How to Cut a Terracotta Pot

How to cut terracotta pots

Terracotta pots are quite durable until you start drilling or cutting into them, which is a problem if you want to repurpose your pot into a tandoor oven, patio light, toad home, or fairy garden, among other artistic ideas. So, before you start hacking away at your pot with a saw or grinder, read on for answers to some of your burning questions. You’ll increase your chances of getting gorgeous results rather than a mound of terracotta shards!

What instrument should I use?

1. To make a smaller pot, use a rotary saw (such as a Dremel). It’s not as smooth as butter, but it gets the job done! The diamond cutting wheel attachment for your Dremel will provide the greatest results (or similar handheld rotary saw tool). Here are some pointers to remember:

  • Put on work gloves, goggles, and a dust mask.
  • Soak the pot in water for 20 minutes to reduce dust production. However, it will still be a dusty task, so work outdoors.
  • To support the pot when cutting, clamp it in a vice (without shattering it!).
  • Turn on the saw and gently tap the rotating blade on the pot. Instead of attempting to drive the blade through the clay, apply even pressure. Etch into and then through the material, then run the blade carefully along the cut line.
  • Pour or spray in extra water as needed to prevent the pot from overheating.
  • With an 80-grit sanding block, carefully smooth away any sharp edges along the incision.

2. To chop a bigger pot, use an angle grinder. The setup and cutting method are very comparable to those of a rotary saw, but an angle grinder is considerably larger and more powerful! Wear protective equipment, wet the pot to reduce dust, etch through the terracotta with mild pressure, then sand away sharp edges using a sanding block.

  • Unlike a rotary saw, which you can handle with one hand, an angle grinder requires you to use both hands to hold it stable. Secure the pot in a vice without pressing it too firmly so you can manage the grinder with both hands.
  • A diamond cutting wheel attachment is ideal, but a masonry blade would suffice.
  • Because angle grinders are noisy, it’s a good idea to wear ear protection as well.

3. As a slower but more effective option, use a hacksaw with a carbide blade. If you have the time and endurance to cut the pot by hand, use a carbide hacksaw blade instead of a normal hacksaw blade. Rather of metal teeth, this blade cuts using grit (similar to sandpaper). To get the best results, wet the pot, put on safety gear, mark your cut, and clamp the pot in a vice. Cut the clay using long, even, steady back-and-forth strokes, using just enough pressure to chip away at it.

  • To change a hacksaw blade, turn the wingnut at the handle counterclockwise. Remove the old blade from the two retaining pins and slip the new blade onto the pins. Tighten the wingnut by twisting it clockwise.

So, what should I avoid using?

Power saws and handsaws with toothed blades should be avoided. The larger the blade’s teeth, the more likely they are to grab on the terracotta and shatter or flake sections off of it. Always use cutting tools that grind rather than tear into the terracotta.

  • Whether you’re using a rotary tool, angle grinder, or hand saw, use a cutting attachment intended to grind through materials like brick or glass, such as a diamond or carbide blade.

How do I remove the pot’s bottom?

Work your rotary saw or angle grinder slowly around the pot. Whether you use a cutting line or cut freehand, cut at least 1 in (2.5 cm) above the bottom of the pot to avoid the risk of it splitting. With your saw or grinder, cut a shallow channel into the terracotta, twist the pot slightly, continue etching the groove, and go around and around until you cut all the way through.

  • Cutting through the terracotta using an angle grinder will generally need 1-2 passes all the way around, and 2-3 passes with a rotary saw.
  • To make a more exact cut, secure the pot in a vice, or lay it on its side on the ground if you’re less concerned with accuracy.

Can I just reduce the pot in half?

Yes, etch the cut line with your saw or grinder, then gently split it. Mark a cut line that splits the pot in half and place it in a vice, cut side up. Using mild, steady pressure, etch along the cut line with your blade. Cut approximately half to two-thirds of the way into the clay. If the pot does not break in two as you finish etching it, hit it softly along the cut line with a tiny rubber mallet or similar item.

  • The pot is more likely to shatter and break apart if you cut entirely through the terracotta with a rotary saw or angle grinder.
  • Because the cut will not be fully clean, keep an eye out for jagged edges.

Can I carve or engrave decorations?

1. A portable engraver may be used to produce engravings. After cleaning and soaking the pot, apply the design(s) you wish to engrave using stencils (or just sketch by hand). Put on your protective equipment (gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask) and switch on the portable engraver. Using the pencil-like tip, scratch out the pattern to the desired depth. Wipe away the dust with a clean cloth.

  • Dremel is a well-known brand, but it is not your only choice for portable rotary saws.
  • Consider using a vice to keep the pot stable as you work.

2. Carve all the way through the terracotta using a portable engraver. The only major difference is that you want to continue pushing the portable engraver’s point into the terracotta until it punches through. After that, continue carving out your design using both the end and the side of the engraving tip. Although the high-speed engraver tip helps to smooth out some of the rough edges, you may need to use sandpaper after you’re finished.

  • This is a terrific technique to give your terracotta pots a jack-o-lantern look!

What if all I want to do is dig a hole?

Drill the hole carefully with a masonry bit and then widen it with larger bits. Soak the pot in water for at least 20 minutes, or perhaps overnight, to soften it and reduce dust. Place masking tape in an X form over the area where you wish to drill. Insert the smallest masonry bit you have into your power drill and steadily drill through the terracotta—just hard enough to prevent the bit from bouncing around.

  • If necessary, use your second-smallest masonry bit to enlarge the hole, and continue working your way through larger and larger bits until the hole is the size you want.
  • Wear safety goggles and work gloves just in case the pot breaks.
  • Remember to let the rotating drill bit do the work—trying to press the bit into the terracotta can break it!

How do I purposefully smash a pot?

For a semi-controlled break, use a scrap of wood and a hammer. To protect yourself against terracotta shards, put on safety glasses, work gloves, boots, and long sleeves and trousers. Hold the scrap of wood—for example, a piece of dimensional lumber—against the inner wall of the pot in the region where you wish to make the break. With your hammer, smack the outside of the pot, right opposite the wood scrap. You’ll almost certainly break off at least one bigger shard of terracotta, as well as numerous smaller pieces.

  • Cover the pot with a cloth to protect it from flying terracotta pieces.
  • You may be wondering why you would intentionally shatter a pot, however there are several crafts options for broken pots, such as the increasingly famous broken pot fairy garden!
  • If you want to create a fairy garden, break off one edge of the pot while leaving the bottom intact.

How can I construct a fairy garden out of shattered pots?

Fill the pot with shattered parts of the pot, dirt, plants, and fairy garden accessories. Fill the broken pot with soil approximately 1/4 of the way, then place the bigger and smaller potsherds (broken terracotta pieces) and add additional soil to make a wall, sloping area, and winding stairway. Add a few small plants (such as baby’s breath and blue curls) and a fairy-sized home, castle, or anything you choose.

  • Fairy-sized décor may be found online, at hobby stores, or even at aquarium dealers.
  • For ideas, look up “broken pot fairy garden” on the internet. Some of the instances you’ll see will astound you!

What should I do now that the pot has been shattered?

Don’t simply toss away broken ceramic pieces; repurpose them! If your pot is too crushed to produce a decent fairy garden, consider alternate methods to repurpose the fragments. Fill the bottom of your planter pots with terracotta shards, for example, to increase drainage. Alternatively, scatter the shards at the base of your plants to discourage squirrels from digging holes.

Broken parts of the top rim make excellent plant labels; just write the name of each item you planted on the shards and push them into the soil.
Just bear in mind that terracotta shards may be quite sharp, so use caution while handling them!

Similar Posts