Can’t handle making handles

Let’s talk about making mugs, more specifically the handles. For years I avoided making mugs, simply because I found making handles to be a major pain in the ass. The main reason for this is that I was taught to pull handles, which is a viable method, but not necessarily the easiest, best or more consistent.

If I teach you nothing, if you take nothing away from my online ramblings or in person teaching at Island Pottery or Choplet, please understand this: the more you do with tools, the more consistent something will be and the more you use just your hands the more individual it will be.  So keep that in mind when you’re creating your personal aesthetics.

How does this affect making handles? Simple. You have several handle making choices.

So let’s go through them!

First off you have possibility the simplest method possible, a slab handle. Most of the time we think of slabs as a strictly hand building practice, which it can be, but there is no reason why techniques can’t be mixed and matched. Its all clay after all.

This is a slight no brainer of a technique. You roll or pound out a slab and then fashion it into a handle. I recommend you sketch out some ideas first so you don’t over work the clay. This is easily one of the more artistic/design heavy ways to make a handle. Great if you want to take your mugs in a more sculptural way.  Here are some examples with links to sites in the pictures:




Next we have extruded handles or coil handles. For those who might not know a coil is simply that snake you or our child made when playing with playdoh. However, using an extruder is a little more complicated, but since its a machine the results are more standard and consistent. Here is a great video of how a clay extruder works:

The great thing about the extruder is the many different shapes it can create as well as sizes. So you can easily create appropriately sized handles for all kinds of products. Its a great tool, especially if you’re working in a private studio.

Next is the aforementioned, pulling a handle. Again here is a video:

So 1) make your own jokes, 2) that beginning pull makes a lot of sense, 3) make your own jokes.

Now my favorite way to make handles consistently, easily and look like a traditional handle is to use a Kemper Handle Maker tool. Shout out to Natalia Martinez for introducing me to this method several years ago. Here is a link to see it in action, for some reason it won’t let me embed the video:

Just to see how easily the handles attach, here I am attaching one through the magic of time lapse:

OK, so there you have it. Different kinds of handles and how to make them. Next week I’ll go over  attaching them. Easily the more annoying part of making a mug.

Till then, get to the studio and make something!

Questions on the technique, email me at, like what I’m doing feel free to shop my Etsy store

One Response to “Can’t handle making handles”
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  1. […] weeks post was dedicated to the different ways one could make a handle. This week I’m going to give you my method on how to attach the handle. I derived this method […]


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