In ceramics, the zone of adherence between glaze to the underlying body is called the clay-glaze interface. The integrity of this interface is important to strength and functionality. In porcelains it is much more highly developed than in earthenwares. In the latter the glaze, although melted well, is in contact with a body that is developing no glass and has little strength. Thus the mechanism of the bond is simply the roughness of the body surface (where the glaze can hang on) and the collective strength of that roughness. With porcelain, the glaze is able to form a bond the spans across the boundary in body directions, creating a interfacial zone of changing microstructure. Needless to say, this bond is almost unbreakable. Other types of bodies from bonds that are somewhere between these two extremes. The better bond of higher temperature and more vitreous bodies makes it possible for the system to withstand greater differences in thermal expansion between glaze and body without crazing or shivering. By contract, earthenwares shiver and craze easily.
Cross section view of the inside and outside glazed walls of a porcelain vessel
Porcelains look much more glassy and melted than you might expect when viewed close up (this is cone 6 Polar Ice from Planisman Clays). The development of the glassy phase within the body creates a very good bond with the glaze. Actually it is a bonding zone where the glaze has melted into the body enough to create a transition rather than just a point of contact. The degree to which this transition develops determines the integrity of the bond. Of course, with porcelains it is far better developed than with stonewares and terra cottas.
Solving a difficult shivering problem
This demonstrates the difficulty you can encounter when trying to get an engobe working with a clay body. Here the slip/glaze is flaking off the rim of pieces at cone 04 (does not happen at 06). The front bi-clay bar demonstrates the white and red clays dry well together (the slight curve happened on the drying). They also fire well together (the curvature did not change on firing). The back two thin bars seem to demonstrate thermal expansion compatibility: a thick layer of glaze is not under enough compression to curve either bar during firing. While the white clay contains 15% frit and forms a good bond with the red body, that bond is not nearly as good as the one between the glaze and the white slip. Yet it is still flaking off the rim at the slip/body interface. Why? At first it seemed that failure was happening at quartz inversion (because the body had less quartz than the white slip). However now it appears that the combination of compressions of the slip and glaze are sufficient to break the slip-body bond on convex contours. The compression of the slip and glaze likely did not demonstrate well on the bars because at this low a temperature they are not vitreous enough to be easily curled.
How to test drying and firing compatibility between engobe and body
I have made bi-body strips for testing to tune a white slip for a terra cotta clay body (about 4 mm thick). They need to shrink a similar amount in drying and firing to be as compatible as possible. Here, the white body needs more plastic clay or a bentonite addition to shrink more. It also needs a little less frit or a coarser silica to shrink a little less on firing (pending porosity tests to match their fired density). Amazingly, the fired bars break much more easily one way that the other, because on one side the clay is being stretched (and ceramic does not do well under tension).
A non-vitreous body can have a very poor bond with the glaze
This glaze is on very thick. That gives it the power to impose its thermal expansion (which is different that the body) to the point where it literally flakes off. The problem is worsened when the glaze and body lack fluxes, that means they do not interact, no glassy interface is formed.
The green underglaze is failing on impact
This is a low fire fritted stoneware fired to cone 03. But it still has about 4% porosity. The green underglaze is not developing enough glass to bond well with the body surface. Repeated blows to the surface by a hammer are chipping off chunks of glaze/underglaze at the bond with the body. This is not happening with the other underglazes. The green underglaze is obviously more refractory than the others and should be reformulated.
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