Emeralds Mix


Feldspar Sphere

Feldspar W Hornblende

Flint Stones

Fluorapatite On Apatite

Fluorite Apatite

Fluorite Calcium Sphere

Laboradite Feldspar

Labradorite Gem Feldspar

Labradorite Feldspar

Lazulite Siderite Quartz

Lithium Crystal

Llanite Basalt


Mica Star

Muscovite Mica

Muscovite Stone2

Muscovite Stone

Muscovite Star Mica

Orthoclase Crystals

Orthoclase In Granodiorite

Orthoclase Feldspar Rock

Peridot In Basalt

Petalite Rock

Petalite Stone

Phonolite Rutile

Quartz Sphalerite

Quartz Egg

Quartz Rock Rose

Quartz Stalactite

Quartz Black

Quartz Blue 2

Quartz Blue

Quartz Clear Crystals

Quartz Clear

Quartz Green Prasiolite

Quartz Pink

Quartz Rose Crystals

Quartz Rose

Quartz Rutilated

Quartz Smoky

Quartzite W Gold

Rutilated Quartz

Rutilated Quartz2

Rutile Crystals

Rutilite Slices

Serpentine Soapstone

Soapstone Steatite Carving

Sodalite Quartz Pebbles

Spodumene Kunsite

Spodumene ore: Typically refiners want 6% or more LiO2 content.

Tourmaline On Feldspar

Zeolite Stellerite Crystals


Andalusite Cross In Rock

Apatite In Calcite

Almand Cleveland Muscov-ite

Apatite Crystals

Aquamarine On Feldspar

Augite Feldspar


Bismuth Crystals

Aquamarine Muscovite Albite

Beryl Feldspar Mica

Calcite W Apatite

Chrysocolla-veined Feldspar

Copper In Calcite

Copper Phosphate2

Corundum On Feldspar

Crocoite Red 2

Crocoite Red


Dioptase Crystals

Diorite Trachyte

Dolomite Crystals

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.

Two glazes, same chemistry, different materials. The glaze on the left is sourcing CaO from wollastonite, the one on the right from calcium carbonate. Thus the oxide chemistry of the two is the same but the recipe of materials sourcing that chemistry is different. The difference in the melt flow you see here is an expression of how choosing different mineral sources to source an oxide can produce melting patterns that go outside what the chemistry suggests. The difference here is not extreme, but it can be much more. Glaze chemistry is relative, not absolute. It works best when you are changing material amounts, not material types. When you do introduce a very different mineral then you have a different system which has its own relative chemistry.

This Nepheline Syenite flow test did not demonstrate much of a difference in melting at cone 9 between 270 and 400 mesh materials.

The same glaze with MgO sourced from a frit (left) and from talc (right). The glaze is 1215U. Notice how much more the fritted one melts, even though they have the same chemistry. Frits are predictable when using glaze chemistry, it is more absolute and less relative. Mineral sources of oxides impose their own melting patterns and when one is substituted for another to supply an oxide in a glaze a different system with its own relative chemistry is entered. But when changing form one frit to another to supply an oxide or set of oxides, the melting properties stay within the same system and are predictable.

New is a high temperature red burning fireclay. These fired test bars show how high the iron content is, turning it bright red at all temperatures, even cone 10R (top bar). Other bars are cone 11, 10, 9 and 8 oxidation (top to bottom). Notice it does have some soluble salts that darken the color in reduction.

Alberta Slip in the common 11% lithium and 4% tin Albany slip cone 6 glaze.

The recipe contains 6% red iron oxide. The chemistry is high alumina (from 45 feldspar and 20 kaolin), zero silica silica (4:1 Al2O3:SiO2 ratio) and 20% calcium carbonate. The remainder is a little talc and calcium phosphate. The reduced iron is fluxing what would otherwise be a very matte surface. Reducing the iron percentage to 4% produces a yellow mustard color.

95% Alberta Slip plus 4% iron at cone 10R

Copper can produce bright red glazes in correct reduction firing

10% lithium and 4% tin do this to an otherwise transparent dull brown Alberta Slip.

Metallic oxides with 50% Ferro frit 3134 in crucibles at cone 6ox. Chrome and rutile have not melted, copper and cobalt are extremely active melters. Cobalt and copper have crystallized during cooling, manganese has formed an iridescent glass.

Two runs of Alberta slip plus 20% frit 3134 in a flow test comparison at cone 6.

Cone 10R beanpot glazed with Alberta Slip (100%).

Lithium, albany glaze at cone 5 using original albany slip

This is what about 10% iron and some titanium and rutile can do in a transparent base glaze with slow cooling at cone 10R on a refined porcelain.

Floating Blue is a popular cone 6 glaze recipe used by the pottery community. Gerstley Borate is a material commonly used in recipes as a melter. The recipe produces a variegated surface but is difficult to replicate since its fragile mechanism makes it susceptible to variations in thickness, firing schedule, clay body and material supplies.

Natural Red Iron Oxide powder

TGA/DTA curve showing weight loss over temperature range

Chemistry of Mysorine

Courtesy of Angela Walford.

Fired to cone 10 oxidation. Although feldspar is a key melter in high and medium temperature glazes, by itself it does not melt as much as one might expect.

This is a melt fluidity test fired to cone 10. By themselves, feldspar melts surprisingly less than you might think at cone 10.

A cone 8 comparative flow tests of Custer, G-200 and i-minerals high soda and high potassium feldspars. Notice how little the pure materials are moving (bottom), even though they are fired to cone 11. In addition, the sodium feldspars move better than the potassium ones. But feldspars do their real fluxing work when they can interact with other materials. Notice how well they flow with only 10% frit added (top), even though they are being fired three cones lower.

Cone 10 reduction fired crystallizing kaki glaze (about 12% iron oxide).

Fired on a porcelain in a gas kiln.

The glaze is a dolomite matte fired to cone 10R. High fire reduction is among the best processes to exploit the variegating magic of rutile.

Polymer plates are used in letter press and can still be purchased online (e.g. boxcarpress.com). Just create the artwork in a vector graphic drawing program and upload it to their website. Press it into a thin slab (using some sort of oil as a parting agent) and then attach that using slip to the item. After the piece is bisque fired apply the color and wipe it away from the high spots using a sponge. This is a celadon cone 10R glaze (about 3.5% iron oxide) on a buff firing reduction stoneware with G1947U transparent liner glaze. The brown in the logo is a tenmoku.

An illmenite colored glaze (GR6-H) at cone 6 oxidation

By Tony Hansen

Closeup of a crystalline glaze by Fara Shimbo. Crystals of this type can grow very large (centimeters) in size. They grow because the chemistry of the glaze and the firing have been tuned to encourage them. This involves melts that are highly fluid (lots of fluxes) with added metal oxides and a catalyst. The fluxes are normally B2O3, K2O and Na2O (from frits), the catalyst is zinc oxide (alot of it). Because Al2O3 stiffens glaze melts preventing crystal growth, it is very low in these glazes (clays and feldspars supply Al2O3, so these glazes have almost none). The firing has a highly controlled cooling cycle involving rapid descents and holds (sometimes multiple cycles of these). Between the cycles there are sometimes slight rises. Each discontinuity in the cooling curve creates specific effects in the crystal growth. Thousands of potters worldwide have investigated the complexities of the chemistry, the firing and the infinite range of metal oxides additions.

The top bar is a mix of calcium carbonate and a middle temperature stoneware clay (equal parts). On removal from the kiln it appears and behaves like a normal stoneware clay body, hard and strong. However, pour water on it and something incredible happens: in a couple of minutes it disintegrates. With lots of heat.

This bowl was made by Tony Hansen in the middle to late 1970s. The body was H41G (now H441G), it had large 20 mesh iron stone concretions that produced very large iron blotches in reduction firing. Luke Lindoe loved to use these clays to show off the power of the cone 10 reduction firing process that he was promoting in the 1960s and 70s.

These are two 10 gram balls of Worthington Clear glaze fired at cone 03 on terra cotta tiles (55 Gerstley Borate, 30 kaolin, 20 silica). On the left it contains raw kaolin, on the right calcined kaolin. The clouds of finer bubbles (on the left) are gone from the glaze on the right. That means the kaolin is generating them and the Gerstley Borate the larger bubbles. These are a bane of the terra cotta process. One secret of getting more transparent glazes is to fire to temperature and soak only long enough to even out the temperature, then drop 100F and soak there (I hold it half an hour).

These recipes have the same chemistry but the 1215U uses frit to source the MgO and CaO. This demonstrates that it is not just chemistry that determines melt flow. Raw materials are crystalline and have different melting patterns than frits (which have already been melted and reground).

This melt flow tester demonstrates how zircon opacifys but also stiffens a glaze melt at cone 6. Zircon also hardens many glazes, even if used in smaller amounts than will opacify.

Albany Slip was a pure mined material, Alberta Slip is a recipe of mined materials and refined minerals designed to have the same chemistry, firing behavior and raw physical appearance.

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Examples of various sized grogs from CE Minerals, Christy Minerals, Plainsman Clays. Grogs are added to clays, especially those used for sculpture, hand building and industrial products like brick and pipe (to improve drying properties). The grog reduces the drying shrinkage and individual particles terminate micro-cracks as they develop (larger grogs are more effective at the latter, smaller at the former). Grogs having a narrower range of particle sizes (vs. ones with a wide range of sizes) are often the most effective additions. Grogs having a thermal expansion close to that of the fired body, a low porosity, lighter color and minimal iron contamination are the most sought after (and the most expensive).

Examples of some different silica sands

Fired to cone 13 in a Manabigama wood fired kiln.

This is a Lincoln 60 fireclay drying disk (that has been fired to cone 10R). It has near zero-porosity and is dense and very strong. It is like a stoneware clay, quite vitreous.

However this version employ Ferro Frit 3195 instead of Frit 3134 to flux the Alberta Slip. Polar Ice is a cone 6 super white translucent porcelain from Plainsman Clays.

Materials are not always what their name suggests. These are Lincoln Fireclay test bars fired from cone 6-11 oxidation and 10 reduction (top). The clay vitrifies progressively from cone 7 upward (3% porosity at cone 7 to 0.1% by cone 10 oxidation and reduction, bloating by cone 11). Is it a really fireclay? No.

The referred to surface is the outside of this large bowl. The base glaze (inside and out) is GA6-D Alberta Slip glaze fired at cone 6 on a buff stoneware. The thinness of the rutile needs to be controlled carefully, the only practical method to apply it is by spraying. The dramatical effect is a real testament to the variegating power of TiO2. An advantage of this technique is the source: Titanium dioxide instead of sourcing TiO2 from the often troublesome rutile.

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.

Rutile variegates glaze surfaces. But it also opacifies at higher percentages. The blue effect is a product of crystallization that occurs during cooling, it is thus dependent on a slower cooling cycle, especially above 1400C. This is GA6-C Alberta Slip glaze with 4, 5 and 6% rutile. At 6% the rutile crystallization has advanced to the point of completely opacifying the glaze. At 5% the blue is still strong, even on a buff burning body. The loss of color occurs suddenly, somewhere between 5 and 6 percent. Rutile chemistry varies from batch to batch. The blue develops differently on different bodies. So do you want to play "at the edge", with 5% in the glaze, in view of these other factors and the finicky firing curve needed. Change in any of which could push it into the blueless zone?

Alberta Slip with 20% added frit 3134 (left) fired to cone 6 on a porcelain. This is the standard GA6-A recipe. On the right 20% frit 3249 has been used instead. That is a low expansion frit so if you have crazing with the standard recipe, consider trying this one.

Copper oxide (2%) added to an otherwise stable cone 6 glaze fluxes it considerably

Since iron oxide is a flux in reduction, overglaze iron based pigments run if applied to thickly

These glazes are both 80% Alberta Slip, but the one on the right employs 20% Ferro Frit 3249 accelerate the melting (whereas the left one has 20% Frit 3134). Even though Frit 3249 is higher in boron and should melt better, its high MgO stiffens the glaze melt denying the mobility needed for the crystal growth.

Queenston shale fired bars from cone 06 to cone 4. The top two bars are cone 2 and 4, the third from the top is cone 02.

An example of how the same dolomite cobalt blue glaze fires much darker in oxidation than reduction. But the surface character is the same. A different base glaze having the same colorant might fire much more similar. The percentage of colorant can also be a factor in how similar they will appear. The identity of the colorant is important, some are less prone to differences in kiln atmosphere. Color interactions are also a factor. The rule? There is none, it depends on the chemistry of the host glaze, which color and how much there is.

Particles from each category in a particle size distribution test of Skagit Fireclay

Ball clays are normally refractory, none of these are vitrified to any extent. The cone 10R bar is yellow because it is stained by the soluble salts present in the material.

An example of what 5% tin oxide does in a transparent boron cone 6 glaze (G2884) on a dark firing clay body

This is the same Alberta Slip glaze at cone 6, except the one on the right has 4% tin added (Alberta Slip 80, Frit 3134 20, Rutile 4).

You add up to 5% manganese dioxide. The base recipe is G2571A. The clay body is a buff burning stoneware having iron speckle. The quality of the surface is excellent and it is durable.

The oxidation bars (lower) are typical of most ball clays. They burn off-white and darken slightly in color as they approach maturity (above cone 10). Ball clays are fairly refractory, often as much more more than common fireclays. Ball clays almost always have some soluble salts and these reveal themselves in reduction firing (top bar).

PV Clay is an unusual material, having the flux of a feldspar and the plasticity of a clay along with enough quartz to make it a casting porcelain all by itself.

Ball clay and kaolin test bars side-by-side fired from cone 9-11 oxidation and 10 reduction.

This cone 10R glaze, a tenmoku with about 12% iron oxide, demonstrates how iron turns to a flux in reduction firing and produces a glaze melt that is much more fluid. In oxidation, iron is refractory and does not melt well (this glaze would be completely stable on the ware in an oxidation firing at the same temperature, and much lighter in color).

How can there be so many colors? Because iron and oxygen can combine in many ways. In ceramics we know Fe2O3 as red iron and Fe3O4 as black iron (the latter being the more concentrated form). But would you believe there are 6 others (one is Fe13O19!). And four phases of Fe2O3. Plus more iron hydroxides (yellow iron is Fe(OH)3).

