As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’m rediscovering an interest in old hobbies I’ve had and I’m trying my hand at new ones as well. Long have I admired people who can throw pottery on a wheel with ease and we’re big fans of the Great Pottery Throw Down on All 4. I was booked on an intensive beginner’s pottery course with Turning Earth, but sadly that was postponed when the lockdown started.
Potter’s wheels are sturdy pieces of equipment that have to run smoothly and be nicely balanced, but I was shocked at the prices of electric wheels. I didn’t know if I would be any good at it so bought a cheap manual treadle wheel on eBay initially.
The manual treadle wheel and I didn’t really get on too well so I looked around to see if there was a cheap electric wheel available. I came across the Airgoo AG-60 priced very reasonably at £295 and decided to commit after some deliberation and seeing some positive reviews on Amazon.
I bought it directly from the company site and have recently ordered some additional bats from them. As I’m very new to all of this, I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down on my early days with this wheel.
I ordered the wheel on the 4th April 2020 and it arrived within a week. It’s a very heavy beast, but was securely packed in expanded polystyrene.
The Airgoo AG-60 is distributed by the Dutch Airgoo (pronounced Air Go I assume) Pneumatics BV firm based in Emmen on the excellently named Phileas Foggstraat. Searching for articles on affordable pottery wheels there is another wheel which is mentioned in a You Tube video called the US Art Supply table top pottery wheel.
It looks externally identical to the Airgoo wheel, but from what I could find on the web, I think the US Art Supply wheel is a 3/4 HP wheel that claims to handle up to 25lbs of clay. My AG-60 is 250W (1/3 HP) and depending where you find it listed claims to handle up to 9kg (19lbs) (company website) or 11.3kg (Amazon). 9kg is plenty for me.
A UK style adaptor is included for the mains lead and they’d noted this on the invoice. The wheel came in a box with Fengda written on the side. Googling Fengda, I found the continental and UK versions of the Airgoo wheel, but they were much more expensive than buying from Airgoo themselves.
It’s clear that the wheel is being built to a price as the non mechanical parts do have a cheap plastic feel to them, but it feels like the mechanism is sound and as mentioned previously, it’s a reassuringly heavy bit of kit.
The wheel is fully encased in a smooth moulded plastic case which feels like it might be non expanded polystyrene and therefore might be prone to cracking if knocked. It looks like they have taken quite some care to ensure that liquids cannot easily get into the mechanism underneath.
There is a mains neon power switch at the side and a splash protected connector for the speed varying foot pedal which comes supplied. The foot pedal varies the rotation speed in one direction only unlike other more expensive wheels.
Powered on, you now have three almost ZX81 keyboard style sealed buttons to play with. It’s a sensible approach for the price point as they can be operated with wet fingers and they are cheap to manufacture.
The buttons are RUN, STOP/RESET and FWD (forward) / REV (reverse). There is also a manual hand operated speed control. This is an excellent feature for when you are trimming pots I’ve found as it can be tricky to be accurate with speed using the small foot pedal.
The speed in RPM is displayed on the LED readout as well as a direction mode LED for forward (anticlockwise) and reverse (clockwise).
Operating these controls is a bit odd at first as you have to press STOP/RESET between direction changes. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it eventually.
The splash bowl comes in two parts and fits into a groove in the plastic cover moulded around the wheel head shaft. The bowl is probably non expanded polystyrene as well as it does feel very brittle. Some people have had issues fitting it from the Amazon reviews I read and it’s an okay fit. It can be a bit tricky to get it to completely close.
I fit my splash bowl with the seam running diagonally from the 2200 to 0400 clock position and that seems to close up okay, but a bit of water does collect on the wheel housing after a session despite me not really splashing or spilling all that much.
The housing has a recess to collect this water, so it hasn’t run into anything internal yet, but the first time I spotted it, I was a bit concerned. I think it should be fine though.
The wheel comes with a pre-drilled metal head which accepts the three pegged stiffened brown plastic moulded bat.
The foot pedal is quite small and is also made of a potentially brittle plastic, but should be fine if looked after.
It has a push fitting which has a splash cover which screws the connecting plug to the wheel base and looks quite secure. When the foot pedal is connected, the manual hand operated speed control will not engage, it’s either foot control or hand control, not both at the same time.
The operating instructions are mounted on the unit itself which is helpful. They do take a bit of time to get used to.
The wheel is supplied with a water pot, but this is very flimsy and mine had a hairline crack in it and only lasted two sessions. I use a wide tupperware bowl instead.
The wheel runs with a reassuring rumble. It’s not a quiet wheel, but it is not intrusive either. As I am only a beginner, I’m happy to accept the noise. When using the manual control the instructions advise to set the speed to zero before changing direction. The head starts to engage after about a quarter turn of the manual speed control which surprised me at first, but I’m used to it now.
It holds its speed well and seems to have a lot of torque. I have to apply quite a lot of pressure to slow the head down when centering. More experienced throwers will have a different opinion, but I’m very happy with the power and I’d imagine more experienced potters will be buying something probably twice the price of this wheel.
In my second session with the wheel and only my third session with an electric wheel since my art classes in Oban High School in the early 80s, I managed to throw something that looked like a pot. I used Scarva ES130 which is a lovely clay to work with and I’ll be sticking with that for a while I think.
My second effort with the AG-60 trimmed and ready for firing. However I don’t have a kiln yet, so I’m going to be experimenting with raku firing in my charcoal BBQ.
It’s a cliche, but I find throwing very relaxing and I can really lose myself in it. It is lovely to get back that feeling of immersion in a session where you lose track of time.
As a beginner in this hobby the Airgoo AG-60 is perfect for me. It is a very reasonably priced wheel in the range of available electric wheels, but it feels like the mechanism is solid and dependable. It has potentially brittle parts, but I have used a much more expensive Shimpo in a weekend class and I thought that had a pretty flimsy splash bowl as well.
Airgoo claim it can handle up to 9Kg of clay on its 29cm head. Its maximum speed of 300 RPM and 250W (1/3 HP) motor is plenty for me.
I think it is a belt driven wheel, but that’s not stated on the Airgoo website that I could find. I’ve only assumed that due to the way it is shaped and behaves when I switch it on and from the mention of a belt replacement in an article on the visually identical US Art Supply pottery wheel.
The fact that I have the option of hand control or foot control, I find really useful.
I’m sure as I develop, learn more and throw less wonky pots I’ll start to see some limitations, but if you don’t want to commit a lot of money to see if you are going to like this hobby then so far I can definitely recommend this affordable wheel.