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GUM, Aqualon, C.M.C., C. M. C.

Alternate Names: C.M.C.

The term CMC is generic and refers to organic sodium carboxymethylcellulose. Gums are used in ceramics to harden unfired ceramic glazes (cement the particles together) for safer handling of the ware. Highly fritted glazes (lacking clay content) used in factory settings benefit greatly from the addition of gum. Gum additions are often unnecessary if the glaze has natural hardening properties (i.e. from 20% or more clay). Gum is an important addition to stain mixes that are applied over-glaze by stamping or painting.

Gum can act as a suspending agent by virtue of the fact that it thickens the slurry, however the side effects may make the use other additives more attractive (i.e. an adequate amount of the right clay in the batch, bentonite). In fact CMC containing slurries sometimes do settle out more quickly; adding epsom salts or calcium chloride will help.

An important side effect of gum additions is that they cause slower drying. While this is advantageous for brushing glazes, it can make it very difficult to achieve an adequate glaze thickness and prevent drip marks. Dipping glazes work best if they are both naturally thixotropic and quick drying. Both of these properties can be detrimentally affected by gum additions.

Many people make a CMC gel by mixing 30-40 grams of powder per liter of water. This gel can then be used as part of the water amount when mixing glazes. Incorporating propylene glycol also can work well for making paintable stain mixes (i.e. 1 part thin gel with 1 part glycol).

Veegum CER is a mix of CMC and Veegum T.

Powdered gum can be very difficult to disperse in water thus it is difficult to add it to an existing liquid batch. However if gum powder is mixed with other dry ingredients before adding them to the water it can be done (often 0.5-1.5%). A much more effective method is to boil water, add about 25-35 grams of powdered gum per litre and mix vigorously with a mechanical mixer (it should thin out over time). This mixture must be added during mixing to replace part of the water. It is difficult to set a standard proportion because the amount of gum needed is totally dependent on the glaze's ability to harden. A starting point for glazes that powder or smudge excessively might be 1 part gum solution to 3 parts water. Performance of the mix compared with the side effects can then be evaluated and the proportion adjusted.

Organic binders need to burn away so of course they can cause some problems (e.g. pinholing in glazes). They need to burn away in such a fashion that the particles of mineral and frit are drawn into contact with each other to encourage reaction and prevent crawling.

Depending on time, temperature, pH, gum can be attacked by microbes or molds. If this happens store in a cooler place, make smaller batches, adjust the pH to make a less friendly environment, or add a biocide (i.e. Tektamer, NaN3). Many brush on glazes use CMC and can have a shelf life for this reason.

CMC gum trade name examples are Aqualon from Hercules, Gabrosa from Alzo Nobel.


What should the consistency of CMC gum solution be?

What should the consistency of CMC gum solution be?

This is CMC 35g/liter gum solution after it has been hot-mixed (using a mixer powerful enough to put plenty of energy into the solution without sucking air bubbles) and cooled to about 30C. As it cools further and sits it will thin and can be poured.

Gum content in glazes can have a dramatic effect on drying time

Gum content in glazes can have a dramatic effect on drying time

This is a low fire brushing glaze. It has been sitting on this plaster bat for two hours and shows little sign of dewatering. A typical pottery dipping glaze, by contrast, would dewater in seconds! Clearly, such glazes are only good for brushing.

Common dipping glazes converted to jars of brushing glazes

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.

How to convert a dipping glaze to a brushing glaze

How to convert a dipping glaze to a brushing glaze

I have a jar of testing clear glaze that I mixed myself (10% yellow stain and 2% zircopax added to cone 03 G2931K clear). Commercial glaze producers make their lines of glazes like this. The cost of the dry materials: About $6. How can I convert it to a paintable glaze like the commercial ones? I made a spreadsheet where I can specify the weight of the plastic jar, the percentage of CMC gum powder needed and the concentration of the 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). After filling in these numbers the sheet tells me what weight to evaporate the jar to and how much gum solution to mix in. It paints on just like a commercial glaze. But don't do this. I made another spreadsheet online (link below) based on starting from dry ingredients, adding the correct amount of water and gum solution. Of course, you need a good mixer to do this.

Underglaze decoration difficult to cover with clear overglaze

Underglaze decoration difficult to cover with clear overglaze

The underglaze was painted on to bisque ware and have not be fired on. This is a problem. It has a high gum content and has sealed the surface so the porous body underneath is unable to pull water out to dry it quickly. During the slow dry the little absorption that is taking place is generating air bubbles from below and these are producing bare spots. The solution is to either make your own underglaze having a lower gum content or decorate ware in the dry or leather hard stage so the bisque fire will neutralize the gum.

How much CMC gum powder is in the gum solution you buy?

How much CMC gum powder is in the gum solution you buy?

As it turns out, Laguna gum solution has 6.7%. We dried out 100 ml of the solution and were left with this residue on the bottom of the container.

CMC gum in the water is preventing this powder from slaking

CMC gum in the water is preventing this powder from slaking

Normally the powder would slake and settle to the bottom immediately. Mixing this requires a powerful mixer and plenty of time to remove all the lumps. The proportion of gum in the water amounts to 1.5% the total weight of the powder in the glaze.

Out Bound Links

In Bound Links

By Tony Hansen

XML for Import into INSIGHT

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <material name="CMC Gum" descrip="GUM, Aqualon, C.M.C., C. M. C." searchkey="C.M.C." loi="0.00" casnumber=""> </material>

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