The Redart clay bars (left) are fired at cones 06, 04, 2, 4 & 5 (top to bottom). The Plainsman Blue Grey Plastic bars (right) are fired at 06, 04, 03, 02, 2 & 4. The SHAB test procedure (used to make these) gives us the firing shrinkage and porosity at each temperature, these are direct indicators of the fired maturity. Notice how much the fired color changes with increasing temperature. The fired maturity is pretty similar but the BGP is a little browner in color. It is also much more plastic (the drying shrinkage quite a bit higher).

Low temperature clays are far more likely to have this issue. And if present, it is more likely to be unsightly. The salt-free specimens have 0.35% added barium carbonate.

This is a ball clay. They are known to produce this type of soluble salts when fired at high temperature reduction (the inner salt-free section is such because that part of the tile was covered during drying, so the soluble salts from there had to migrate to the outer exposed edge). If soluble salts fire to a glassy surface they can affect the overlying glaze. But in this case they are not and have a minimal effect.

Light magnesium carbonate has been added to a low temperature terra cotta white glaze (about 10%). It induces crawling. It also mattes the glaze because it sources MgO.

These are very hard, high in iron and can be as large as volkswagens. Tiny iron concretion particles cause specking in fired ware, especially in reduction.

This is an example of two types of crystals that have formed on the surface of a fritted glaze after a long period of storage (Ferro Frit 3249 in this case). Frits are formulated to give chemistries that natural materials cannot supply. To do that they have to push the boundaries of stability (solubility). Any frit that has an inordinately high amount (compared to natural sources) of a specific oxide (in this case MgO) or lacks Al2O3 (like Frit 3134) are suspect.

An example of variegation on a tile surface that occurred when using raw manganese dioxide (likely due to gassing)

5 different brand names of iron oxide at 4% in G1214W cone 5 transparent glaze. The specks are not due to particle size, but differences in agglomeration of particles. Glazes employing these iron oxides obviously need to be sieved to break down the clumps.

Five different brand names of iron oxide at 4% in G1214W cone 5 transparent glaze. The glazes have been sieved to 100 mesh but remaining specks are still due to agglomeration of particles, not particle size differences.

Both of them employ raw bentonite to augment the plasticity and both have about 50% kaolin in the recipe. The Grolleg body requires more bentonite (because it is much less plastic than #6 tile). In spite of the fact that the raw bentonite has a high iron content and it darkens the color, the Grolleg porcelain is still much whiter.

An example of how iron stone concretions contained within two clay bodies (a white and brown stoneware) blossom and produce speckle at cone 10 reduction.

PV Clay normally this fires very vitreous. It has had some variation in the degree of vitrification.

Fired from cone 8-11 and 10 reduction (bottom to top).

The rutile blue variegation effect is fragile. It needs the right melt fluidity, the right chemistry and the right cooling (during firing). This is Alberta Slip GA6C recipe on the right (normal), the glaze melt flows well due to a 20% addition of Ferro Frit 3134 (a very low melting glass). On the left Boraq has been used as the flux (it is a calcium borate and also melts low, but not as low as the frit). It also contains significant MgO. These two factors have destroyed the rutile blue effect!

This is Alberta Slip (GA6C) on the left. Added frit is melting the Alberta Slip clay to it flows well at cone 6 and added rutile is creating the blue variegated effect (in the absence of expensive cobalt). However GA6D (right) is the same glaze with added Tin Oxide. The tin completely immobilizes the rutile blue effect, it brings out the color of the iron (from the rutile and the body).

Example of 5% black iron oxide (left), red iron oxide (center) and yellow iron oxide (right) added to G1214W glaze, sieved to 100 mesh and fired to cone 8. The black is slightly darker, the yellow has no color? Do you know why?

The first is on GA6-A, the rest are on GA6-C (Alberta slip glazes). The last has been applied too thickly, the brown band is dry and blistered.

Plainsman M2 (left) vs. Redart (right). These bars are fired cone 04, 02, 2, 3, 4 (top to bottom). Fired color is almost identical. M2 has a little more soluble salts and is more plastic (although still not as plastic as a typical pottery clay). Redart will make a good casting slip which M2 does not deflocculate well.

This has produced a defect free fired surface at cone 6 oxidation on a dark and light burning clay body. To get this type of surface for stoneware bodies it is important to soak the kiln at cone 6, then cool it 100 degrees F and soak it again for half an hour. For coarser clays it is also helpful to program a 200 degree per hour cool all the way down to 1500F.

At cone 5R pure Alberta Slip (left) is beginning to melt and flow down the runway of this tester. It is producing a matte gunmetal surface. Pure Ravenscrag Slip (right) is just starting (it needs frit to develop melt fluidity at this temperature). The iron in the Alberta Slip is melting it because of the reduction atmosphere in the kiln (it does not move like this in oxidation).

Cone 5 GR6-A glaze at cone 5R on Plainsman M340 (left) and pure Ravenscrag Slip at cone 10R on H550 (right).

It was spray applied on the dried bowl (no bisque fire) an was too thick (not to mention under fired). But the main problem was a glaze recipe having too high a clay content. If a glaze has more than about 25% clay, consider a mix of the raw clay and calcined. For example, you can buy calcined kaolin to mix with raw kaolin. Or you can calcine the clay in bowls in your kiln by firing it to about 1200F.

Alberta slip GA6A glaze (with 20% frit 3134) firing at cone 5R (left) compared to a slow cooled iron crystal glaze firing in oxidation (right).

The stated particle size of a material and fired appearance can both be misleading. For example, these are Volclay 325 bentonite particles fired to cone 8 oxidation. They are from a water washed sieve analysis test, the oversize particles from a 325 mesh screen (left) make up 2% of the total and 1% are from the 200 mesh screen (right). Although the 325 particles appear ominously dark, individually they are likely to small to produce apparent fired specks in a porcelain. However 200 mesh sizes can produce visible fired specks, but that fraction of oversize does not have nearly as high iron or flux content. Still, the finer darker particles could agglomerate, it might be better to use a cleaner bentonite to plasticize a porcelain.

Example of various materials mixed 75:25 with volclay 325 bentonite and fired to cone 9. Plasticities and diring shrinkages vary widely. Materials normally acting as fluxes (like dolomite, talc, calcium carbonate) are refractory here because they are fired in the absence of materials they react normally with.

Examples of calcium carbonate (top) and dolomite (both mixed with 25% bentonite to make them plastic enough to make a test bars). They are fired to cone 9. Both bars are porous and refractory, even powdery. However, put either of these in a mix with other ceramic minerals and they interact strongly to become fluxes.

It fumes a glassy glaze onto nearby test bars at cone 10R. This fumed glaze layer on the other bars is thick enough to craze and is transparent and glossy. Any ideas why this happens? Please let me know.

A comparison of the plasticity of Volclay 325 Bentonite:Silica 25:75 (top) and Hectalite 200:Silica 50:50. Both are mixed with silica powder. The latter (a highly refined bentonite) is much less plastic even though it is double the percentage in the recipe.

These bars have been fired at cones 4, 2, 02, 04 (top to bottom) using the SHAB testing procedure. We can measure fired shrinkage and porosity in each to get an indication of their fired maturity. The Redart (left) is much more vitreous and reaches almost zero porosity by cone 4 whereas the Lizella still has 11% porosity at cone 4. Lizella also has a much higher drying shrinkage because it is way more plastic. Two red clays could not be much more different than these yet sometimes they are substituted for each other in recipes!

GR10-G Silky magnesia matte cone 10R (Ravenscrag 100, Talc 10, Tin Oxide 4). This is a good example silky matte mechanism of high MgO. The Ravenscrag:Talc mix produces a good silky matte, the added tin appears to break the effect at the edges.

Electron micrograph showing Dragonite Halloysite needle structure. For use in making porcelains, Halloysite has physical properties similar to a kaolin. However it tends to be less plastic, so bodies employing it need more bentonite or other plasticizer added. Compared to a typical kaolin it also has a higher fired shrinkage due to the nature of the way its particles densify during firing. However, Dragonite and New Zealand Halloysites have proven to be the whitest firing materials available, they make excellent porcelains.

Alberta slip cone 6 base (80:20 with frit 3134) plus 4% rutile

The 80:20 base Alberta slip base becomes oatmeal when over saturated with rutile or titanium (left:6% rutile, 3% titanium; right:4% rutile, 2% titanium right). That oatmeal effect is actually the excess titanium crystallizing out of solution in the melt as the kiln cools. Although the visual effects can be interesting, the micro-crystalline surface is often susceptible to cutlery marking and leaching. This is because the crystals are not as stable or durable as the glass of the glaze.

The two top clay bars contain 15% hydrous borax. At cone 06, a very low temperature, it has already melted and drained out of the bars, running down over the others as a glass.

This shows the soluble salts in the material and the characteristic cracking pattern of a low plasticity clay. Notice the edges have peeled badly during cutting, this is characteristic of very low plasticity.

This is a cone 11 oxidation melt flow test. Shown (left to right) are the new shipment of Cornwall Stone 2011, the L3617 calculated equivalent (a recipe, see link), the older Cornwall shipment we have been using and the H&G substitute 2011 (far right, mislabelled on the picture). These do not flow well here, a small frit addition is needed to better compare them. However they have melted enough to see some differences in whiteness and degree of melt. Notice the L3617 is more like the old Cornwall than the new Cornwall is.

These flow tests demonstrate how similar the substitute recipe (left) is to the real material (right). 20% Frit 3134 has been added to each to enable better melting at cone 5 (they do not flow even at cone 11 without the frit). Links below provide the recipe for the substitute and outline the method of how it was derived using Digitalfire Insight software. This substitute is chemically equivalent to what we feel is the best average for the chemistry of Cornwall Stone.

This 1000 ml 24 hour sedimentation test compares Plainsman A2 ball clay ground to 10 mesh (left) with that same material ball milled for an hour (right). The 10 mesh designation is a little misleading, those are agglomerates. When it is put into water many of those particles break down releasing the ultimates and it does suspend fairly well. But after 24 hours, not only has it settled completely from the upper section but there is a heavy sediment on the bottom. But with the milled material it has only settled slightly and there is no sediment on the bottom. Clearly, using an industrial attrition ball mill this material could be made completely colloidal.

This test shows the incredible dry shrinkage that a ball clay can have. Obviously if too much of this is employed in a body recipe one can expect it to put stress on the body during drying. Nevertheless, the dry strength of this material far exceeds that of a kaolin and when used judiciously it can really improve the working properties of a body giving the added benefit of extra dry strength.

Large particle kaolin (left) and small-particle ball clay (right) DFAC drying disks demonstrate the dramatic difference in drying shrinkage and performance between these two extremes (these disks are dried with the center portion covered to set up a water content differential to add stresses that cause cracking). These materials both feel super-smooth, in fact, the white one feels smoother. But the ultimate particles tell the opposite story. The ball clay particles (grey clay) are far smaller (ten times or more). The particles of the kaolin (white) are flatter and lay down as such, that is why it feels smoother.

Cone 10R firing of Plainsman FireRed (left), St. Rose Red 42 mesh (center) and St. Rose Red 10 mesh (right). The 10 mesh material produces a reduction speckle and deep red color that is very unique.

These are porosity and fired shrinlage test bars, code numbered to have their data recorded in our group account at Insight-live.com. Plainsman P580 (top) has 35% ball clay and 17% American kaolin. H570 (below it) has 10% ball clay and 45% kaolin, so it burns whiter (but has a higher fired shrinkage). P700 (third down) has 50% Grolleg kaolin and no ball clay, it is the whitest and has even more fired shrinkage. Crysanthos porcelain (bottom, from China) also only employs kaolin, but at a much lower percentage, thus is has almost no plasticity (suitable for machine forming only). Do H570 and P700 sacrifice plasticity to be whiter? No, with added bentonite they have better plasticity than P580. Could that bottom one be super-charged? Yes, 3-4% VeeGum or Bentone (smectite, hectorite) would make it the most plastic of all of these (at a high cost of course).

Stockpile of crude feldspar from MGK Minerals (India) deposit

Closeup of feldspar deposit in the MGK Minerals quarry in India.

Melt flow test comparing Custer Feldspar from Feb/2012 (right) with Mar/2011. Custer Feldspar does not melt like this by itself at cone 10. It was mixed 80:20 Feldspar:Ferro Frit 3134. This test demonstrates that the material has been very consistent between these two shipments.

Yes. The two specimens are both the same Grolleg-based porcelains. Both of them are glazed with the same glaze: 1947U transparent. But the glaze on the left is using EP Kaolin and the one on the right Grolleg kaolin. The Grolleg glaze is dramatically better, the color has a bluish cast that is more attractive. The Grolleg does not suspend the slurry as well, however it responds well to gelling (using vinegar, for example) more than compensating to create an easy-to-use suspension.

Example of four different north American ball clays fired to cone 10R, cone 11 and cone 10.

An example of how a glaze that contains too much plastic has been applied too thick. It shrinks and cracks during drying and is guaranteed to crawl. This is raw Alberta Slip. To solve this problem you need to tune a mix of raw and calcine material. Enough raw is needed to suspend the slurry and dry it to a hard surface, but enough calcine is needed to keep the shrinkage low enough that this cracking does not happen. The Alberta Slip website has a page about how to do the calcining.

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.

Calcined Alberta Slip (right) and raw powder (left). These are just 5 inch cast bowls, I fire them to cone 020 and hold it for 30 minutes. Why calcine? Because for glazes having 50% or more Alberta Slip, cracking on drying can occur, especially if it is applied thick (Alberta Slip is a clay, it shrinks). I mix 50:50 raw:calcine for use in recipes. However, Alberta Slip has an LOI of 9%, so I need to use 9% less of the calcine powder (just multiply the amount by 0.91). Suppose, I needed 1000 grams: I would use 500 raw and 500*.91=455.

On Plainsman H443 iron stoneware in reduction firing. Notice Tin does not work. Also notice that between 7.5 and 10% Zircopax provides as much opacity as does 15% (Zircon is very expensive).

A cone 10R sculpture clay containing 40% ball clay, 10% kaolin, 10% low fire redart (for color and maturity), some quartz and 25% 20x48 grog. This fine grained base produces a body that feels smoother than it really is and is very plastic. It is even throwable on the wheel.

