Digitalfire Ceramic Glossary

•The secret to cool bodies and glazes is alot of testing.
•The secret to know what to test is material and chemistry knowledge.
•The secret to learning from testing is documentation.
•The place to test, do the chemistry and document is an account at
•The place to get the knowledge is

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Glaze Recipes

We have included this page to warn you about recipes that you find online. Be careful about wasting your time. And money. Do not think you will find a magic solution to all your dreams! What you will more likely find is alot of frustration and a stock of useless materials. Better to have two recipes you understand and can control than 50 renegades that put you through hell to use and keep consistent or just work sometimes.

Recipes are trafficked, often just taking space on pages. People pass them around without a thought. Or any knowledge of them. Having no documentation. Naked! The actual recipe is only one part of the puzzle to create functional and aesthetic ware. Recipes have advantages and disadvantages. Specific visual effects often come glazes that are very difficult to use and teeter on the edge of all sorts of precipices (e.g. blistering, crawling, pinholing, shivering or just running off the ware). Procedures are often specific to recipes. Recipes often have mechanisms (e.g. crystallization, high melt fluidity, metallic surfaces) that need to be understood and that rely on specialized materials, methods and firing procedures. That they do not document!

But published recipes are often, very often, simply wrong. Bad. Evil! They are nonsensical, have wildly crazy chemistries, use dangerous materials, fire to leach-prone surfaces, craze badly on any body, cutlery mark or stain easily. Understanding glazes is better. Save yourself money and frustration. Avoid a workshop full of orphan materials you will never use.

Imagine being able to look at a recipe online, recognize its mechanism, then just transplant that into a base recipe you already have, one you understand and have perfected over time to work in your production, in your kiln and one your bodies.

Look at some of the links on this page and go down a road that will lead you somewhere good!


Look at recipes before wasting time and money on them.

Are they serious? This is a cone 6 melt flow comparison between a matte recipe, found online at a respected website, and a well-fluxed glossy glaze we use often. Yes, it is matte. But why? Because it is not melted! Matte glazes used on functional surfaces need to melt well, they should flow like a glossy glaze. How does that happen? This recipe has 40% nepheline syenite. Plus lots of dolomite and calcium carbonate. These are powerful fluxes, but at cone 10, not cone 6! To melt a cone 6 glaze boron, zinc or lithia are needed. Boron is by far the most common and best general purpose melter for potters (it comes in frits and gerstley borate, colemanite or ulexite; industry uses more boron, zinc and lithia frits). The lesson: Look at recipes before trying them.

Yikes. Cutlery marking this bad on a popular glaze!

An example of how a spoon can cutlery mark a glaze. This is a popular middle temperature recipe used by potters. The mechanism of its matteness is a high percentage of zinc oxide that creates a well-melted glaze that fosters the growth of a mesh of surface micro-crystals. However these crystals create tiny angular protrusions that abrade metal, leaving a mark. Notice the other matte flow on the left (G2934), it not only has a better surface (more silky feel) but also melts much less (its mechanism is high MgO in a boron fluxed base).

A good matte glaze. A bad matte glaze.

A melt fluidity comparison between two cone 6 matte glazes. G2934 is an MgO saturated boron fluxed glaze that melts to the right degree, forms a good glass, has a low thermal expansion, resists leaching and does not cutlery mark. G2000 is a much-trafficked cone 6 recipe, it is fluxed by zinc to produce a surface mesh of micro-crystals that not only mattes but also opacifies the glaze. But it forms a poor glass, runs too much, cutlery marks badly, stains easily, crazes and is likely not food safe! The G2934 recipe is google-searchable and a good demonstration of how the high-MgO matte mechanism (from talc) creates a silky surface at cone 6 oxidation the same as it does at cone 10 reduction (from dolomite). However it does need a tin or zircon addition to be white.

Recipes without documentation. What is that about?

