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Using the MKM Ribs4Clay

This page provides instruction and ideas for using all three styles of MKM Ribs4Clay. The MKM Craftsman Series Wood Ribs, MKM Professional Series Rigid Steel Ribs and the MKM CocoRibs.

The Importance of Ribs:
Ribs are to clay what brushes are to paint -- they move the medium. Only more. They also achieve form, control surface, compress and stabilize clay, and allow for reproducibility. Outside of your hands, they are the most powerful tool that the clay artist, and especially the potter, has available to them (with the exception of the wheel for those who throw).

Production potters have specific ribs for specific forms that they produce in quantity. However, MKM ribs are designed for more general use -- plate forms, cylinders and forms derived from cylinders such as jars and vases, bowl forms, teapots, and other thrown, coiled, or slap built forms.

There is no limit to the functionality of the rib. Nonetheless, in your own repertoire of forms you will find that you use just one or two ribs per form. Plates are more easily achieved with a plate rib; large bowls use large bowl ribs for the inside, and perhaps a separate rib for the outside; large bellied forms such as jars, vases, and bottles need a cylinder rib, and then an interior rib for pushing out the walls, with a flexible rib being used on the outside.

If you are new to ribs, welcome to a whole new world of control, power, and ease of clay movement.

CocoRibs were intended for handbuilding -- for pushing out walls and scraping and smoothing curved surfaces. The idea for developing a series of ribs made from coconuts came from reading an article about Magdalene Odundo. And they do work incredibly well for handbuilding. However, when I tried them out for throwing, I found that they worked equally well with this technique. Their natural curves made them easy to hold and easy to use. The edge was hard, but could easily be sanded smooth, and coconut shells are naturally durable in water. If you wish to remove throwing lines, then use a CocoRib on the exterior. I do a lot of brushwork on my pottery, so I am in the habit of smoothing the exterior of some of my pottery.

CocoRib # C3
being used on the interior of a small bowl.

One way to make a bowl:
1. Bring the wall of the bowl up in an outward flowing curve similar to the bowl in the previous picture.
2. Bring the wall to the desired height of the bowl, and the rim out to the desire, or almost desired, width of the bowl.
3. (Optional) Use a curved rib or CocoRib to smooth the exterior of the bowl, and to remove the slip.
4. Use a rib to push out the wall of the bowl, and to stretch the wall of the bowl into its final configuration. This allows the rib to set a beautiful surface on the interior of the bowl.
5. Alter as necessary. Or not.

MKM Steel Rib S2a
being used on the interior of vase form. Rigid ribs, either wood or steel, word exceptionally well to move the clay way out on vase, jar, and bottle forms. Use a flexible rib on the exterior to precisely control the contour of the form. The low amount of friction exerted on the clay wall by a good steel or wood rib allows the clay wall to become very thin without ever torqueing the clay.

There are three tricks to making these forms well:
1. bring up a very even clay wall. Do this quickly so that the clay does not become too wet or fatigued.
2. leave a slightly thicker wall of clay at the top; this allows you to have some clay to narrow the mouth of the form with. It also acts as a sort of keystone to the form, and keeps the ever expanding walls from getting too wobbly.
3. Depending on how far out you wish to go, you may find it helpful to use a heat gun or blowtorch to dry the wall. In any case, once you have achieved the height you want with your cylinder, use your ribs to immediately strip the wet clay slip off the interior and exterior of the wall. A wet saturated wall will be wobbly and difficult to control.

And don't forget to practice. Also, MKM Ultimate Throwing Sticks are very useful for this kind of form once it becomes awkward to move or control the wall with your handheld rib.

MKM Craftsman Series Wood Rib W21being used to push down a flange on a plate.

This rib will accommodate a very large flange, but if the flange gets even larger, for instance 12 inches or more, then ribs W22 or W23 have long straight edges suitable for this job.

MKM Craftsman Series Wood Rib W21
being used to smooth and control the wall of the inside bowl section of a flanged plate.

MKM Craftsman Series Wood Rib W22
being used to put dents, or other long linear marks, in a pot.

MKM Professional Series Stainless Steel Rib S5
the radius rib, being used to set the radius for a flat-bottomed straight walled small bowl.

The W5 Radius rib has 4 different corner radius' with slightly curved edges between the corners that allow the user to compress the bottom of a bowl with the same rib.

MKM Craftsman Series Wood Rib W5
being used to move out the bottom corner of a flat bottomed small bowl.

A Rib Rack in the classroom at Fired Earth Pottery for students. Rick McKinneys says, "I also have one of these right next to my wheel and can reach over and get what I need without having to dig through a pile of ribs on my wheel table. For each form I throw, I reach for one or two ribs only. I throw standing up and that makes reaching the rib rack a bit easier."