Giffin Grip Review
I have known about the Giffin Grip for a long time. They have after all been manufactured since 1978. I’ve always been put off them though, because they are expensive and always look a bit fragile and “plasticky” and I guess I’m also guilty of subconsciously thinking that “Real Potters” centre pots with a delicate tap tapping and then placement of clay around the pot to hold it in place and, indeed, we have been using this exact method for over 40 years at Bentham Pottery.
Whilst visiting a student of mine recently I noticed that she had a Giffin Grip. I asked her to demonstrate it for me by turning one of her pots and I must have been suitably impressed with it, because I went ahead and ordered one for myself the next day. I didn’t really pick up on the two main problems with the Giffin Grip during this demo. I will come back to these later.
The Giffin Grip costs £230 from Potclays (U.K). Be careful when choosing, as there is a left hand version (for wheels spinning Clockwise) and a right hand version (for wheels spinning anti-clockwise).
I was suitably impressed by the manufacture of the Giffin Grip. All previous thoughts about it being fragile were very quickly dispelled, as I assembled it with the easy to follow instructions. The Grip can be mounted on any wheel diameter by simply moving the three arms under the Giffin Grip to give a very accurate fit. The grip comes with four different sizes of pot support arms that can be used depending upon the size and shape of the pot requiring turning. For bowl and plate shapes no support arms are required as the Grip clamps them on their rim.
Clamping a pot into the grip is very easy. You just place the pot roughly in the centre and rotate the Giffin Grip clockwise (with a right handed Grip). There is a slight skill to this, but you master it very quickly and the pot is held very firmly in place. It is an absolute joy to do, as providing the pot was thrown on centre a quick twist of the grip will centre it and hold it in an instant. It is definitely far quicker than centre-ing the pot yourself and holding it in place with pieces of clay!
It was only on turning a pot that I noticed the two problems with the Giffin Grip. The first problem is that the Grip raises the wheel height by 4 cm, which means it is higher than the wall of the wheel basin, with the effect that ninety percent of the turnings from the pot end up on the floor and not in the basin. The second problem is I tend to use the basin wall as a rest for my arms whilst holding the turning tool. This is no longer possible with the wheel effectively being 4cm higher. I came to the conclusion that I had made a mistake buying it. We tend to throw between 60 and 120 mugs (or equivalent pots) per day at Bentham Pottery. The thought of all the turnings from these pots going on the floor is really something I am not prepared to put up with, as you will end up treading the clay all around the pottery and creating a good deal of unhealthy dust.
However, before putting my recently purchased Giffin Grip on ebay, I decided to try an experiment with it. I rolled out a long coil and wrapped it around the top of my wheel basin to create a 4cm wall (effectively raising my wheel basin wall by 4cm). I then took the 60 mugs I had thrown the day before and proceeded to turn them all using the Giffin Grip.
The clay wall immediately solved the two problems with the Giffin Grip. All the turnings went into the wheel basin and I was able to lightly rest my arms against the clay wall. Turning was an absolute joy and I confess to smiling every time I clamped a pot onto the Giffin Grip. The realisation of how much time I could have saved over the years by not having to tap pots on centre and then stick clay around them slowly dawned on me. I finished turning the mugs in record time. I guess you can say I was hooked.
I have discovered that a clay wall around the wheel basin can be made on a Monday and wrapped with plastic when not in use, meaning it will last all week. It actually improves with age as you can lean on it more when it is leather hard. This though is only a temporary solution to the problem. I really need an actual solid wall that can be lifted on and off the wheel as required. With this in mind I make the following plea to all wheel manufacturers. Can you please manufacture a wheel basin extender for use with a Giffin Grip? Such an item would give you another product to sell and it may encourage more customers to buy your wheels, knowing that this is something they can purchase at a later date. To be honest considering that the Giffin Grip has been manufactured since 1978, it is hard to believe that no wheel manufacturer has yet made a wheel basin extender (maybe I am wrong about this, please email me if you know different). The problem could well be that potters are not vocal enough about telling the manufacturers of pottery equipment what they really want from it. With this in mind I will send this review to Gladstone Engineering in Stoke, who manufacture the wheels that we use. Hopefully it will give them some food for thought. In the meantime I will attempt to make my own basin extender (possibly carving from foam board). I have noticed looking through some of my Facebook groups that many potters have attempted to increase their basin wheel heights to solve this problem, although none of their solutions look brilliant to me.
So two months after purchasing my Giffin Grip and I’m still lining my wheel basin with a clay wall and doing all my turning using the Grip. I’ll update this review when I manage to manufacture a better wheel basin wall solution. Would I recommend it as a product, even with the two problems? Yes definitely.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my Giffin Grip review. Please feel free to email me if you want to ask any questions.