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Sieve, screen, lawn

Sieves are usually made from bronze or stainless steel wires. They are available in varying degrees of fineness and sizes are quoted according to the size of the opening or in wires per inch. An 40-60 mesh sieve is normally required to screen glazes to make sure they have no coarse particles that could disrupt the fired surface. In order for a porcelain to fire speck-free it would normally need to pass a 200 mesh ( about 75 micron opening) or finer screen.


How small can clay crystals be?

Table salt crystals on a 60 mesh screen. It has an opening of 250 micro meters (these are the half of the crystals that passed this size). Notice on the right, several crystals are in the openings, about to fall through. Imagine that bentonite or ball clay crystals can be 0.1 um in diameter, that is 2500 times smaller on a side. That would be 2500x2500 on a layer the size of a salt crystal and the thickness of a clay crystal. Since the clay crystal is much thinner than wide, perhaps ten could stack to the same dimension. That means theoretically 2500x2500x25000 could pack into a grain of salt!

Precipitate can forms in firtted glazes, remember to screen it

Potters often store glazes for long periods so tiny spherical precipitate particles can form. These were found in a months-old bucket of G2926B (M370 clear) cone 6 clear glaze (about 2 gallons). These can appear over time, depending on factors like temperature, electrolytes in your water or solubility in the materials (likely, the frit is slightly soluble). The glaze slurry should be screened periodically (or immediately if you note the particles when glazing a piece). This is an 80 mesh screen. Note the brush, using one of these gets the glaze through the screen much quicker than using a rubber spatula.

Going to screen a glaze? Use the brush, not the spatula

Do you need to rescreen a glaze slurry. Using a brush like this you will be able to get it through the screen much faster. This is because the rubber edge forces particles into the screen openings, plugging them. The brush is gentler, the oversize material just rolls around on top. If you are screening a glaze for the first time, however, the spatula is better if there are agglomerated particles that need to be broken up (e.g. wollastonite, cornwall stone). When rescreening, any oversize particles (e.g. precipitates) should be discarded.

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By Tony Hansen

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