Gladstone wheel review – G30 Gladstone Classic wheel (£3102, price includes delivery and adding wheel studs) – 7/10
We bought a new wheel this summer (2021). I thought it would be good to review it here and update the review over the next few years.
We’ve always thrown on Alsager wheels at Bentham Pottery. Our two Alsager wheels were bought in the 1970s and have so far both had over 40 years of use in a production pottery. I think we have had them serviced twice. I have been doing quite a lot of teaching recently and so decided to get another wheel as a backup in case one of our Alsager wheels is ever out of action.
I would have definitely bought another Alsager wheel, however, unfortunately they are no longer in production, so I did some research and bought what I thought was the next best thing, a Gladstone wheel.
I have always liked throwing on tall upright wheels, like the Alsager wheel. To me these wheels look like “how a wheel ought to look” (in my opinion). I’ve never got on with the “shimpo type” wheels, as I feel a bit hunched over them. They have always made me feel like an adult sat on a child’s tricycle! The Gladstone wheel was the closest I could find in dimensions to an Alsager wheel.
The Gladstone engineering wheel that I eventually chose is the G30 Gladstone Classic. This is definitely one of Gladstone’s more expensive wheels. My reason for choosing the G30 Gladstone Classic over their other wheels is that it features an adjustable seat that looked as though it could be adjusted quickly and easily. I have always felt that having an adjustable seat would be an advantage, as depending on what you are doing on the wheel you can get more comfortable by being able to make small adjustments to seat height. Also I thought it could be useful for teaching, as I would be able to raise the seat higher or lower to enable people of different heights to throw easier.
The G30 Gladstone Classic cost me £3102 in total. The £2 narked me slightly. Perversely I’d have rather paid £3200 as at least I would have been under the illusion that the price had been reduced to the nearest £100! The wheel was actually £2892 – adding studding to take my wooden bats cost £108 and delivery was £102.
I felt that £108 to add two studs into the wheel head was possibly a bit overpriced, considering the cost of the wheel. However they did a good job with it and the studs fitted perfectly into my wooden throwing bats.
Delivery is to the kerb and not into the building. Getting the wheel into the building requires a bit of effort, and definitely needs two fit people to lift it. Make sure you don’t lift it by the plastic basin, as you will break the basin doing this. I took the seat off and used this as one lifting point. The person lifting on the other side of the wheel has to reach low down. The first problem we encountered is the wheel would not fit through the pottery door. I took the door off its hinges. The wheel still would not fit through the 31 inch door frame. I had to remove both the footrest and the speed control pedal from the wheel before we could manoeuvre it through the door frame. Removing these items is relatively easy. There are 6 bolts in total to undo. Hurrah, the wheel was now inside the pottery. I rebuilt it and rehung the door and un-wrapped the wheel.
The wheel does look stunning. The polished wooden finish gives it a real feeling of quality. I have no doubt that the great Josiah Wedgwood himself would be proud to be seen on one! I was desperate to throw something on it and give it a real test, so I weighed out fifty 12oz balls of clay and proceeded to throw mugs. The first thing I noticed is how quiet the wheel is compared to all the other wheels at Bentham Pottery. The second thing I noticed is that the speed control sticks badly in various positions. This definitely wasn’t the “extremely smooth running and sensitive speed control” as advertised on Gladstone’s website. I had to hook my foot under the pedal at times to make it move. I continued and made the 50 mugs despite my growing irritation with this problem. I found it very difficult to judge the wheel other than how bad the speed control was. I sent an email to Gladstone and frustratingly got an automatic reply saying that Gladstone Engineering were closed for the next two weeks for the annual “potters holiday”. Somebody though must have read the email as I was delighted to get a phone call the very next morning from a helpful and apologetic chap called Geoff from Gladstone, who told me exactly what spanners and Allen keys I would need and how to go about fixing the problem. I really like the fact that Gladstone got back to me so quickly (despite the potters’ holiday) and that the wheel can be opened up like this and problems can be fixed with common tools. Regrettably I never got round to doing this fix though, as at the time I was fully occupied with pottery courses, summer shows and order deadlines. However, I found that the speed control pedal actually loosened and improved with constant use from students over the summer and so now 3 months later the pedal is only sticking occasionally at high speeds and low speeds. I have found that a quick firm tap on the pedal releases it when it is stuck and I no longer have to hook my foot under the pedal. If the problem persists though, or gets worse then I will have to contact Gladstone again, as I have completely forgotten the fix. I do think that Gladstone need to review their policy on how they check their wheels before sending them out to customers, as sending out faulty wheels is not a great marketing strategy, especially when sending them to a second generation production potter who teaches many throwing courses and actively blogs!
With the speed control problem improving, I was able to more fully assess and review the wheel.
