For me, the best time (and most efficient, as well) to handle pots is when they are 'leather-hard' (some people call it the cheese-hard) phase. Enough of the water has evaporated from the body of the pot, yet the clay is still not to the dry stage. I can stick a fingernail into the surface, or, more importantly, I can smooth, with firm pressure from my fingers, any areas which will be rough after the bisque firing.
|smoothing around the handle|
I really like to handle the pots at this time. There is something about the cool, smooth surface It is firm, but responsive, and not dry or scratchy. And it is when I make sure that all defects are fixed before the next stages. Here are some mug forms, --being made for an order---, in two of the stages.
|the foot, trimmed|
|A tray of finished, leather-hard mugs|
The first few photos show the leather-hard stage which is the final wet stage. The last is a photo of the thrown forms, having dried overnight under a plastic wrap, now continuing to firm up so that the bottoms can be trimmed.
|mugs drying out so that the feet may be trimmed|