Because this glaze employs 10% dolomite instead of 10% calcium carbonate it has a lower thermal expansion and is less likely to craze. While the dolomite is contributing MgO, which normally mattes glazes, there is not enough to do it here.

This liner glaze is 10% calcium carbonate added to Ravenscrag slip. Ravenscrag Slip does not craze when used by itself as a glaze at cone 10R on this body, so why would adding a relatively low expansion flux like CaO make it craze? It does not craze when adding 10% talc. This is an excellent example of the value to looking at the chemistry (the three are shown side-by-side in my account at Insight-live.com). The added CaO pushes the very-low-expansion Al2O3 and SiO2 down by 30% (in the unity formula), so the much higher expansion of all the others drives the expansion of the whole way up. And talc? It contains SiO2, so the SiO2 is not driven down nearly as much. In addition, MgO has a much lower expansion than CaO does.

Texas talc (left) and Montana talc (right). Texas talc contains some amorphous carbon. The carbon is not stand-alone, but as CO2 in the dolomitic part of the ore. It produces 7% LOI between 750-850C.

A closeup of a cone 10R rutile blue (it is highlighted in the video: A Broken Glaze Meets Insight-Live and a Magic Material). Beautiful glazes like this, especially rutile blues, often have serious issues (like blistering, crazing), but they can be fixed.

Crystals found growing in a glaze containing 7% lithium carbonate, 7% titanium dioxide and 6% cadycal. Also had wollastonite, silica, koalin and nepheline syenite. Courtesy of Mark Rossier Pottery.

Left: An example of G2571A cone 10R magnesia matte. Right: with 10% added zircopax (zirconium silicate). The zircopax version is a very bright pasty white compared to the original.

An example of how calcium carbonate can cause blistering as it decomposes during firing. This is a cone 6 Ferro Frit 3249 based transparent (G2867) with 15% CaO added (there is no blistering without the CaO). Calcium carbonate has a very high loss on ignition (LOI) and for this glaze, the gases of its decomposition are coming out at the wrong time. While there likely exists a firing schedule that takes this into account and could mature it to a perfect surface, the glaze is high in MgO, it has a high surface tension. That is likely enabling bubbles to form and hold better.

2, 5, 10, 15% calcium carbonate added to Ravenscrag Slip on a buff stoneware fired at cone 10R. It gets progressively glossier toward 15%, crazing starts at 10% (test by Kat Valenzuela). Adding a flux only reduces the SiO2 and Al2O3, this pushes the thermal expansion upwards. 5% is actually sufficient. An alternative would be to use wollastonite, it supplies SiO2 also.

2,5,10,15% talc added to Ravenscrag Slip on a buff stoneware fired at cone 10R. Matting begins at 10%. By Kat Valenzuela.

This is a buff stoneware clay. Crystal development toward a dolomite matte begins at 15%. By Kat Valenzuela.

Pure Ravenscrag Slip is glaze-like by itself (thus tolerating the alumina addition while still melting as a glaze). It was applied on a buff stoneware which was then fired at cone 10R (by Kat Valenzuela). This same test was done using equal additions of calcined alumina. The results demonstrated that the hydrated version much more readily decomposes to yield its Al2O3, as an oxide, to the glaze melt. By 15% it is matting and producing a silky surface. However crazing also starts at 10%. The more Al2O3 added the lower the glaze expansion should be, so why is this happening? It appears that the disassociation is not complete, some of the raw material remains to impose its high expansion.

The Ravenscag:Alumina mix was applied to a buff stoneware fired at cone 10R (by Kat Valenzuela). Matting begins at only 5% producing a very dry surface by 15%. The matte is simply a product of the refractory nature of the alumina as a material, it does not disassociate in the melt to yield its Al2O3 as an oxide (as would a feldspar, frit or clay). The same test using alumina hydrate demonstrates that it disassociates better (although not completely).

Example of the lignite particles in a fireclay (Pine Lake) that have been exposed on the rim of a vessel after sponging. This is a coarse clay, but if it were incorporated into a recipe of a stoneware, glaze pinholing would be likey.

The whitest test bar here is a New-Zealand-kaolin-based cone 6 porcelain (employs VeeGum for plasticity). Immediately to the left of it are three North American-koalin-based bodies using standard bentonites. The bar to is right in a Grolleg based body that uses a standard bentonite rather than a white burning one. All are plastic.

Stoneware at cone 02? Yes. These test bars are fired to cone 02. The top body is 50:50 Redart and a silty raw material from Plainsman Clays (named 3D) plus some bentonite and 1% iron. The bottom one also has 5% Ferro Frit 3110. The porosity: The bottom one is 3%, the top one 8%. So each 1% frit reduces the porosity by 1% in this case.

This body is made from approximately 50:35:15 ball clay:talc:silica:silica sand. These test bars are fired from cone 2 to 9 oxidation (bottom to top) and 10 Reduction and from them the porosity and fired shrinkage can be measured (shown for each bar). Notice that the fired shrinkage is pretty stable from cone 2 to 8, but accelerates at cone 9 oxidation. But in reduction this stage has not been reached yet. The same thing happens with porosity, the cone 9 bar is dramatically more dense than the cone 8 one. But in reduction, it is still porous.

Plainsman M2 clay (right) and a terra cotta (L215 left) fired to cone 04,02,2 and 4.

GR10-C Ravenscrag cone 10R silky matte glaze (90% Ravenscrag Slip, 10% talc) produces stunning surfaces and has excellent slurry and application properties.

Plainsman FireRed (left) fired at cone 8,9,10,11 and 10R and Redstone (right) fired at cone 4,5,6,7,8.

Spodumene ore

A cone 6 stoneware with 0.3% 60/80 mesh manganese granular (Plainsman M340). Fired from cone 4 (bottom) to cone 8 (top). It is normally stable to cone 8, with the manganese it begins to bloat at cone 7. The particles of manganese generate gases as they decompose and melt, these produce volumes and pressures sufficiently suddenly that closing channels within the maturing body are unable to vent them out.

Same body, same glaze. Left is cone 10 oxidation, right is cone 10 reduction. What a difference! This is a Ravenscrag Slip based glaze on a high-fire iron stoneware. In reduction, the iron oxide in the body and glaze darkens (especially the body) and melts much more. The behavior of the tin oxide opacifier is also much different (having very little opacifying effect in reduction).

Goldart (left) compared to Plainsman Midstone (right). Goldart is a buff and vitreous stoneware at cone 10R. These are fired at cone 7, 8, 10 oxidation and 10 reduction (bottom to top). Soluble salts in the Goldart impart a darker coloration to the reduction fired bar). The Midstone has some coarser particles that make larger speckles in reduction.

Pure HPM-20 micro-fine bentonite fired to cone 8 (top) and cone 2 (bottom) oxidation (it is actually a mix of raw and calcined material to make it possible to make the bars). Below that is an 85% silica:15% HPM-20 bentonite mix; they are fired to cone 10 (top) and 6 (bottom); these lower bars tell us the degree of plasticity imparted but also how much the bentonite is staining a normally paper-white burning material. HPM is a very expensive micro-pulverized bentonite, but, like other common bentonites, it still has significant iron. However note that much of the color on the top bars is from the soluble salts on the surface. These salts do not appear to come to the surface in the same way when mixed with the silica. It is very common to put these relatively dirty materials into porcelains to plasticize them. Why? The alternative is a material like VeeGum, it is 10-15 times the price! Still, if only a few percent of this is added, the color is affected less than you might think.

This disk has dried under heat (with the center part protected) for many hours. During that process it curled upward badly (flattening back out later). It is very reluctant to give up its water in the central protected section. Obviously it shrinks alot during drying and forms a network of cracks. When there are this many cracks it is difficult to characterize it, so a picture is best.

These are two cone 6 transparent glazed porcelain mugs with a light bulb inside. On the left is the porcelainous Plainsman M370 (Laguna B-Mix 6 would have similar opacity). Right is a zero-porosity New Zealand kaolin based porcelain called Polar Ice (from Plainsmanclays.com also)! The secret to making a plastic porcelain this white and translucent is not just the NZ kaolin, but the use of a very expensive plasticizer, VeeGum T, to enable maximizing the feldspar to get the fired maturity.

The home-made kiln shelf (left) was fired it at cone 10. It is half the weight (and thickness) of the cordierite one (but remember that it does not have the thermal shock resistance of cordierite). It is made from a body consisting of 96.25% calcined alumina and 3.75% Veegum. It rolls out nicely and dries perfectly flat over about three days. But the Veegum does not give up its water easily. I cut it 1/4" larger than the other and it has fired to the same size; this body has incredibly low shrinkage.

Fired to cone 10R (top) and 7,8,9,10 oxidation (from bottom to top).

This is a grog clay with 25% Christy Minerals STKO22S grog (20 mesh one size). This piece is about 8 inches tall fired at cone 10R. This body is a Redart, Ball clay base that totally vitrifies to a chocolate brown. But with the added refractory grog it is fairly stable in the kiln and is much more vitreous than other grog bodies. Because it is such a plastic smooth base and because the grog is only one size, this is actually throwable. And it is very resistant to splitting during hand building.

A transparent glazed. It is a made from Plainsman Polar Ice in 2014 (a New Zealand kaolin based porcelain) and fired to cone 6 with G2926B clear glaze. 5% Mason 6306 teal blue stain was added to the clay, then this was wedged only a few times. The piece was thrown, then trimmed on the outside at the leather hard stage and sanded on the inside when dry.

These DFAC drying performance disks show that minor additions of grog do not reduce the fired shrinkage of this medium fire stoneware much. Nor do they improve its drying performance. In this example, a 10% addition has not reduced shrinkage appreciably nor has it improved drying performance. The 20% addition has reduced the shrinkage and narrowed the crack, but it is still there and resembles the zero-grog version.

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.

These bowls were made by Tony Hansen using a mixture of white and stained New-Zealand-kaolin-based porcelain (Plainsman Polar Ice) fired at cone 6. The body is not only white, but very translucent.

It has taken a couple of days to reach this state, it still has a very high water content and needs another day or two of stiffening. This cracking occurs because much more water is needed to thin a slurry enough to be able to propeller mix it effectively. Typical clays can be dewatered in this manner in a few hours. By the way, this is fantastically plastic to use on the potters wheel, but this percentage of Veegum would not be affordable or practical.

Wow, just threw this mug from a porcelain having 10% Veegum plasticizer (of course no one could afford that, it is $15 a pound). But anyway, I was testing the extreme. These mugs did not twist during throwing, I could have pulled the wall thinner at the middle and top. The wall thickness at the bottom is 2.3mm (less than 3/32")! This mug is 15cm (6 in) tall. One problem: It takes forever to dry.

Two bisqued terracotta mugs. The clay on the right has 0.35% added barium carbonate (it precipitates salts dissolved in the clay to prevent them coming to the surface with the water and being left there during drying). The process is called efflorescence and is the bane of the brick industry. The one on the left is the natural clay. The unsightly appearance is fingerprints from handling the piece in the leather-hard state, the salts have concentrated in these areas (the other piece was also handled, but has very little marking).

These two 4mm thick pieces of clay have had 1% of an xantham gum added. The gum was just shaken together with the powder and then 21% water was added and it was stirred in a cup and then wedged to pugged consistency. The piece on the left was under water for 1 hour! Without the gum it would have disintegrated within a couple of minutes.

Permeability demonstration. Texas talc (left) quickly absorbs all the water poured on top. The water is just sitting on top of the Montana talc (right) and has not permeated at all. Montana talc resists whetting of the particles much more.

Notice the water just sits there in a little lake. It does not soak in because the bentonite gels in contact with the water and that gel acts as a barrier. This water-barrier property of bentonite is a key to its use in many products but can be a problem in ceramics (because it slows down the drying speed of bodies and glazes that contain it).

Each has been mixed with water and all produce a jelly-like translucent sticky material that takes a very very long time to dry. They are expensive and, among other uses, act as white-burning plasticizers in fine porcelain bodies.

Both of these glazes were made as 1000 gram batches and then mixed with the necessary amount of water to produce a slurry of the correct consistency. The one on the left is a fritted glaze with 20% kaolin, the one on the right is a Gerstley Borate based raw glaze (30% GB + feldspar, silica, ball clay). The GB glaze required much more water and gelled shortly after (it also tends to dry slowly and crack during drying on the ware). The fritted glaze has very good slurry and application properties.

I poured 4 teaspoons of two glazes onto a board and let them sit for a minute, then inclined the board. The one with Gleason Ball clay (right, much higher in coal and finer particle size) has settled and the water on the top of running off. The one with Old Hickory #5 ball clay has not settled at all and the whole thing is running downward. Below I have begun to sponge them off. Old Hickory No. 1 Glaze Clay is even better than #5 for suspension. The most amazing thing about this: There is only 7% ball clay in the recipe.

Veegum (left), Mineral Colloid and Gelwhite fired to cone 6 oxidation. The Veegum is dense and white, but not melting. The Mineral Colloid fires like a typical raw bentonite (dark brown, high soluble salts and beginning to melt). The Gelwhite is completely melted and foamed.

An example of how effective barium carbonate is at precipitating the soluble salts in a terra cotta clay. These two unglazed, cone 04 fired, mugs are made from the same clay, but the one on the right has 0.35% added barium carbonate.

This is what happens when some spodumenes are mixed with water. They generate foam and bubbles. This is disruptive in glazes and can be alleviated by washing the spodumene before use.

Some terra cotta clays can be used to produce stoneware by firing them a few cones higher. Terra Cottas are almost always nowhere near vitrified at their traditional cone 04-06 temperatures, so they can often stand much higher firing. However, clear glazes do not usually work well in higher firing since products of decomposition from the vitrifying body fill them will microbubbles, clouding the surface. In addition, the body turns dark brown under clear glazes. But with a white glaze, these are not a problem. This is Plainsman L210 fired to cone 2. The glaze is 80% Frit 3195, 20% kaolin and 10-12% zircopax, it fires to a brilliant flawless surface.

This DFAC drying performance test compares a typical white stoneware body (left) and the same body with 10% added 50-80 mesh molochite grog. The character of the crack changes somewhat, but otherwise there appears to be no improvement. While the grog addition reduces drying shrinkage by 0.5-0.75% it also cuts dry strength (as a result, the crack is jagged, not a clean line). The grog vents water to the surface better, notice the soluble salts do not concentrate as much. Another issue is the jagged edges of the disk, it is more difficult to cut a clean line in the plastic clay.

