About MKM Pottery Tools & Rick McKinney
Create Beauty in Clay!
MKM Pottery Tools, LLC was established in 2003 by Rick McKinney. The initial set of tools sold by MKM, such as the MKM Decorating Disk, the MKM Throwing Tools, and the various types of ribs, were tools that Rick had developed in his studio for his own personal use, and were not available for sale elsewhere. But it was the Decorating Disk (a sort of universal pottery template) that really launched the business. Rick thought it was a good idea, but didn’t have the ability to screenprint or work with acrylic sheets. So he had a bunch made up thinking he would sell what he didn’t need. Ten years later, Rick is still selling his Decorating Disk, and many other tools, as well.
From the beginning, MKM has specialized in bringing tools to the market that were not readily available to the potter. Sure, folks could buy a few different types of ribs, but not plate ribs, interior ribs, mini-ribs, or large bowl ribs. Yes, potters could make their own stamps, but it was quite a learning curve to make a good stamp, and these homemade stamps often do not connect well, dimensionally, to create larger patterns. Nor was it possible to get the designs I felt could be achieved in a stamp by handcarving them - or it would take a very large amount of time. Furthermore, stamps work better when there is a bevel at the edge of the stamp so that the corners don’t crack and so the stamp releases well from clay, and this, too, is hard to hand carve.
Why MKM Stamps and Rollers work so well with clay
All MKM stamps, rollers, HandRollers, Mini Rollers, etc, are carved at our own factory (they are not contracted out to second parties) by MKM employees who are very committed to quality. Quality in the original wood blank material, quality of design, and quality of carving, quality of wood finish (teng oil), and, of course, quality service to all of our customers. But what, exactly, does quality mean in the context of a simple wood tool.
At the design level, it is a bit of a personal choice. A design that you like is a good one. But at the carving stage, the meaning is very specific: the edges of the debossed (cut-in) stamps all have bevels that compress the clay around the stamp and prevent cracks at the corners. Indeed, none of the lines and patterns cut into the stamps and rollers are laser cut (which always leaves a burned vertical wall, which then pulls up the edge of the design.) All MKM stamps are cut with cutting blades that leave a bevel for all the lines and patterns. So when the MKM stamp pulls away from the clay, or the roller is rolled over the clay, the MKM tool releases perfectly without pulling up any edges. As well, our stamps and rollers are scaled to work well in the realm of functional pottery - these tools are not re-purposed paint rollers - they are designed and made specifically for the clay worker.
The wood that we use for our rollers (RS, RM, RL, HandRollers, etc) is fine grained and carved very precisely. This wood is leftover from the furniture industry and is ‘recycled‘ by MKM to make our small tools. It also takes the tung oil well. And why pure tung oil, which is expensive. Because it is one of only two naturally occurring oils that are self-polymerizing(that harden when exposed to the atmosphere). This means that these tools will be much more durable over time than tools that are bare wood or finished with other oils.
A Note from the Maker:
I hope you enjoy these tools. They are developed and tested in my studio, and among my studio mates and potter friends. Your comments as to their design and usefulness are more than welcome. MKM tools are intended to be innovative and of high quality. MKM is very open to suggestions and comments. Please feel free to send me your comments by email (Contact MKM page) or via the postal service. If you have a great shot of a wonderful pot or sculpture made with our tools, send that along, too. Or post them on the MKM Facebook Page. If you have been disappointed by some aspect of an MKM tool, please feel free to communicate that as well, and I will try to make amends. Tools are solutions, sometimes elegant, sometimes not, and they arise from makers of things, which all of us, as a potters, certainly are. They are not a repudiation of human instinct, they are human instinct. In their own way, tools are art, too. If you share the problem, then you might be interested in sharing the solution. Art is as much about problem solving as any other thing in this world. It is my hope that these tools will help you solve problems and allow you to spend your time making beautiful pots, or other objects.