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Chamois Alternatives

You may know that I'm a vegetarian, well, technically a pescatarian as I do eat fish and sea food.  I made the decision to stop eating meat after seeing the horrible conditions of the feed lots in the west and hearing so many news stories about how chicken was making people sick due to the deplorable conditions the chickens were kept in.  But I'm not writing this to make you stop eating meat, I'm writing because I have found some very good alternatives to using cow or dear hide as a way to finish the rims of pots.
We all know that a well finished lip makes a mug more useable as a well finished rim makes any pot more attractive.  But if I can get that without using an animal hide chamois I'm happier.  I was told to try newspaper but that's not really very environmentally friendly for a full time potter and the newspaper tends to tear at bad times.  I never really liked using newspaper although I would use it in a pinch.
Elisa Helland-Hansen recommended using plastic, you get plenty with every bag of clay and it's a good way to reuse the plastic that is not listed as recyclable.  It's nice and thin so you don't lose the feel of the clay and it does make a really nice rim. 
Ronan Peterson suggested using the fat rubber bands that you get when you buy fresh broccoli.  Broccoli is one of my favorite foods so I have no problem getting rubber bands.   The one I'm using right now is blue so it doesn't get lost very easily either.  All you have to do is cut the rubber band so it's no longer a closed loop but just one long strip of rubber.  It's easy to hold and makes a nice rim.  You can even attach a cork to it so it won't get lost in a slip bucket.
In the interest of full disclousure, I do have a couple of leather chamois that I still use.  They were given to me and I'd hate to disrespect the animal from which they came by throwing them away.  But when they get lost or break I don't think I'll be replacing them with another hide material.
What do you use for a chamois?

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  1. You are right about those feed lots in California, and the dairy farms are horrible, if you saw those dairy cows you would cry when you see an ad on TV about the happy California cows, the only cows that are happy are actually the ones raised for beef as they have lots of pasture to roam in and trees to get in the shade under. We rarely eat meat any more and luckily have so much fresh fish nearby. I don't use anything to smooth, but I have lots of rubber bands I might try that; I usually use one of those soft sponges, but sometimes that brings the grog to the surface.

  2. Linda, the cows that are out grazing are only doing that for a short time, then they are fattened up in small areas where they get no exorcize and have no grass. It's so sad. By the way, this is where your garden manure comes from too. Something to think about.

  3. Have found your blog very interesting - don't know how I got here, but glad I did. I just use a soft sponge, but mostly rims are not an issue for me and my pots have 'ragged' rims anyway!

  4. Hi Cathy, I'm glad you found my blog too. I hope you come back frequently, I do try to keep it interesting.

  5. I use a nice soft elephant ear sponge for all my throwing. never quite understood how a chamois is used....

  6. Gary, a chamois is used to make a nice smooth, well rounded rim on thrown pots. To see how one is used check out Mark Peter's video

  7. It recently occurred to me that I never mention a chamois to my students and thought I'd google what others use in place of chamois. When I took my first classes, a chamois came with my kit of tools so I used it until it went missing or wore out. Being vegan I never replaced it. Instead I used a piece of plastic until that was missing one day so I thought if the chamois being a piece of skin works why not use my own skin so I use the skin between my fingers to smooth edges. Although I have started using Sherrill's sponges and find his white sponge is nice for finishing areas when handbuilding. I will put a broccoli elastic by my wheel and give it a try so I have options!


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