These 1 mm-sized crystals were found precipitated in a couple of gallons of glaze containing 85% Ferro Frit 3195. They are hard and insoluble. Why and how to do they form? Many frits are slightly partially soluble and the degree to which they are are related to the length of time the glaze is in storage, the temperature, the electrolytes and solubles in the water and interactions with other material particles present. The solute then interacts with other materials particles to form insoluble species that crystallize and precipitate out as you see here. These crystals can be a wide range of shapes and size and come from leaded and unleaded frits.

These mugs have just been thrown. Those on the left are made using a porcelain formulation employing Dragonite Halloysite while those on the right are made from a porcelain based on Grolleg Kaolin.

These three materials also fire to a similar color. Grolleg is the most plastic, Dragonite the least.

This cast bowl (just out of the mold and dried) is 130mm in diameter and 85mm deep and yet the walls are only 1mm thick and it only weighs 89 gm! The slip was in the mold for only 1 minute. What slip? A New Zealand Halloysite based cone 6 translucent porcelain. This NZ material is fabulous for casting slips (it needs a little extra plasticizer also to give the body the strength to pull away from the mold surface as it shrinks).

Halloysite forms over long periods as kaolin sheets roll into tubes.

This is a melt fluidity test comparing two different tin oxides in a cone 6 transparent glaze (Perkins Clear 2). The length, character and color of the flow provide an excellent indication of how similar they are.

A Dragonite Halloysite porcelain mug (center), New Zealand Halloysite (right) and a typical one made using North American kaolin (left). All have the G2926B glaze and fired at cone 6 to zero porosity. Although not clear on this photo, the two on the right are much whiter. The Dragonite has about the same whiteness as the NZK based body.

The green boxes show cone 6 Perkins Studio Clear (left) beside an adjustment to it that I am working on (right). I am logged in to my account at insight-live.com. In the recipe on the right, code-numbered G2926A, I am using the calculation tools it provides to substitute Frit 3134 for Gerstley Borate (while maintaining the oxide chemistry). A melt flow comparison of the two (bottom left) shows that the GB version has an amber coloration (from its iron) and that it flows a little more (it has already dripped off). The flow test on the upper left shows G2926A flowing beside PGF1 transparent (a tableware glaze used in industry). Its extra flow indicates that it is too fluid, it can accept some silica. This is very good news because the more silica any glaze can accept the harder, more stable and lower expansion it will be. You might be surprised how much it took, yet still melts to a crystal clear. See the article to find out.

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.

Few raw materials are as clean as this before processing.

90% Alberta Slip (which is a mix of half and half raw and calcine) and 10% Ulexite fired at cone 6. A dazzling fluid dark amber transparent. You could also do this using frit.

These glaze cones are fired at cone 6 and have the same recipe: 20 Frit 3134, 21 EP Kaolin, 27 calcium carbonate, 32 silica. The difference: The one on the left uses dolomite instead of calcium carbonate. Notice how the MgO from the dolomite completely mattes the surface whereas the CaO from the calcium carbonate produces a brilliant gloss.

Left: Worthington Clear cone 04 glaze (A) uses Gerstley Borate to supply the B2O3 and CaO. Right: A substitute using Ulexite and 12% calcium carbonate (B). The degree of melting is the same but the gassing of the calcium carbonate has disrupted the flow of B. Gerstley Borate gasses also, but does so at a stage in the firing that does not disrupt this recipe. However, as a glaze, B does not gel and produces a clearer glass. A further adjustment to source CaO from non-gassing wollastonite would likely improve it.

A cone 6 melt flow test to compare two calcium carbonates (they make up 27% of this glaze recipe that was designed to maximize their percentage). Notice the amount of bubbles (due to the high loss on ignition of the material). Different brand-names of the material obviously have slightly different chemistries so they exhibit different flow properties during firing.

Worthington Clear is a popular low fire transparent glaze recipe. It has 55% Gerstley Borate plus 30% kaolin (Gerstley Borate melts at a very low temperature because it sources lots of boron). GB is also very plastic, like a clay. I have thrown a pot from this recipe! This explains why high Gerstley Borate glazes often dry so slowly and shrink and crack during drying. When recipes also contain a plastic clay the shirinkage is even worse. GB is also slightly soluble, over time it gels glaze slurries. Countless potters struggle with Gerstley Borate recipes. How could we fix this one? First, substitute all or part of the raw kaolin for calcined kaolin (using 10% less because it has zero LOI). Second: It is possible to calculate a recipe having the same chemistry but sourcing the magic melting oxide, boron, from a frit instead.

The two cone 04 glazes on the right have the same chemistry but the center one sources it's CaO from 12% calcium carbonate and ulexite (the other from Gerstley Borate). The glaze on the far left? It is almost bubble free yet it has 27% calcium carbonate. Why? It is fired to cone 6. At lower temperatures carbonates and hydrates (in body and glaze) are more likely to form gas bubbles because that is where they are decomposing (into the oxides that stay around and build the glass and the ones that are escaping as a gas). By cone 6 the bubbles have had lots of time to clear.

These cone 04 glazes both have 50% Gerstley Borate. The other 50% in the one on the left is PV Clay, a very low melting plastic feldspar. On the right, the other 50% is silica and kaolin, both very refractory materials. Yet the glaze on the right is melting far better. How is that possible? Likely because the silica and kaolin are supplying Al2O3 and SiO2, exactly the oxides that Gerstley Borate needs to form a good glass.

Talc exhibits unique powder characteristics, a product of the particle shape and particle surface characteristics. While most powders slide cleanly from this stainless steel scoop, talc powder leaves a film. Dolomite and calcium carbonate are similar.

These are Mason stains added to cone 6 G2926B clear liner base glaze. Notice that the chrome tin maroon 6006 does not develop as well as the G2916F glossy base recipe. The 6020 manganese alumina pink is also not developing. Caution is required with inclusion stains (like #6021), if they are rated to cone 8 they may already begin bubbling at cone 6 is some host glazes.

This is G2571A cone 10R dolomite matte glaze with added 1% cobalt oxide, 0.2% chrome oxide. The porcelain is Plainsman P700, the inside glaze is a Ravenscrag Slip clear. This recipe can be googled, it has been available for many years and was first formulated by Tony Hansen. This base is very resistant to crazing on most bodies and it does not cutlery mark or stain. It also has very good application properties.

GR10-J Ravenscrag dolomite matte base glaze at cone 10R on Plainsman H443 iron speckled clay. This recipe was created by starting with the popular G2571 base recipe (googleable) and calculating a mix of materials having the maximum possible Ravenscrag Slip percentage. The resultant glaze has the same excellent surface properties (resistance to staining and cutlery marking) but has even better application and working properties. It is a little more tan in color because of the iron content of Ravenscrag Slip (see ravenscrag.com).

The raw Plainsman M2 clay stockpile before it is ground. This is mined in Montana and imparts red color to various middle and low temperature clay bodies. It is a remarkably consistent material.

The natural Plainsman St. Rose Red clay before it is ground. This has about 6% iron oxide and is used to color high temperature throwing and sculpture bodies. It is quite refractory, very unusual for a clay this high in iron. It is from St. Rose, Manitoba.

The two mugs on the left: Traditional Grolleg porcelain using Nepheline and bentonite (fired to cone 10R). The right: Using New Zealand kaolin, Nepheline Syenite and VeeGum.

This is a quality but expensive material!

Even commercial dinnerware can suffer cutlery marking problems. This is a glossy glaze, yet has a severe case of this issue. Why? Likely the zircon opacifier grains are protruding from the surface and abrading metal that comes into contact with it.

These are fired bars of Barnard Slip going from cone 04 (bottom) to cone 6 (top). It is melting at cone 6. Porosity is under 3% and the fired shrinkage above 15% from cone 1 upward. Drying shrinkage is 4% at 25% water (it is very non-plastic). The darkness of the fired color suggests higher MnO than our published chemistry shows.

An example of how a dried piece of clay having lower bentonite content (left) absorbs a drop of water faster. After 10 seconds (middle picture) the water is gone while the other is still wet. By 30 seconds (bottom) all traces of water are gone.

Screen a glaze to break down the wollastonite agglomerates (which often form in storage). This is an 80 mesh plastic sieve (the actual screen is a metal insert inside), I am using a spatula to encourage it to pass through the screen. If you do not do this, the small lumps you see on the freshly glazed piece will fire to surface bumps and ruin the glaze.

A bag of magnesium carbonate beside a bag of feldspar. Although the former weighs 25 kg (vs. 22.7 kg for the feldspar), clearly it is a dramatically lighter (per volume unit) material. Lifting that bag of Mag Carb feels like lifting a pillow!

Laguna Clay sells a substitute for the no-longer-available G200 feldspar. G200 HP is higher in K2O and lower in CaO than G200, Minspar is an ideal addition since it's K2O is much lower and CaO much higher. A 7:3 G200HP:Minspar mix produces a chemistry that is remarkably close (on paper) to G200. They label this blend "Old Blend". They also list a product called "New Potash" in their pricelist, that is G200 HP.

The engobe on the left, even though it has a fairly low water content, is running off the leather hard clay, dripping and drying slowly. The one on the right has been flocculated with epsom salts, giving it thixotropy (ability to gel when not in motion but flow when in motion). Now there are no drips, there are no thin or thick sections. It gels after a few seconds and can be uprighted and set on the shelf for drying.

Here is a screenshot of side-by-side recipes in my account at insight-live.com. It takes 120 mag carb to source the same amount of MgO as 50 mag ox. I just made the two recipes, went into calculation mode and kept bumping up the magcarb by 5 until the chemistry was the same. Note the LOI of the magcarb version is 40. This one would certainly crawl very badly.

The goblet on the left is bending, not just because the clay is somewhat unstable at the temperature being fired, but because this shape is also inherently unstable. Where extreme shapes are prone to warping, ware must be made from clays that do not vitrify (that introduces issues of strength and functionality). In this case, the clay recipe is based on a terra cotta material that matures at a very low temperature. The problem was dealt with by employing a recipe of 60:40 clay:200# kyanite.

I used a binder to form 10 gram balls and fired them at cone 08 (1700F). Frits melt really well, they do not gas and they have chemistries we cannot get from raw materials (similar ones to these are sold by other manufacturers). These contain boron (B2O3), it is magic, a low expansion super-melter. Frit 3124 (glossy) and 3195 (silky matte) are balanced-chemistry bases (just add 10-15% kaolin for a cone 04 glaze, or more silica+kaolin to go higher). Consider Frit 3110 a man-made low-Al2O3 super feldspar. Its high-sodium makes it high thermal expansion. It works in bodies and is great to incorporate into glazes that shiver. The high-MgO Frit 3249 (for the abrasives industry) has a very-low expansion, it is great for fixing crazing glazes. Frit 3134 is similar to 3124 but without Al2O3. Use it where the glaze does not need more Al2O3 (e.g. it already has enough clay). It is no accident that these are used by potters in North America, they complement each other well. The Gerstley Borate is a natural source of boron (with issues frits do not have).

Gerstley Borate (with Ferro frit 3124) from 1600-1750F. At 1550F (not shown) it suddenly shrinks to a small ball and then by 1600F it has expanded to double its size. By 1650 it is well melted, but still gassing and bubbling.

Pure MinSpar feldspar fired at cone 6 on Plainsman M370 porcelain. Although it is melting, the crazing is extreme! And expected. Feldspars contain a high percentage of K2O and Na2O (KNaO), these two oxides have the highest thermal expansion of any other oxide. Thus, glazes high in feldspar (e.g. 50%) are likely to craze. Using a little glaze chemistry, it is often possible to substitute some of the KNaO for another fluxing oxide having a lower thermal expansion.

This chart compares the gassing behavior of 6 materials (5 of which are very common in ceramic glazes) as they are fired from 500-1700F. It is a reminder that some late gassers overlap early melters. The LOI (loss on ignition) of these materials can affect your glazes (e.g. bubbles, blisters, pinholes, crawling). Notice that talc is not finished until after 1650F (many glazes have already begin melting by then).

Feldspar and talc are both flux sources (glaze melters). But the fluxes (Na2O and MgO) within these materials need the right mix of other oxides with which to interact to vitrify or melt a mix. The feldspar does source other oxides for the Na2O to interact with, but lacks other fluxes and the proportions are not right, it is only beginning to soften at cone 6. The soda frit is already very active at cone 06! As high as cone 6, talc (the best source of MgO) shows no signs of melting activity at all. But a high MgO frit is melting beautifully at cone 06. While the frits are melting primarily because of the boron content, the Na2O and MgO have become active participants in the melting of a low temperature glass. In addition, the oxides exist in a glass matrix that is much easier to melt than the crystal matrix of the raw materials.

These are glazed test bars of two fritted white clay bodies fired at cone 03. The difference: The one on the right contains 13% 200 mesh quartz, the one on the left substitutes that for 13% 200 mesh calcined alumina. Quartz has the highest thermal expansion of any traditional ceramic material, alumina has the lowest. As a result the alumina body does not "squeeze" the glaze (put it under some compression). The result is crazing. There is one other big difference: The silica body has 3% porosity at cone 03, the alumina one has 10%!

Dolomite is a key material for glazes, especially mattes. When you are forced to adopt a new brand it needs to be tested. Here, three tests were done to compare the old long-time-use material (IMASCO Sirdar) with a new one (LHoist Dolowhite). The first flow test is a very high dolomite cone 6 recipe formulated for this purpose; the new material runs a little more. The second is G2934 cone 6 MgO matte with 5% black stain; the new material runs a little less here. The third test is the high dolomite glaze on a dark burning clay to see the translucency and compare the surface character. They are very close. It looks like it is going to be OK. Does your supplier test new materials when they are forced to switch suppliers?

These balls were fired at 1550F and were the same size to start. The Gerstley Borate has suddenly shrunk dramatically in the last 40 degrees (and will melt down flat within the next 50). The talc is still refractory, the Ferro Frit 3124 slowly softens across a wide temperature range. The frit and Gerstley Borate are always fluxes, the talc is a flux under certain circumstances.

