We compare and contrast the washer and shell method.

Bringing it all together

We have seen two different techniques that can be used to find the volume of a solid of revolution. We summarize the washer and shell method side by side.

Washer Method Shell Method






Orientation of slices: perpendicular to the axis parallel to the axis
For vertical slices:
For horizontal slices:
Geometric quantities: - outer radius - shell radius
- inner radius - length of slice

We find the geometric quantities by noting the following.

  • The outer radius is the distance from the axis of revolution to the outer curve.
  • The inner radius is the distance from the axis of revolution to the inner curve.
  • The shell radius is the distance from the axis of rotation to the representative slice.
  • The length is the height of a vertical slice or the width of a horizontal slice.

Given a region of revolution and an axis of revolution there are three important pieces of information that ultimately must be considered to set up an integral or sum of integrals that gives the volume of the corresponding solid of revolution.

  • The variable of integration ( or )
  • The method (washer or shell)
  • The type of slice (vertical or horizontal)

An important observation is that given any one of these three pieces of information, the others immediately follow. Here are a few examples.

Here is an example in which we are given the method.

Sometimes, we only want to find the volume of a solid of revolution and we are not given the method nor the variable of integration. In this case, choosing the type of slice that is more convenient to use in the region of revolution is a good idea.

“Education is not the leaning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” - Albert Einstein