centering the bottom 1/2 inch of clay
I seem to be able to center the clay just fine, except for the bottom part. Drives me crazy.
You're definitely not alone there! I think I know what you mean when you refer to the bottom part. Often when you are centering pottery clay you will get either a nasty twist/wrinkle in the clay at the bottom, or you will get this weird little fan shape sneaking out under your hands that causes problems. Here are some tips that will hopefully help.
First, if you're getting the twist: Try "coning" the clay as you center it. Basically, this means squeezing the clay inward to bring it up into a cone, then pressing it back down into it's original shape. This helps to mix the clay and align the clay particles. Also, it helps to ensure that you are REALLY moving the clay. Sometimes people don't MOVE the clay enough when centering and that is why the bottom bit doesn't get centered.
Second, if you're getting that little fan thing sneaking out under your hand try two things. First, use a wooden rib and just scrape it off. That gets rid of the first problem. Then, to prevent it from coming back, remember to keep the palms of your hands vertical and the blade of your hand tight against the wheel head.
Hope some of this helps with getting your clay well centered on the pottery wheel.
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