The ulexite in Gerstley Borate melts first, producing an opaque fired glass having the unmelted (and still gassing) particles of colemanite suspended in it. By 1750F the colemanite is almost melted also. Boron-containing frits, by contrast, begin softening at a much lower temperature and gradually spread and melt gradually. Not surprisingly they produce a more stable glaze (albeit often less interesting visually).

Some material data sheets show both the oxide and mineralogical analyses. Dolomite, for example, is composed of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate minerals, these can be separated mechanically. Although this material participates in the glaze melt to source the MgO and CaO (which are oxides), it's mineralogy (the calcium and magnesium carbonates) specifically accounts for the unique way it decomposes and melts.

An example of how a small addition of mica affects the fired appearance of a terra cotta clay. The effect is still working at cone 03 (left) but is more commonly employed at cone 06 (right). Notice that it is still visible even under the glaze. This body is popular on the west coast, it was designed by D'Arcy Margesson. Standard grades of mica are too fine for the effect, this is likely Custer LCM Drilling Mud Mica.

Iron oxide is an amazing glaze addition in reduction. It produces celadons at low percentages, then progresses to a clear amber glass by 5%, then to an opaque brown at 7%, a tenmoku by 9% and finally metallic crystalline with increasingly large crystals past 13%. These samples were cooled naturally in a large reduction kiln, the crystallization mechanism would be much heavier if it were cooled more slowly.

HPM-20 micro-fine bentonite fired from cone 1 to 7 in oxidation. This bentonite is expensive compared to others and it used for the guarantee that there are no speck producing particles. However it is still high in soluble salts (that melt by cone 4) and is very dark burning in color. It is not unusual to put 3-5% of this (and other dirtier bentonites) into Grolleg porcelain bodies (where whiteness is supposedly important).

Silverline Talc bags are now labelled Imerys Talc. The company was bought by Imerys.

The original bag of this product in 2014.

Pure soda feldspar (Minspar 200) fired like-a-glaze at cone 4, 5, 6 and 7 on porcelainous stoneware samples. The bottom samples are balls that have melted down at cone 7 and 8. Notice there is no melting at all at cone 4. Also, serious crazing is highlighted on the cone 6 sample (it is also happening at cone 5 and 7).

Left: Cone 10R (reduction) Plainsman P700 porcelain (made using Grolleg and G200 Feldspar). Right: Plainsman Cone 6 Plainsman Polar Ice porcelain (made using New Zealand kaolin and Nepheline Syenite). Both are zero porosity. The Polar Ice is very translucent, the P700 much less. The blue coloration of the P700 is mostly a product of the suspended micro-bubbles in the feldspar clear glaze (G1947U). The cone 6 glaze is fritted and much more transparent, but it could be stained to match the blue. These are high quality combinations of glaze and body.

These are pure samples (with 2% binder added) of (top left to bottom right) strontium carbonate, nepheline syenite, cobalt carbonate, manganese dioxide, bentonite (in bowl), 6 Tile kaolin, New Zealand kaolin and copper carbonate. I am firing them at 50F increments from 1500F and weighing to calculate loss on ignition for each. I want to find out at what temperature they are gassing (and potentially bubble-disrupting the glaze they are in or under). Notice how the copper is fuming and spitting black specks on the shelf, this happens right around 1500F. These stains on the shelf darkened considerably when the kiln was fired higher.

The powder was simply put into it and fired. Sintering is just beginning.

Cone 10 reduction (top), cone 10 down to 6 oxidation below that (top to bottom).

Cobalt carbonate (top) and copper carbonate (bottom). Left is the raw powder plastic-formed into a sample (with 2% veegum). Right: fired to 1850F. The CuCO3 is quickly densifying over the past 100 degrees and should begin to melt soon. It is long past the fuming stage.

And example of how copper carbonate fumes during firing. The white sample on the left was near the copper sample, at around 1500F the fumes discolored its facing edge. These are permanent, they do not fire out but get darker with increasing temperature (this is 1950F). The kiln shelf was also discolored outward about half an inch from the copper specimen.

They are fired from cone 4 to 10 oxidation (top down) and cone 10 reduction (bottom).

Cone 6 to 10 oxidation (top to bottom) fired shrinkage and porosity testing bars.

These three cups are glazed with G1916S at cone 03. The glaze is the most crystal clear achieved so far because it contains almost no gas producing materials (not even raw kaolin). It contains Ferro frits 3195 and 3110 plus 11 calcined kaolin and 3 VeeGum. Left is a low fire stoneware (L3685T), center is Plainsman L212 and right a vitreous terra cotta (L3724F). It is almost crystal clear, it has few bubbles compared to the kaolin-suspended version. These all survived a 300F/icewater test without crazing!

Two transparent glazes applied thickly and fired to cone 03 on a terra cotta body. Right: A commercial bottled clear, I had to paint it on in layers. Left: G1916S almost-zero-raw-clay glaze, a mix of Ferro frit 3195, 3110, calcined kaolin and a small amount of VeeGum T. The bubbles you see on the left are from the gas generated by the body. The ones on the right are from body and glaze. How can so many more bubbles be generated within a glaze? Raw kaolin. Kaolin loses 12% of its weight on firing, that turns to gas. Low temperature glazes melt early, while gassing may still be happening. So to get a crystal clear the raw clay content has to be as low as possible. Obviously, a white burning body made from refined materials would be even better. A good compromise: A red slip (or engobe) over a white burning body, it would generate far less gases because of being much thinner and still exhibit the nice red color.

Cornwall Stone as it changes over time. Left: Traditional blue material, could be 20 years old. Center: A shipment we got in Feb 2014. Right: A shipment in Oct 2014. Front: 10 gram balls prepared for melt flow test. The blue powder is the most difficult to form after water has been added, the tan one is the easiest.

Plainsman M390 with 12.5% 48 mesh kyanite wedged in. This was added to improve the drying properties while maintaining the plasticity. However, the throwing also improved! It was easier to pull up into a tall cylinder. The surface texture is only moderately disrupted by a slight graininess.

Bentone (A.K.A. Macaloid MA) is a very plastic highly refined hectorite clay. This specimen has been mixed as a slurry, then dewatered until plastic on a plaster slab (it is very resistant to giving up its water). The plastic material has a very high water content, is exceptionally sticky and took many days to dry from the plastic stage. It shrinks 30% or more from plastic to fired and burns pure white at cone 6 (it can withstand higher temperatures). It burns whiter than similar materials from other manufacturers.

Left: Cornwall plus 10% Ferro Frit 3134. Right: Nepheline Syenite plus 10% of the same frit. These are fired at cone 6.

The glass on the small tile at the right drained out from this specimen of pure Bentone MA as it was fired at cone 6. The remaining skeleton is on the left.

The powders of HPM-20 bentonite (left) and National Standard 325 bentonite (right) fired to cone 6. Both have sintered into a solid mass. The HPM-20 is much more expensive because of the extra grinding done to make it micro-fine (for non-ceramic uses). However, its data sheet shows an Fe2O3 content double that of the National Standard material. That means the latter should be firing to alot lighter color. But they seem very similar.

HPM-20 Bentonite powder (left) and National Standard 325 (right) powder samples fired to cone 9 oxidation. These have shrunk alot since cone 6, but are not yet melting.

This is due to its inability to withstand thermal gradients across its width. Sintered alumina is refractory, but it is not thermal shock resistant. The vessel on it was being used to calcine clay. The inner part of the shelf was being protected from the rising heat because of this heavy, slow-to-rise vessel on top of it. The moment of the crack was so dramatic that, in spite of the weight on top of it, the shelf blew apart leaving 4 pieces with an inch-gap separating them.

Bentone (AKA Macaloid) is a super plastic additive used to modify rheolgy in many consumer products. It is made by refining Hectorite. It is very difficult to mix pure Bentone with water, it is just so sticky and the water content is so high, it takes a week to dry a sample and it cracks into pieces during drying. I am studying five different grades for use as a plasticizer in premium porcelains. I am interested in how they stack up against the king: VeeGum T (both in price and performance). The first step was to fire square tiles of the powder on small porcelain tiles at cone 6 to compare the iron content. Three sintered into a solid mass, shrinking to about half the size. The CT grade is the natural, untreated Hectorite clay (accounting for its darker color), the processing to purify the material obviously increases its affinity for water, shrinkage and fired maturity.

These are three runs of Alberta Slip being compared with the original Albany Slip. These are ten-gram balls fired on porcelain tiles at cone 6. This test shows how the material flows, how much gases of decomposition it generates and how well it allows them to escape. As you can see, they are very similar in melting behavior.

Plainsman M340 with 11% added 48 mesh kyanite. The kyanite was added to improve the plastic strength to stand up when throwing large shapes. It has done this. Its grainy texture (in an otherwise smooth body) is only slightly noticeable while throwing, but it lifts better. The kyanite was simply wedged into the clay using a slice-and-wedge technique, the stiffness was affected only slightly. An added benefit will be a reduction in the thermal expansion (and thus thermal utility) of the fired clay (of course there is a chance that glazes will need to be adjusted to deal with crazing).

The powders of HPM-20 bentonite (left) and National Standard 325 bentonite (right) were fired in crucibles to cone 9. Both have sintered into a solid mass and have shrunk as a unit away from the walls of the crucible. Considerable shrinkage has occurred since cone 6.

An example of crawling in a zircon opacified glaze on a tile. The immediate source of the problem is likely at the decoration stage. The water from the blue overglaze is rewetting the white under glaze, expanding and reshrinking it. This compromises the white glaze's bond with the body, resulting in cracking and lifting of the edges of the cracks. A number of things can be done to improve the situation: Adding a binder to the white glaze, reducing the clay content or using less plastic clays in its recipe, reducing the water content of the overglaze, heating the tiles before glazing and/or decorating so they dry faster and reducing the surface tension of the glaze melt.

A shipment EP Kaolin has arrived for use in production of porcelain and stoneware bodies. Of course, this needs to be tested before being put into product. But how? The first step is to create a new recipe record in my Insight-Live account, and find their production date code stamp on the bag. Hmmm. It does not have one! OK, then I need to record the date on which we received it.

A 50 gram powdered sample of Laguna Barnard Slip substitute has been washed through 200, 150, 100 and 70 mesh screens. The raw powder is black, however that color washes away during screening revealing the base clay that is being conditioned by additions of black iron oxide or manganese dioxide containing materials (if they are seeking a close match to the original chemistry of Barnard).

This can fire almost black on reduction. However, as a pure material, it is prone to dunting as it is high in larger quartz particles.

Plainsman FireRed fireclay fired to cone 10R. This shows the effect of reduction where the body is exposed to the kiln atmosphere (very dark burning) and where it is not (inner foot ring).

Laguna Barnard Slip substitute fired at cone 03 with a Ferro Frit 3195 clear glaze. The very high bubble content is likely because they are adding manganese dioxide to match the MnO in the chemistry of Barnard (it gases alot during firing).

These bowls are fired at cone 03. They are made from 80 Redart, 20 Ball clay. The glazes are (left to right) G1916J (Frit 3195 85, EPK 15), G191Q (Frit 3195 65, Frit 3110 20, EPK 15) and G1916T (Frit 3195 65, Frit 3249 20, EPK 15). The latter is the most transparent and brilliant, even though that frit has high MgO. The center one has a higher expansion (because of the Frit 3110) and the right one a lower expansion (because of the Frit 3249). Yet all of them survived a 300F to icewater test without crazing. This is a testament to the utility of Redart at low temperatures. A white body done at the same time crazed the left two.

I am impressed with this Italian frit company, Reimbold & Strick. Their frit data is quite educational, by studying the chemistry of their matte frits, for example, you can see the various mechanisms that produce the effect.

Crawling of a cone 10R Ravenscrag iron crystal glaze. The added iron oxide flocculates the slurry raising the water content, increasing the drying shrinkage. To solve this problem you can calcine part of the Ravenscrag Slip, that reduces the shrinkage. Ravenscrag.com has information on how to do this.

This dry glaze is shrinking too much, it is going to crawl during firing. This common issue happens because there is too much plastic clay in the glaze recipe (common with slip glazes). Clay is needed to suspend the other particles (they would quickly settle to the bottom of the bucket without it), but too much causes excessive shrinkage. Fixing this problem is not nearly as difficult as most people think. You can reduce shrinkage by calcining part of the clay or swapping a clay component for another of similar chemistry but lower shrinkage. The best way: Use glaze chemistry to source some Al2O3 (contributed by the clay) from feldspar instead. Of course this involves juggling amounts of other materials in the recipe to maintain the overall chemistry.

This can happen during tooling (I am making a crucible here). While the plasticity is sufficient for throwing, at lower water contents it drops off quickly. This is a mix of 5% bentonite, 10% ball clay and 85% calcined alumina. For better trimming some refractory capability needs to be sacrificed for more ball clay (perhaps 20%).

It is a designer kaolin, they add bentonite to the material during manufacture. This vase is made from the pure material, it is very thin and light. The fired color is lighter than what you get when you add common raw bentonite to other less plastic kaolins (to bring them to the same degree of plasticity).

These particles contaminating particles are exposed on the rim of a bisque fired mug. The liqnite ones have burned away but the iron particle is still there (and will produce a speck in the glaze). Remnants of the lignite remain inside the matrix and can pinhole glazes. Since ball clays are air floated (a stream of air takes away the lighter particles and the heavier ones recycle for regrinding) it seems that contamination like this would be impossible. But the equipment requires vigilance for correct operation, especially when there is pressure to maximize production. Ores in Tennessee are higher in coal than those in Kentucky. North American clay body manufacturers who confront ball clay suppliers with this contamination find that ceramic applications have become a very small part of the total ball clay market, complaints are not taken with the same seriousness as in the past.

Typical porcelains are made using clay (for workability), feldspar (for fired maturity) and silica (for structural integrity and glaze fit). These cone 6 test bars demonstrate the fired color difference between using kaolin (top) and ball clay (bottom). The top one employs #6 Tile super plastic kaolin, but even with this it still needs a 3% bentonite addition for plasticity. The bottom one uses Old Hickory #5 and M23, these are very clean ball clays but still nowhere near the whiteness of kaolins. Plus, 1% bentonite was still needed to get adequate plasticity for throwing. Which is better? For workability and drying, the bottom one is much better. For fired appearance, the top one.

