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Low Budget Testing of the Raw and Fired Properties of a Glaze

Section: Glazes, Subsection: General


There is more to glazes than their visual character, they have other physical properties like hardness, thermal expansion, leachability, chemistry and they exhibit many defects. Here are some simple tests.

Article Text

What if you could greatly increase the quality of your fired ware by only small changes? Would you do it? Testing it thoroughly is a key ingredient. But mention the idea of testing a glaze and 99% of us think in terms of dipping a test tile and firing it to see how it looks. Many have learned that there is often little correlation between how a glaze looks on a little test tile compared with how it looks when used on ware, thus they tend to put little effort into testing. However if you already have a glaze in production, or have made an adjustment to an existing one, you are likely willing to expend much more effort to evaluate it fully.

Raw and fired glazes exhibit many properties that both production and end users are knowingly or unknowingly concerned with. These include slurry properties, dry hardness, behavior of the melt, freezing characteristics, hardness and scratch resistance of the fired glass, compatibility of host glaze and added colorants, leach resistance, glaze fit with the body, clarity of the fired glass, etc. Certain factors such susceptibility to material change and varying firing conditions are more difficult to measure.

Most people and companies do not have fancy glaze testing equipment to evaluate these properties. It is to these that this article is directed, there is much you can do to greatly increase your confidence in the true 'quality' of your product. Testing your glaze thoroughly is doubly important if you are using one or two base glazes because, in a sense, you have all your 'quality eggs in one basket'. We 'hoot' a lot about the advantages of focusing your efforts on one base glossy and matte recipe and altering these to make whatever you want. Thus the following tests all assume and depend on the fact that you are testing the transparent base without any colorants, opacifiers, or other additives. Remember that improving the base improves every recipe that is based on it.

Here are some tests you should consider:

Feldspars, the primary high temperature flux, melt less than you think.

Feldspars, the primary high temperature flux, melt less than you think.

A cone 8 comparative flow tests of Custer, G-200 and i-minerals high soda and high potassium feldspars. Notice how little the pure materials are moving (bottom), even though they are fired to cone 11. In addition, the sodium feldspars move better than the potassium ones. But feldspars do their real fluxing work when they can interact with other materials. Notice how well they flow with only 10% frit added (top), even though they are being fired three cones lower.

Measuring slip viscosity the easy way

Measuring slip viscosity the easy way

A Ford Cup being using to measure the viscosity of a casting clip. These are available at paint supply stores. It drains water in 10 seconds. This casting slip has a specific gravity of 1.79 and we target a 40-second drain. Maintenance of viscosity and specific gravity are vital to an efficient process in slip casting.

A batch of fired clay test bars in the Plainsman Clays lab

A batch of fired clay test bars in the Plainsman Clays lab

A batch of fired test bars that have just been boiled and weighed, from these we get dry shrinkage, fired shrinkage and porosity. Each pile is a different mix, fired to various temperatures. Test runs are on the left, production runs on the right. Each bar is stamped with an ID and specimen number (the different specimens are the different temperatures) and the measurements have all be entered into our group account at insight-live.com. Now I have to take each pile and assess the results to make decisions on what to do next (documenting these in insight-live).

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By Tony Hansen

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