In North America, the hobby pottery community has transformed in recent years toward the use of commercially prepared, gummed, paint-on glazes. Almost all potters in the past made their own glazes but now many have embraced the use of small bottles of paint-on glazes for some or all of their ware. Web sites selling pottery equipment and supplies (and physical stores) often feature glazes very prominently (a reflection of how popular and lucrative these are). You can make your own brushing glazes (see below).
How to convert a dipping glaze to a brusing glaze
I have a jar of clear glaze that I mixed myself (it has 10% yellow stain and 2% zircopax added). The cost of the dry materials: About $6. How can I convert it to a paintable glaze like the commercial ones I buy for $20 a jar? I made a spreadsheet to do it for me. It knows the weight of the plastic jar, the percentage of CMC gum I want to use and the concentration of the Laguna Clay gum solution. I just need to weigh the jar of glaze (without lid), weigh a teaspoon of the liquid glaze (lower left), dry it (upper right) and weigh the dry (lower right). Then I plug these numbers into the sheet and it tells me what weight I need to evaporate the jar to (to remove water) and how much gum solution to mix in. The result works just like a commercial glaze. And I know the recipe and can make larger amounts of the dipping version.
I have 161 grams of stain. I need to mix it into how much clear glaze slurry?
Stain powders are expensive. I want to make as much glaze as I can from every gram of this red stain I have at hand. I have weighed a teaspoon of the liquid slurry, dried it out under a heat lamp and weighed it again (top left). I have filled those two weights, 8.9 and 4.74, into a spreadsheet I made. It calculates the proportions of water and powder in the glaze slurry. I have filled in "10" for the percent of stain needed. It is telling me I need to mix the stain into 3040 grams of the liquid glaze. That gives me about 5 pints of glorious bright-red dipping glaze. The dipping process enables me to apply it so much more evenly than I can do by paint-on methods (provided that I have the right specific gravity and thixotropy). And, I got this much glaze for about $50 worth of dry materials (vs. $20 for a pint of paint-on glaze).
Common dipping glazes converted to jars of brushing glazes
These are cone 6 Alberta Slip recipes that have been brushed onto the outsides of these mugs (three coats). Recipes are GA6C Rutile Blue on the outside of the left mug, GA6F Alberta Slip Oatmeal on the outside of the center mug and GA6F Oatmeal over G2926B black on the outside of the right mug). One-pint jars were made using 500g of glaze powder, 75g of Laguna CMC gum solution (equivalent to 1 gram gum per 100 glaze powder) and 280g of water. Using a good mixer you can produce a silky smooth slurry of 1.6 specific gravity, it works just like the commercial bottled glazes. The presence of the gum makes it unnecessary to calcine the Alberta Slip.
Stains added to a base glaze can change its melt fluidity. Adjust the base.
At the top is a melt-flow ball of a cone 6 satin matte glaze, G2934. Left bottom: 8% 6213 Mason Hemlock green stain added. The color is good but it is not melting as much and the surface is more matte. A solution is to adjust the base: employ a 90:10 or 80:20 matte:glossy blend to give it better fluidity. Right bottom: 8% 6385 Mason Pansy Purple stain added. The percentage of stain appears to be a little low and its surface is a little too matte. Again, blend a some glossy clear in the the matte base to shine it up a little.
Dip-glazing vs. brush-on glazing: Which gives the more even surface?
This is a clear glaze (G2931K) with 10% purple stain (Mason 6385). The mugs are cone 03 porcelain (Zero3). The mug on the left was dipped (at the bisque stage) into a slurry of the glaze (having an appropriate specific gravity and thixotropy). The glaze dried in seconds. The one on the right was painted on (two layers). Like any paint-on glaze, it contains 1% CMC Gum. Each layer required several minutes of application time and fifteen minutes of drying time.
Brush-on commercial pottery glazes are perfect? Not quite!
Paint-on glazes are great sometimes. But they are even greater if you know the recipe, then you can make more and make a dipping version for all the times when that is the better way to apply. Why is that better? Because you have a huge advantage over a glaze manufacturer: You already have clear glossy and matte base recipes that fit and work on your clay body. You can add the stains and opacifiers to these (with 1% gum to make them paintable) and make your own jars. Don't have base recipes??? Let's get started developing them with an account at insight-live.com (and the know-how you will find there)!
Commercial glazes may not work on your clay body
Left: Plainsman M390. Right M370 porcelain. The bottom two samples are a popular ultra clear commercial bottled glaze that costs about $13/pint. On the porcelain, it is crazing. On the red clay it is saturating with micro-bubbles and going totally cloudy and even a satin surface (it should be like the transparent above it). It is likely very high in boron and melting too early. Whose fault is this? No ones. This glaze is simply not compatible with these two bodies.
My clear glaze outside. Commercial white inside. But a big problem!
I know my outside glaze recipe fits this terra cotta. It does not shiver on sudden heating or craze on sudden cooling. And I have a gallon so I can dip-glaze the outside and it dries perfectly even in seconds. But that inside glaze? It is under too much compression, so much so that it is literally forcing the piece apart (that crack exploded onto the scene with a loud ping the day after firing). But I do not know the recipe. And I had to paint it on in three coats. The painting was difficult and it took ten minutes to dry each coat. And its surface is not as good as mine. A better way would have been to simply add 10-15% Zircon to my clear recipe. That would have been simple to pour in and pour out to apply. Or I could make my own pint-jar of paint-on from 450g glaze, 50g zircopax, 75g gum solution and 280g water.
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