The inside glaze is pure Ravenscrag Slip and the outside glaze is a 50:50 mix of Ravenscrag and Alberta Slips. Each of the glazes employs an appropriate mix of calcined and raw clay to achieve a balance of good slurry properties, hardening and minimal drying shrinkage. Ravenscrag needs less calcined since it is less plastic than Alberta Slip.

These cone 6 clear-glazed porcelains demonstrate just how white you can make a porcelain if you use white burning kaolins and bentonites instead of ball clays. Both contain about 40% clay. The one on the left employs New Zealand kaolin and Veegum plasticizer, the one on the right Kentucky ball clays (among the whitest of ball clays in North America) and standard bentonite. Both are zero porosity. The glaze surface is a little more flawless on the right one (possibly because ball clays have a lower LOI than kaolins).

The cone 6 porcelain on the left uses Grolleg kaolin, the right uses Tile #6 kaolin. The Grolleg body needs 5-10% less feldspar to vitrify it to zero porosity. It thus contains more kaolin, yet it fires significantly whiter. Theoretically this seems simple. Tile #6 contains alot more iron than Grolleg. Wrong! According to the data sheets, Grolleg has the more iron of the two. Why does it always fire whiter? I actually do not know. But the point is, do not rely totally on numbers on data sheets, do the testing yourself.

The top fired bar is a translucent porcelain (made from kaolin, silica and feldspar). It has zero porosity and is very hard and strong at room temperature because fibrous mullite crystals have developed around the quartz and kaolinite grains and feldspar silicate glass has flowed within to cement the matrix together securely (that what vitrified means). But it has a high fired shrinkage, very poor thermal shock resistance and little stability at above red-heat temperatures. The bar below is zirconium silicate plus 3% binder, all that cements it together is sintered bonds between closely packed particles. Yet it is surprisingly strong, it cannot be scratched with metal. It has low fired shrinkage, zero thermal expansion and maintain its strength and hardness to very high temperatures.

I mixed a cone 6 porcelain body and a cone 6 clear glaze 50:50 and added 10% Mason 6666 black stain. The material was plastic enough to slurry, dewater and wedge like a clay, so I dried a slab and broke it up into small pieces. I then melted them at cone 6 in a zircopax crucible (I make these by mixing alumina or zircopax with veegum and throwing them on the wheel). Because this black material does not completely melt it is easy to break the crucible away from it. As you can see no zircon sticks to the black. I then break this up with a special flat metal crusher we made, size them on sieves and add them to glazes for artificial speckle. As it turned out, this mix produced specks that fused too much, so a lower percentage of glaze is needed. I can thus fine tune the recipe and particle size to theoretically duplicate the appearance of reduction speckle.

It would craze glazes! This is fired at cone 6 and the crazing was like this out of the kiln. This is about as bad as I have ever seen. One might think that there is adequate quartz in this high of a percentage of ball clay to at least minimize crazing, but no so. This demonstrates the need for adequate pure silica powder in stoneware bodies to give them high enough thermal expansion to squeeze glaze on cooling to prevent crazing like this. This is also not proving to be quite as refractory as I thought, it looks like it will have about 3% porosity at cone 10.

This slurry is 100% Redart.

These two samples demonstrate how different the LOI can be between different clays. The top one is mainly Redart (with a little bentonite and frit), it loses only 4% of its weight when fired to cone 02. The bottom one is New Zealand kaolin, it loses 14% when fired to the same temperature! The top one is vitrified, the bottom one will not vitrify for another 15 cones.

This slug is about 6 months old. It contains 0.75% gum. The gum also destroys the workability of the clay.

This is a Hawthorne Fireclay sample from 1997, these test bars are made to measure fired shrinkage and porosity. Top bar: Cone 10R. Proceeding down from there is cone 11, 10, 8, etc. Drying shrinkage is 4.5%. Firing shrinkage is about 8% at cone 11 going down to 7% at cone 6, it is thus very stable across a wide range. Porosity is likewise, 3% at cone 11 slowly rising to 5% by cone 6. So this material is already fairly vitreous by cone 6 yet still stable at cone 11.

This is test-result data as reported from an account at Insight-live.com from a test done in 2002. The first column in the shrinkage absorption section are the specimen numbers, they correspond to the numbers. This clay is already quite dense and vitreous by cone 10 (having a 3% porosity) and it has a high fired shrinkage (more than 8%). Drying shrinkage is very low and its drying factor (performance) is good (even though it is quite plastic). The manufacturers data sheet shows higher firing shrinkage figures, however their numbers are actually total fired+drying shrinkage.

Only 3% Veegum will plasticize Zircopax (zirconium silicate) enough that you can form anything you want. It is even more responsive to plasticizers than calcined alumina is and it dries very dense and shrinkage is quite low. Zircon is very refractory (has a very high melting temperature) and has low thermal expansion, so it is useful for making many things (the low thermal expansion however does not necessarily mean it can withstand thermal shock well). Of course you will have to have a kiln capable of much higher temperatures than are typical for pottery or porcelain to sinter it well.

The two clay bars were fired side-by-side at cone 01. The back bar is of a raw clay dug from a creek bed in Alberta, Canada. Notice how it puffs up inside and eventually splits open the outer layer (which has sealed in the gases of decomposition). The front bar is that same clay, but mixed 50:50 mix with Redart. It is stable and strong as a stoneware. You can see all the lab tests I did on this in my insight-live account at http://goo.gl/KiUoU0

A screenshot of a page at William Melmstrom's website handspiral.com (he is in Austin, Texas). He is using uranium oxide to make incredible yellow crystalline glazes. The information is here is very educational and enlightening. And the vases he makes: Wow!

In reduction firing, where insufficient oxygen is present to oxidize the iron, natural iron pyrite particles in the clay convert to their metallic form and melt. The nature of the decorative speckled effect depends on the size of the particles, the distribution of sizes, their abundance, the color of the clay and the degree to which they melt. The characteristics of the glaze on the ware (e.g. degree of matteness, color, thickness of application, the way it interacts with the iron) also have a big effect on the appearance.

These crucibles are thrown from a mixture of 97% Zircopax (zirconium silicate) and 3% Veegum T. The consistency of the material is good for rolling and making tiles but is not quite plastic enough to throw very thin (so I would try 4% Veegum next time). It takes alot of time to dewater on a plaster bat. But, these are like nothing I could make from any other material. They are incredibly refractory (fired to cone 10 they look like bisqued porcelain), a have amazing resistance to thermal shock. I could pour molten metal into them and they will not crack. I can heat one area red hot and it will not crack. I can throw the red hot piece into water and it will not crack!

Left: A porcelain that is plasticized using only ball clays (Spinx Gleason and Old Hickory #5). Right: Only kaolin (in this case Grolleg). Kaolins are much less plastic so bentonite (e.g. 2-5%) is typically needed to get good plasticity. The color can be alot whiter using a clean kaolin, but there are down sides. Kaolins have double the LOI of ball clays, so there are more gasses that potentially need to bubble up through the glaze (ball clay porcelains can produce brilliantly glassy and clean results in transparent glazes even at fast fire, while pure kaolins can produce tiny dimples in the glaze surface if firings are not soaked long enough). Kaolins plasticized by bentonite often do not dry as well as ball clays even though the drying shrinkage is usually less. Strangely, even though ball clays are so much harder and stronger in the dry state, a porcelain made using only ball clays often still needs some bentonite. If you do not need the very whitest result, it seems that a hibrid using both is still the best general purpose, low cost answer.

Soda Ash is soluble and is thus not useful in most ceramic glazes. However that very solubility makes it very useful to control the electrolytics of ceramic slurries.

When formulating a white throwing porcelain that employs a white expensive plasticizer (like Bentone or Veegum) the optimal range of percentages can be surprisingly narrow (I am assuming at least 40% kaolin is present). The trimming behavior is one indicator. When there is insufficient plasticizer the tool will chatter (of course in extreme cases edges will tear). Smoothing the corners after trimming (using your finger) will also give you an indication. If there is too much plasticizer, the material will ball up under your finger, if there is insufficient it will not smooth out well. The percentage can be critical: 0.5% too high and the drying shrinkage could sky rocket, 0.5% too low and lips can split at the rim during throwing.

This fine white New Zealand porcelain body has to be plasticized using an expensive white bentonite (VeeGum). In this test mix, the percentage of VeeGum was slightly low (3.25%). Although it is very plastic and throws well on the potters wheel, the tendency to split at the rim is evident on this dried mug. Only 0.5% more Veegum is needed to solve this issue. The percentage is critical, enough to eliminate this issue but not too much or the drying shrinkage will be excessive.

The way in which the walls of this bisque fired kaolin cup laminate reflect the plately and uniform nature of the kaolin particles. Because they are lining up during the wedging and throwing process, the strength to resist cracks is better along the circumference than perpendicular to it. The bonds are weak enough that it is very easy to break it apart by hand (even though it is bisque fired). The worst laminations were at the bottom where wall thickness was the most variable and therefore the most drying stresses occurred. However, if this kaolin were blended with feldspar and silica, this lamination tendency would completely disappear.

Cobalt oxide particles can agglomerate. Glazes that contain them must be sieved to break these up. Glazes that get contaminated can look like this.

Three cone 6 mugs. All have zero porosity. Why is the middle one so translucent? Three reasons. 1. It has 10% more feldspar than the one on the left and reaches zero porosity already at cone 5. 2. It employs New Zealand china clay while the one on the left contains high-TiO2 #6 Tile kaolin. But this is also true for the one on the right. The third difference is the key. 3. The center one contains 4% Veegum T plasticizer (while the other two use standard bentonite). This is surprising when I tell you one more thing: The mug on the right also contains 3% Ferro Frit 3110. That means that the frit does not have near the fluxing power of the VeeGum!

It is 5 mm thick (compared to the 17mm of the cordierite one). It weighs 650 grams (vs. 1700 grams). It will perform at any temperature that any kiln that I have will generate and far in excess of that. It is made from a plastic body having the recipe 80% Zircopax Plus, 16.5% 60-80 Molochite grog and 3.5% Veegum T. The body is plastic and easy to roll and had 4.2% drying shrinkage at 15.3% water. The shelf warped slightly during drying, so care is needed. First-firing at cone 4 yielded a firing shrinkage of 1%). Notice that cone on the shelf: It is not stuck so no kiln wash is needed! Zircopax is super refractory! It is held together by sinter bonding, so the higher the temperature you can fire to the stronger it will be.

You may not fully appreciate what your clay body manufacturer has to go through to make clean porcelain for you. Every load of material that they receive has to be checked. We now have to check every pallet. This is the third semi-trailer load of material we have had contaminated (ball clays and kaolins are most vulnerable). When we phoned another manufacturer they checked their supply and it was contaminated also! Materials can also be contaminated by larger clay particles that disrupt the fired glaze surface. These chunks of metal were pulled out by magnets in the production line, a thousand boxes of porcelain are now garbage. It is too expensive to return a load, so it just becomes a loss.

These two cone 10 porcelains have the same recipe. 50% Grolleg Kaolin and 25% each of silica and feldspar. But the one on the left is plasticized using 3.5% VeeGum T and the one on the right uses 5% regular raw bentonite. The VeeGum is obviously doing more than making it more workable, it is fluxing the body to make it much more translucent. Although not clear from this picture, the entire mug on the left is covered with blisters, it has over vitrified (while the one on the right is stable).

These two cone 10 porcelains have the same recipe (50:25:25 Grolleg kaolin, feldspar, silica). But the one on the left is plasticized using 3.5% VeeGum T while the one on the right has 5% raw bentonite. The VeeGum delivers better plasticity and obviously whiter color, but it is also acting as a very strong flux and has transformed the body into an over mature mass of blisters. That means it should be possible to make this porcelain using a 50:20:30 mix.

10 grams balls of these three glazes were fired to cone 6 on porcelain tiles. Notice the difference in the degree of melt? Why? You could just say glaze 2 has more frit and feldspar. But we can dig deeper. Compare the yellow and blue numbers: Glaze 2 and 3 have much more B2O3 (boron, the key flux for cone 6 glazes) and lower SiO2 (silica, it is refractory). That is a better explanation for the much greater melting. But notice that glaze 2 and 3 have the same chemistry, but 3 is melting more? Why? Because of the mineralogy of Gerstley Borate. It yields its boron earlier in the firing, getting the melting started sooner. Notice it also stains the glaze amber, it is not as pure as the frit. Notice the calculated thermal expansion: That greater melting came at a cost, the thermal expansion is alot higher so 2 and 3 glaze will be more likely to craze than G2926B (number 1).

This is a cone 10 glossy glaze. It should be crystal clear and smooth. But it contains strontium carbonate, talc and calcium carbonate. They produce gases as they decompose, if that gas needs to come out at the wrong time it turns the glaze into a Swiss cheeze of micro bubbles. One solution is to use non-gassing sources of MgO, SrO and CaO. Or, better, do a study to isolate which of these three materials is the problem and it might be possible to adjust the firing to accommodate it. Or, an adjustment could be make to the chemistry of the glaze such that the melting happened later and more vigorously (rather than earlier and more slowly). The latter is actually the likely cause, this glaze contains a small amount of boron frit. Boron melts very early so the glaze is likely already fluid while gases that normally escape before other cone 10 glazes even get started melting are being trapped by this one.

This is VeeGum T, a processed Hectorite clay (similar to bentonite, extremely small particle size). I have propeller-mixed enough powder into water that it has begun to gel. How long does it take for them to begin to settle? Never. This sat for a month with no visible change! That means it is colloidal.

This glaze slurry contains 30% Gerstley Borate. I poured it onto a plaster table and it can take five or ten minutes to dewater enough to form it in test balls. A typical glaze would dewater twenty times faster! Gerstley Borate is like bentonite, it voraciously hangs on to the water it has. This is the reason that many GB glazes take a long time to dry on bisque ware. Generally slow drying also means cracking, that in turn can lead to crawling.

These are fired to cone 6, 8, 9 and 10 (top to bottom).

This chart shows lab measurements and calculated results for drying shrinkage, fired shrinkage, absorption, drying factor, sieve analysdis, LOI and water content of plastic material.