The wheel has a three way rotary switch. Straight up is off, turned towards you and the wheel is on and operates in an anti-clockwise direction and turned away from you the wheel is on and operates in a clockwise direction. Personally I would be happy with the wheel just turning anti clockwise, but I guess it’s good to have both options, especially when teaching very left handed people who might prefer the wheel spinning clockwise. The rotary switch is slightly quirky in that you have to follow a definite procedure when turning the wheel on. The rotary switch must be in the off position when turning the power on at the mains you then have to wait for an audible click and the red led lighting up on the rotary switch before turning the switch to an on position. If you get this sequence wrong then the wheel will not turn on. If the wheel is left on and unattended then every so often the wheel will start spinning. I’m not sure if this is an electrical fault, a fault of the speed controller or even a deliberate nudge to let you know that the wheel is still on?
The wheel is very quiet. It has a slow acceleration. If you press the pedal all the way down to the floor, it takes about 2 seconds to get up to full speed. I’m not sure what to make of this delayed response? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just something that I need to get used to, or at least spend more time with before commenting. I’m guessing that the slow acceleration is deliberate and not a fault with the pedal? My other wheels all respond relatively instantly. I feel that the top speed of the wheel is a little on the slow side and I would definitely prefer it faster especially for centering the clay.
The seat is comfortable and has 7 height adjustments with 1.5 inches between each adjustment. I would prefer smaller increments than this and possibly even fewer adjustments. To change the seat height you unscrew the bolt below the seat and align it with one of the 7 grooves on the seat post. This is a bit tricky as you can’t actually see the groove you are trying to screw the bolt into as it is hidden inside the seat post clamp. I would prefer a sprung mechanism to this, because it would be quicker and I feel it would locate into the grooves on the seat post easier. The seat bolt does become loose during throwing causing the seat to move from side to side slightly. This doesn’t bother me too much though. One advantage of this seat is it can be swung to the side when not in use and so the wheel takes up less room in the pottery. Despite my criticisms this is the best adjustable seat I have yet come across on a pottery wheel.
The wheel basin/splash tray is white, which makes it a bugger to clean, although in terms of health and safety and keeping dust down this is probably not such a bad thing. The wheel basin has a drain to a pipe where a bucket can be placed by the side of the wheel. I have never understood the need for this drain and bucket arrangement. I’ve always just sponged water from the basin into whatever water container I use for throwing. The drain pipes invariably always blocks with clay and the bucket full of sludge and water just takes up floor space and is an easy target for knocking over or putting your foot into when stepping off the wheel. Why do wheel manufactures continue to use this system? Thankfully the basin comes with a plug, which is now in permanent residency in my wheel. The wheel basin cleverly undercuts under the wheel turntable. This allows the throwers thighs to fit into the wheel and feel like part of the machine. I really like this undercut and feel that it helps to make for a very comfortable throwing position (more comfortable than the Alsager). I found that the rounded edge of the basin sill was uncomfortable on my arms if throwing all day. The Alsager wheel sill is flat on top and is definitely more comfortable because of this.
The wheel easily takes a Giffin Grip trimming tool (see my review on Giffin Grips here), with plenty of space between the Giffin Grip and the basin wall ( it is a much tighter fit in the Alsager wheel). I have emailed Gladstone about the possibility of producing a wheel basin extender wall so the trimmings from the Giffin Grip don’t all end up on the pottery floor. I am still awaiting their response to this email. I feel all wheel manufactures should consider making a basin wall extender as the Giffin grip is such a useful tool.
So in summary then it is a mixed review. Would I recommend this wheel? I think it is a bit expensive for somebody taking up pottery as a hobby. Gladstone do produce a cheaper wheel called the Bailey, which I feel targets the hobby market more. I wouldn’t actually rule out buying a Bailey wheel myself, so my students can experience a more affordable wheel.
I think the wheel is definitely worth considering from a professional potter’s point of view, although if you’re strapped for cash you could pick up a second hand Alsager on eBay (they tend to sell for £600-£1200 depending on condition) or if you get on with the “Shimpo style” wheels then you could buy one of those wheels for considerably less money.
This review is slightly tainted by Gladstone sending me a wheel with a faulty speed control. I think I was unlucky here and possibly a victim of having a wheel made and delivered to me on the Friday before the Stoke-on-Trent annual potters’ holiday.
I will update this review every so often so as to see what the longevity of the wheel performance is like. I am also interested to see if I will gravitate more to this wheel, or stay with one of our trusty Alsagers?
• Comfortable throwing position. This is really a big pro, so many wheels are uncomfortable
• Relatively easily adjusting seat, although I’d prefer smaller increments in the adjustment.
• The wheel looks stunning.
• It’s expensive.
• Speed pedal sticks at times (Well mine does, although it is improving with use)
• Requires two people to lift it and you may very well need to take your door off the hinges to get it into your workshop/house.
• Slow top speed.