:

      I’ve not tried wonderbats. I use Daltile bisque tiles which are actually a bit thicker than the ceramic tile that comes with the bat system. I find them to be less prone to breakage but they absorb slightly more water. Unfortunately, despite there being a Daltile location near here, I had to locate a local distributor and get my tile from them; in Toronto, I was able to go right to the warehouse to pick them up. Regardless, since 6×6 bisque tiles aren’t regular stock item for the flooring place I went to, they had to order them special for me, which was no big deal. Here’s the link from the Daltile web site to help you locate distributor closest to your studio: http://daltileproducts.com/dealer_search.cfm Hope that’s a help. :)

  • SaraNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Anne!
    So glad to have stumbled upon your website. Thanks for posting the link to the tile-batt system from Pottery Supply House. I’ve been looking to switch over to a tile-batt system, but didn’t want to deal with making it myself (limited resources). So any 6″ bisque tile will work?


    P.s. So good to read from someone from the Gulf Coast. Before relocating to the Carolinas, I lived in Pensacola,Fl most of my life.

    • AnneNo Gravatar Says:

      Thanks Sara :) I know I was thrilled that i didn’t have to mess with fabricating one again. I have tried both the tile that comes with the Tile-Batt, the ones from DalTile, and some others that the local flooring supply place ordered for me. All seem to work great (although I personally prefer the ones that are slightly thicker as they absorb a little more water … just personal preference). I would think that any bisque tile that fits the recess would work fine.

      To pry the tile out, I either use a putty knife, or this little tool I got in the paint dept of the local hardware store used for prying paint can lids. It kinda looks like a bottle opener. But I have also used a staple remover.. the type that slides under the staple, not the one with jaws that close. Prefer to use all of the above as its just too hard on pin tools. 😉

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