These cone 04 glazes have the same recipe (a version of Worthington Clear sourcing B2O3 from Ulexite instead of Gerstley borate). While the one on the left is OK, the one on the right is great! Why? It has 10% added lead bisilicate frit. Of course, I would not recommend this, I am just demonstrating how well it melts. Still, we gasp at the thought of using lead while we thrive on unstable flux-deprived, glass-deprived and alumina-deprived base stoneware glazes with additions of toxic colorants like chrome and manganese!

These are various different terra cotta clays fired to cone 04 (also a low fire white-buff fritted stoneware) with a recipe I formulated to source the same chemistry as the popular Worthington clear, but sourcing the B2O3 from Ulexite and a frit instead of Gerstley Borate (G2931B). All pieces are fired with a soak-soak-slow cool firing. Fit is good on all except a fritted terra cotta stoneware where it is shivering slightly (all were boil:ice tested). This outlines work I am doing to create an alternative recipe for the popular 50:30:20 GB:EPK:Silica recipe (Worthington clear) that uses Ulexite instead of Gerstley Borate (the later is notorious for turning glaze slurries into jelly!).

The top samples are 10 gram balls melted down onto porcelain tiles at cone 6 (this is a high melt fluidity glaze). These balls demonstrate melt mobility and susceptibility to bubbling but also color (notice how washed out the color is for thin layers on the bottom two tiles). Both have the same chemistry but recipe 2 has been altered to improve slurry properties. Left: Original recipe with high feldspar, low clay (poor suspending) using 1.75% copper carbonate. Right: New recipe with low feldspar, higher clay (good suspending) using 1% copper oxide. The copper oxide recipe is not bubbling any less even though copper oxide does not gas. The bubbles must be coming from the kaolin.

The insides are GA6-A Alberta Slip cone 6 base. Outsides are Ravenscrag Floating Blue GR6-M. The firing was soaked at cone 6, dropped 100F, soaked again for half and hour then cooled at 108F/hr until 1400F. The speckles on the porcelain blue glaze are due to agglomerated cobalt oxide (done by mixing cobalt with a little bentonite, drying and pulverizing it into approx 20 mesh size and then adding that to the glaze slurry).

We are comparing the degree of melt fluidity (10 gram balls melted down onto a tile) between two base clear glazes fired to cone 6 (top) and cone 1 (bottom). Left: G2926B clear boron-fluxed (0.33 molar) clear base glaze sold by Plainsman Clays. Right: G3814 zinc-fluxed (0.19 molar) clear base. Two things are clear: Zinc is a powerful flux (it only takes 5% in the recipe to yield the 0.19 molar). Zinc melts late: Notice that the boron-fluxed glaze is already flowing well at cone 1, whereas the zinc one has not even started. This is very good for fast fire because the unmelted glaze will pass more gases of decomposition from the body before it melts, producing fewer glaze defects.

Slurries with more clay (like engobes, slips) generally respond better to epsom salts. However the extra clay also makes them more likely to go moldy, so you may need to add a few drops of Dettol to kill the bacteria (if they are stored for any length of time). Vinegar works better for glaze surries, but only if they have sufficient specific gravity. Many people like to make an epsom salts solution and add that, but if you have a good mixer you may find it more intuitive to add the crystals and wait 30 seconds for the viscosity to respond.

Two clear glazes fired in the same slow-cool kiln on the same body with the same thickness. Why is one suffering boron blue (1916Q) and the other is not? Chemistry and material sourcing. Boron blue crystals will grow when there is plenty of boron (and other power fluxes), alumina is low, adequate silica is available and cooling is slow enough to give them time to grow. In the glaze on the left B2O3 is higher, crystal-fighting Al2O3 and MgO levels are alot lower, KNaO fluxing is alot higher, it has more SiO2 and the cooling is slow. In addition, it is sourcing B2O3 from a frit making the boron even more available for crystal formation (the glaze on the right is G2931F, it sources its boron from Ulexite).

This bag will give you a clue as to what manganese dioxide is mainly used for.

The first glaze is a control, a standard non-fluid clear with copper. The other three are the short-listed ones in my project to find a good copper blue recipe starting recipe and fix its problems (which they all have). The flow testers at the back and the melt-down-balls in front of them contain 1% copper carbonate. The glazed samples in the front row have 2% copper carbonate. L3806B, an improvement on the Panama Blue recipe, has the best color and the best compromise of flow and bubble clearing ability.

The top base glaze has just enough melt fluidity to produce a brilliant transparent (without colorant additions). However it does not have enough fluidity to pass the bubbles and heal over from the decomposition of this added copper carbonate! Why is lower glaze passing the bubbles? How can it melt better yet have 65% less boron? How can it not be crazing when the COE calculates to 7.7 (vs. 6.4)? First, it has 40% less Al2O3 and SiO2 (which normally stiffen the melt). Second, it has higher flux content that is more diversified (it adds two new ones: SrO, ZnO). That zinc is a key to why it is melting so well and why it starts melting later (enabling unimpeded gas escape until then). It also benefits from the mixed-oxide-effect, the diversity itself improves the melt. And the crazing? The ZnO obviously pushes the COE down disproportionately to its percentage.

The recipe also contains 2.5% tin oxide. The clear base is the best we found to host the copper blue effect (this is actually one we recalculated to source the Al2O3 more from clay and less from feldspar to get much better slurry properties). Other base recipes are more fluid, blister more easily, the slurry does not work as well and they are not as blue. There is an Insight-live.com share to see the recipe and notes at http://insight-live.com/insight/share.php?show=ruY3muruhJ1

This is the winner of a five-way cone 6 copper blue glaze comparison that started with my dissatisfaction with Panama blue. When I compared these glazes I did not just eyeball them on a tile. I compared the melt flow, thermal expansion and slurry performance of the bases (without the copper and tin). Ball-melt tests also compared bubble and color development for very thick sections. Then I tried more copper and did more flow tests. I also did leaching tests. Where needed I adjusted recipes to increase clay content (while maintaining chemistry) so the slurries would work better. Without my account at insight-live.com to keep all of this organized it would have been so much more difficult, actually, I probably would not even have bothered with the project. The recipe is G3806C.

Fired at cone 6. A melt fluidity comparison (behind) shows the G3808A clear base is much more fluid. While G2926B is a very good crystal clear transparent by itself (and with some colorants), with 2% added copper oxide it is unable to heal all the surface defects (caused by the escaping gases as the copper decomposes). The G3808A, by itself, is too fluid (to the point it will run down off the ware onto the shelf during firing). But that fluidity is needed to develop the copper blue effect (actually, this one is a little more fluid that it needs to be). Because copper blue and green glazes need fluid bases, strategies are needed to avoid them running off the ware. That normally involves thinner application, use on more horizontal surfaces or away from the lower parts of verticals.

The recipe: 50% New Zealand kaolin, 21% G200 Feldspar, 25% silica and 3% VeeGum (for cone 10R). These are the cleanest materials available. Yet it contains 0.15% iron (mainly from the 0.25% in the New Zealand kaolin, the VeeGum chemistry is not known, I am assuming it contributes zero iron). A 50 lb a box of pugged would contain about 18,000 grams of dry clay (assuming 20% water). 0.15% of 18,000 is the 27 grams of iron you see here! This mug is a typical Grolleg-based porcelain using a standard raw bentonite. A box of it contains four times as much iron. Enough to fill that cup half full!

This glaze has a significant amount of cobalt carbonate and during cooling the excess is precipitating out into pink crystals during cooling in the kiln. This effect is unwanted because in this case since it produces an unpleasant surface and color (the photo does not clearly show how pink it is). This problem can be fixed by a combination of cooling the kiln faster, increasing the Al2O3 content in the glaze (it stiffens the melt and prevents crystal growth) or firing lower.

This is common with high iron clays, they lighten dramatically during the last few hundred degrees of cooling in the kiln.

This is also a common problem at low fire on earthenware clay (but can also appear on a buff stonewares). Those white spots you see on the beetle also cover the entire glaze surface (although not visible). They are sites of gas escaping (from particles decomposing in the body). The spots likely percolate during soaking at top temperate. Some of them, notably on the almost vertical inner walls of this bowl, having not smoothed over during cool down. What can you do? Use the highest possible bisque temperature, even cone 02 (make the glaze thixotropic so it will hang on to the denser body, see the link below about this). Adjust the glaze chemistry to melt later after gassing has finished (more zinc, less boron). Apply a thinner glaze layer (more thixotropy and lower specific gravity will enable a more even coverage with less thickness). Instead of soaking at temperature, drop 100 degrees and soak there instead (gassing is much less and the increasing viscosity of the melt overcomes the surface tension). Use a body not having any large particles that decompose (and gas) on firing. Use cones to verify the temperature your electronic controller reports.

The magic of this recipe is the 5% extra frit, that makes the melt more fluid and brilliant and gives the glaze more transparency where it is thinner on edges and contours. The extra iron in the Plainsman P380 (right) intensifies the green glaze color (vs. Polar Ice on the left). The specks are cobalt oxide agglomerates that were made by slurrying cobalt oxide and bentonite, then crushing it to sizes large enough to make the specks.

Using stonewares it is easy to get pretty sloppy in the studio because a particle of iron or cobalt in a glaze or body is no big deal. But on a ice white, translucent, transparent-glazed piece it is a really big deal. These specks are particles of cobalt that were trapped in my 80 mesh glaze screen from previous use. I use a soft brush to coax the glaze through the screen faster, but even that was enough to dislodge some of the cobalt particles. The lesson: I need a dedicated glaze screen for use with this transparent glaze, it gets used for nothing else.

Also often labelled as alumina hydroxide.

From Davis Colors

Why the difference? The one on the right (Plainsman M370) is made from commodity American kaolins, ball clays, feldspars and bentonite. It looks pretty white-firing until you put it beside the Polar Ice on the left (made from NZ kaolin, VeeGum plasticizer and Nepheline Syenite as the flux). These are extremely low iron content materials. M370 contains low iron compared to a stoneware (less than 0.5%) that iron interacts with this glaze to really bring out the color (although it is a little thicker application that comes nowhere near explaining this huge difference). Many glazes do not look good on super-white porcelains for this reason.

Some companies (e.g. Old Hickory Clay) use this as an alternative to shrink-wrapping every pallet of bagged materials (for environmental reasons for example). This wood derivative material is very sticky and behaves like a glue. However it redissolves quickly when whetted. Dark hard particles of this glue can be a concern in batching operations where they fall into the mix. However in a pugmill the particles dissolve during movement through the barrel and are not visible in the extruded product.

Top to bottom: Cone 10 reduction, cone 11, 9, 8, 7 oxidation. This is a refractory material despite the fact that it is high in iron.

If your drying glaze is doing what you see on the left, do not smooth it with your finger and hope for the best. It is going to crawl during firing. Wash it off, dry the ware and change your glaze or process. This is Ravenscrag Slip being used pure as a glaze, it is shrinking too much so I simply add some calcined material to the bucket. That reduces the shrinkage and therefore the cracking (trade some of the kaolin in your glaze for calcined kaolin to do the same thing). Glazes need clay to suspend and harden them, but if your glaze has 20%+ kaolin and also bentonite, drop the bentonite (not needed). Other causes: Double-layering. Putting it on too thick. May be flocculating (high water content). Slow drying (try bisquing lower, heating before dipping; or glaze inside, dry it, then glaze outside).

Lagunaclay.com will be importing this material from India. It will be called Mahavir Potash Feldspar. You can find it in the reference materials in your Insight-live.com account. You might like to leave recipes as is (naming G-200 as the material) but insert "Mahavir Potash Feldspar" as the lookup so the chemistry will be correct.

This sanitary ware tank lid was made in China. Notice how thick the white glaze is being applied to cover the iron containing body below. This is a testament to how opaque a zircon opacified glaze can be. Of course, high percentages create a stiffer glaze melt and conditions can more often combine to produce crawling like this.

This glaze consists of micro fine silica, calcined EP kaolin, Ferro Frit 3249 MgO frit, and Ferro Frit 3134. It has been ball milled for 1, 3, and 6 hours with these same results. Notice the crystallization that is occurring. This is likely a product of the MgO in the Frit 3249. This high boron frit introduces it in a far more mobile and fluid state than would talc or dolomite and MgO is a matting agent (by virtue of the micro crystallization it can produce). The fluid melt and the fine silica further enhance the effect.

These are fired around cone 8. On the far right is 15% zircopax (left has none). Zircon is however very expensive and its use on bricks has to be rationalized, or at least minimized. In this case a white engobe applied first would greatly reduce the zircon percentage needed.

The simple answer is that you should not. The chemistry of stains is proprietary. Stain particles do not dissolve into the glaze melt like other materials, they suspend in the transparent glass to color it. That is why stains are color stable and dependable. In addition, their percentage in the recipe, not the formula, is the predictor of their effect on the fired glaze. Of course they do impose effects on the thermal expansion, melt fluidity, etc., but these must be rationalized by experience and testing. But you can still enter stains into Insight recipes. Consider adding the stains you use to your private materials database (for costing purposes for example).

Low fire glazes must be able to pass the bubbles their bodies generate (or clouds of micro-bubbles will turn them white). This cone 04 flow tester makes it clear that although 3825B has a higher melt fluidity (it has flowed off onto the tile, A has not). And it has a much higher surface tension. How do I know that? The flow meets the runway at a perpendicular angle (even less), it is long and narrow and it is white (full of entrained micro-bubbles). Notice that A meanders down the runway, a broad, flat and relatively clear river. Low fire glazes must pass many more bubbles than their high temperature counterparts, the low surface tension of A aids that. A is Amaco LG-10. B is Crysanthos SG213 (Spectrum 700 behaves similar to SG13, although flowing less). However they all dry very slowly. Watch for a post on G2931J, a Ulexite/Frit-based recipe that works like A but dries on dipped ware in seconds (rather than minutes).

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.

This body is a plastic fireclay base having 13% 20/48 grog and 10% 65 mesh silica sand. But the texture is far coarser than one would expect. That is because it has 4 cubic feet of perlite per thousand pound batch. If desired the surface can be trowel smooth. This works well partly because the perlite particles are soft and easy to crush.

Cone 10R (top) and cone 11 down to 8 oxidation (downward).