We find many body and glaze recipes on the internet. These almost always just sit there, taking screen space, not explaining themselves in any way. This is a flameware, made from a recipe promoted by a popular website. Are they serious? How could you throw this? Maybe it is possible, but we need an explanation. How could the page fail to mention how coarse this surface would be? How porous and weak ware would be?

Why does this glaze look like this? What are its mechanisms?

This is cone 6 an oxidation transparent glaze having enough flux (from a boron frit or Gerstley Borate) to make it melt very well, that is why it is running. Iron oxide has been added (around 5%) producing this transparent amber effect. Darker coloration occurs where the glaze has run thicker. These are all simple mechanisms, which, once understood, can be transplanted into other glazes. This glaze is also crazing. This commonly occurs when the flux used is high in K2O and Na2O (the highest expansion fluxing oxides). K2O and Na2O produce the brilliant gloss. They come from feldspars, nepheline syenite and are high in certain frits.

How do you turn a transparent glaze into a white?

Right: Ravenscrag GR6-A transparent base glaze. Left: It has been opacified (turned opaque) by adding 10% Zircopax. This opacification mechanism can be transplanted into almost any transparent glaze. It can also be employed in colored transparents, it will convert their coloration to a pastel shade, lightening it. Zircon works well in oxidation and reduction. Tin oxide is another opacifier, it is much more expensive and only works in oxidation firing.

Compare two glazes having different mechanisms for their matteness

These are two cone 6 matte glazes (shown side by side in an account at Insight-live). G1214Z is high calcium and a high silica:alumina ratio (you can find more about it by googling 1214Z). It crystallizes during cooling to make the matte effect and the degree of matteness is adjustable by trimming the silica content (but notice how much it runs). The G2928C has high MgO and it produces the classic silky matte by micro-wrinkling the surface, its matteness is adjustable by trimming the calcined kaolin. CaO is a standard oxide that is in almost all glazes, 0.4 is not high for it. But you would never normally see more than 0.3 of MgO in a cone 6 glaze (if you do it will likely be unstable). The G2928C also has 5% tin, if that was not there it would be darker than the other one because Ravenscrag Slip has a little iron. This was made by recalculating the Moore's Matte recipe to use as much Ravenscrag Slip as possible yet keep the overall chemistry the same. This glaze actually has texture like a dolomite matte at cone 10R, it is great. And it has wonderful application properties. And it does not craze, on Plainsman M370 (it even survived and 300F to ice water plunge without cracking). This looks like it could be a great liner glaze.

The rutile mechanism in glazes

2,3,4,5% rutile added to a 80:20 mix of Alberta Slip:Frit 3134 at cone 6. This variegating mechanism of rutile is well-known among potters. Rutile can be added to many glazes to variegate existing color and opacification.

Cone 6 glaze speckling mechanism

This cone 6 white opacified glaze has an addition pigment-bearing granular mineral to create speckle (e.g. illmenite, manganese granular, ironstone concretions). This speckling mechanism can be transplanted into almost any glaze. Unfortunately, the metallic particles that produce the speck are often heavy and settle quickly in the glaze slurry. This can be prevented somewhat by flocculating the slurry.

Tune your matte glaze to the degree of matteness you want

G2934 is a popular matte for cone 6 (far left). It is not matte because it is not melting enough or is covered with micro-crystals, it is an MgO matte (a mechanism produces a more pleasant surface that cutlery marks and stains less). But what if it is too matte for you? This recipe requires accurate firings, did your kiln really go to cone 6? Proven by a firing cone? If it did, then we need plan B: Add some glossy to shine it up a bit. I fired these ten-gram balls of glaze to cone 6 on porcelain tiles, they melted down into nice buttons that display the surface well. Top row proceeding right: 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% G2926B added (100% far right). Bottom: G2916F in the same proportions. The effects are similar but the top one produces a more pebbly surface.

Out Bound Links

By Tony Hansen

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