The body is a 50:50 talc:ball clay mix, it is very smooth and slick so the only particulate is from the grog. In this case the grog addition is being used to make the body resistant to thermal shock failure (for use as a flameware). The body itself is not low expansion nor are the grogged particles. But the sheer quantity of aggregate particles and their size creates an open porous matrix that makes it difficult for cracks to propagate. Of course lots of burnishing, an engobe or a thick glaze layer will be needed to make this surface functional. We could call this the "crow-bar" approach to flameware.

These test bars are fired at cone 10R. The top one is EP Kaolin, the bottom one is Old Hickory M23 Ball Clay (these materials are typical of their respective types). It is interesting that although the kaolin has a much larger ultimate particle size it is shrinking alot more (23% vs. 14%). This is counterintuitive to what should be happening. And another thing: the kaolin has a porosity of 0.5% and the ball clay is 1.5%. This is also counterintuitive. The kaolin should be more refractory since it contains less fluxing oxide impurities. In fact, both should theoretically be a lot more refractory than they actually are.

EPK has a much higher fired shrinkage. This is counter intuitive because Grolleg is known to produce more vitrified porcelains. It also appears whiter yet in a porcelain body the Grolleg will produce a much whiter fired product. This means that to compare porcelains we need to see them "playing on the team", in a recipe working with other materials, to see their the properties they really contribute.

The primary use of this material is obvious. It is not ceramics. But this bag is marked at "ceramic grade", likely a reference to its fine particle size. This bag is very small, ceramic rutile is very dense.

This was plastic and moldable two days ago, now it is incredibly sticky. It is being compared with 5 other kaolin:nepheline mixes, none of them have reacted in this way.

The material is much less dense than most other ceramic materials (that is why these bags are so tall). When moved the powder within becomes unstable and they are prone to falling over.

A nylon fabric bag with no safety markings.

Cone 10 reduction (top), 11 down to 9 oxidation below. The dark color is partly from iron bearing soluble salts that are left on the surface after drying.

Cone 10 reduction (top), cone 11 down to 8 oxidation below that.

Cone 10 reduction (top), cone 11 down to 6 oxidation below. This is their whitest burning clay.

Decrepitation refers to a decomposition accompanied by scaling, delayering, even disintegration of the glaze layer. Moving rightward these glazes have increasing percentages of colemanite. At its worst (far right) the glaze is spattering off the sample and onto the kiln shelf. The others are crawling, first pulling away from the corners (far left) moving toward pulling away on the flat surfaces (center). Ulexite, a similar mineral, is far less likely to do this. Courtesy of Nigel Hicken.

The Colemanite-based black underglaze over which a raspberry non-colemanite glaze was poured resulting in severe crawling as the Colemanite exfoliated and detached the overglaze. Courtesy of Nigel Hicken.

Prized for its whiteness and plasticity. A base for many stonewares.

This is a common problem with these glazes. The visual effect is very compelling but also punishing! Potters experiment with higher bisque firing and soaking during bisque. They try cleaner clay bodies. They employ long hold periods at temperature in the glaze firing. But the problem persists. The solution is actually simpler. These glazes have a high melt fluidity and enough surface tension to hold a bubble static during soaks at temperature (no matter how long you hold it). It is better to cool the kiln somewhat (perhaps 100F) and soak at that temperature. Why? Because the increasing viscosity of the melt overcomes the surface tension that maintains the bubbles. You may need to cool more or less than 100 degrees, but start with that.

Both of these are a kaolin:nepheline syenite blend (mixed 70:30, that produces a zero-porosity body around cone 9 for an American kaolin). Both of these have about 2.5% porosity at cone 6, they respond similarly to the glaze and the fired color is very similar. The McNamee clay has a 1% higher fired shrinkage (10.5% vs. 9.5%) and it requires a little more water to get the same plasticity.

This clay was slurried in a mixer and then poured onto a plaster table for dewatering. During throwing it is splitting when stretched and peeling when cutting the base. Yet when this same clay is water-mixed and pugged in a vacuum de-airing pugmill it performs well. One might think that the slurry mixer would wet all the particle surfaces better than a pugmill, but it appears the energy that the latter is putting into the mix is needed to develop the plasticity when there is a high talc percentage in the recipe.

Custer feldspar and Nepheline Syenite. The coverage is perfectly even on both. No drips. Yet no clay is present. The secret? Epsom salts. I slurried the two powders in water until the flow was like heavy cream. I added more water to thin and started adding the epsom salts. After only a pinch or two they both gelled. Then I added more water and more epsom salts until they thickened again and gelled even better. They both applied beautifully to these porcelains. The gelled consistency prevented them settling in seconds to a hard layer on the bucket bottom. Could you do this with pure silica? Yes! The lesson: If these will suspend by gelling with epsom salts then any glaze will. You never need to tolerate settling or uneven coverage again! Read the page "Thixotropy", it will change your life as a potter.

This slurry is just water and 295 mesh silica. I have mixed it to 1.79 specific gravity and it is creamy. It applies like a glaze to bisque ware (if I dip it fast) and goes on super smooth and even. It does settle, but only slowly. Unlike feldspar and nepheline syenite, if I thin it a little and add epsom salts or vinegar it does not gel, no matter how much I put in. The only response I can see is that it appears to settle out a little less. I was always taught that clay is needed to suspend things, every thing else will settle out like a rock if there is no clay present in the slurry. Of any material, this is one that I would have expected to settle out the fastest.

Talc particle surfaces do not wet as easily. Other mineral powders (like feldspar, silica, even clay, will wet and sink immediately). Yet even after 30 minutes this still had not submerged. Pugging clay bodies containing talc can be difficult for this reason. Laminations can be a problem even with small percentages of talc.

This stoneware mug was glazed inside and halfway down the outside with pure silica. At some point during heatup the outside layer, not shrinking like the piece, simply fell down. And was sintered enough to hang together and remain intact through the rest of the firing (on the inside, the shrinking forced the silica to flake off into a pile at the bottom). Cone 10 has sintered the silica enough that it will not slake in water but it is fragile and soft and must be handled carefully.

These were applied to the bisque as a slurry (suspended by gelling with epsom salts). The nepheline is thicker. Notice the crazing. This is what feldspars do. Why? Because they are high in K2O and Na2O, these oxides have by far the highest thermal expansions. So if a glaze is high in feldspar it should be no surprise that it is going to craze also.

The top porcelain bar has only 0.07% Mason 6336 blue stain added (vs. none in the bottom bar). This is a low fire frit-ware body fired at cone 03 in oxidation. At a slightly lower percentage (e.g. 0.05%) this porcelain will have the same color as a cone 10 reduction one (when covered with a transparent glaze). However adequate glass development is needed before the blue color develops.

These two glazes have the same chemistry but different recipes. The F gets its boron from Ulexite, and Ulexite has a high LOI (it generates gases during firing, notice that these gases have affected the downward flow during melting). The frit-based version on the right flows cleanly and contains almost no bubbles. At high and medium temperatures potters seldom have bubble issues with glazes. This is not because they do not occur, it is because the appearance of typical glaze types are not affected by bubbles (and infact are often enhanced by them). But at low temperatures potters usually want to achieve good clarity in transparents and brilliance in a colors, so they find themselves in the same territory as the ceramic industry. An important way to do this is by using more frits (and the right firing schedules).

These are fired bars of Laguna SG758 Barnard Slip substitute going from cone 04 (bottom) to cone 6 (top). It is melting at cone 6. The bars are expanded above cone 6 and becoming quite porous. The drying shrinkage is around 7%, it is quite plastic.

Calcined kaolin has zero plasticity. 25% bentonite had to be added to make it plastic enough to make this piece. Why bother? Because this will flash heavily in reduction firing.

Color, density, size and hardness all change as the firing temperature progresses. The color, for example, persists in zones, then changes suddenly. Notice that the colour of the grog particles contrasts more as the temperature increases. This body is completely vitrified at cone 10 and the grog is important for fired stability.

Notice it does not quote the amount of CuCO3, just Cu metal. It also does not quote LOI percentage (weight loss on ignition, it will be more than 25%). Theoretical copper carbonate is 71.94% CuO (sourced by a mix of copper carbonate and carbonate hydroxide). CuO is 79.9% copper and 20.1% oxygen. Thus, we would expect Cu metal to be 57.5% (in a theoretical material). Since this example has impurities it is a little less, 55.8%.

Talc is employed in low fire bodies to raise their thermal expansion (to put the squeeze on glazes to prevent crazing). These dilatometer curves make it very clear just how effective that strategy is! The talc body was fired at cone 04, the stoneware at cone 6. The former is porous and completely non-vitreous, the latter is semi vitreous. This demonstrates something else interesting: The impracticality of calculating the thermal expansion of clay bodies based on their oxide chemistry. Talc sources MgO and low fire bodies containing it would calculate to a low thermal expansion. But the opposite happens. Why? Because these bodies are composed of mineral particles loosely sintered together. A few melt somewhat, some change their mineral form, most remain unchanged. The body's COE is the additive sum of the proportionate populations of all the particles. Good luck calculating that!

The original cone 6 recipe, WCB, fires to a beautiful brilliant deep blue green (shown in column 2 of this Insight-live screen-shot). But it is crazing and settling badly in the bucket. The crazing is because of high KNaO (potassium and sodium from the high feldspar). The settling is because there is almost no clay. Adjustment 1 (column 3) eliminates the feldspar and sources Al2O3 from kaolin and KNaO from Frit 3110. The chemistry of the new chemistry is very close. To make that happen the amounts of other materials had to be juggled (you can click on any material to see what oxides it contributes). But the fired test reveals that this one, although very similar, is melting more (because the frit releases its oxide more readily than feldspar). Adjustment 2 (column 4) proposes a 10-part silica addition (to supply more SiO2). SiO2 is the glass former, the more a glaze will accept, the better. Silica is refractory so the glaze will run less. It will also fire more durable and be more resistant to leaching.

Some frit companies publish the chemistry of their frits, others do not. Some publish some of their products. Some published in the past but do not do so now. When frit data sheets do not provide an oxide analysis they become an impediment to use in glaze chemistry.

The sample on the left is clouding up with entrained micro-bubbles and the surface is not a smooth. The solution was to source CaO from wollastonite instead of calcium carbonate and fire fast, very fast. That is what gas kilns do well!

Iron oxide has been added to a buff burning stoneware clay and samples fired at cone 6. They contain black iron oxide (10%, 5% and 2.5%). Even at 2.5% the raw pugged body is very black and messy to work with. Did they fire black? Or even dark grey? No. We have also tried 20% (mix of black and yellow iron) and the fired color is still dark red. Some form of manganese is needed to get an affordable black burning clay.

The glaze on the right is a transparent, G2926B, on a dark burning cone 6 body (Plainsman M390). On the left is the same glaze, but with 4% red iron oxide added. The entrained micro bubbles are gone and the color is deep and much richer. It is not clear how this happens, but it is certainly beneficial.

These bags actually contain Zircopax Plus since Trebol is the new owner of the company.

Also known as hydrated alumina.

Well, actually they are not exactly the same. This is 80% Alberta Slip and 20% frit. But the frit on the left is Ferro 3195 and on the right is 3134. By comparing the calculated chemistry for these two we can say that the likely reason for the difference is the Al2O3 content. Frit 3134 has almost none whereas 3195 has 12%. Al2O3 stiffens the glaze melt, that impedes crystal growth. But it stabilizes the melt against running during firing. Frit 3195 has more boron, so the one on the left should be running more. But it actually runs less. Why? Again, because the increased Al2O3 is stiffening the melt.

The body is dark brown burning Plainsman M390 (cone 6). The amber colored glaze is 80% Alberta Slip (raw:calcine mix) with 20% of each frit. The white engobe on the inside of two of the mugs is L3954A (those mugs are glazed inside using transparent G2926B). The Alberta Slip amber gloss glaze produces an ultra-gloss surface of high quality on mugs 2 and 3 (Frit 3249 and 3195). On the outside we see it this glaze on the white slip until midway down, then on the bare red clay. The amber glaze on the first mug (with Frit 3124) has a pebbly surface that is not working nearly as well. These mugs are fired using a drop-and-soak firing schedule. Some caution is required with the 3249 version, it has low thermal expansion (that is good on bodies that normally craze glazes, but risks shivering on ones that do not).

Rather than the normal 80:20 AlbertaSlip:Frit3134 recipe, this one substitutes Frit 3249 (super low expansion). The glaze is less runny and even glossier on these Plainsman porcelains. They are fired at cone 6 in a cool-and-soak firing. They survived boiling water:ice water tests without crazing (likely because of the low expansion of frit 3249). The finish is dazzling, a brilliant amber glass with no defects and perfectly even coverage. Of course, the iron in the glass prevents the colors of the blue underglaze from showing through. But the black is great.

Layers of the Whitemud Formation are being mined. The layer being extracted is a silty stoneware (equivalent to Plainsman 3D). Above that is a ball clay (Plainsman A2). Above that is a light burning stoneware (Plainsman A3 and B). A foot-thick layer of hard volcanic ash is visible in the green over burden at the top.

The body is buff burning Plainsman M340 (cone 6). The amber colored glaze is 80% Alberta Slip (raw:calcine mix) with 20% of each frit. The white engobe on the inside of mug 1 is L3954A (also glazed inside using transparent G2926B). These frits are producing an amber gloss glaze of high quality. On the outside of mug 1 we see the 3195 version on the white slip until midway down, then on the bare buff clay (the other has the 3249 version). These mugs are fired using a drop-and-soak firing schedule. There is a caution: Frit 3249 has a very low thermal expansion, use it on bodies that craze other glazes (like Plainsman P300), it could shiver on stonewares like this.

These two cone 6 mugs have the same glaze recipe: GA6A Alberta Slip base. 4% rutile has been added to each. They were fired in the same kiln using a slow cool schedule. The recipes and chemistry are shown below (the latter gives a clue as to why there is no blue on the right). The mug on the left is the traditional recipe, 80:20 Alberta Slip:Ferro Frit 3134. Frit 3134 melts at a very low temperature and a key reason for that is its near-zero Al2O3 content. Al2O3 in glazes stiffens the melt and imparts durability to the fired glass (normally we want adequate levels in functional glazes). When Al2O3 levels are low and cooling is slower molecules in the stiffening glass have much more freedom to move and orient themselves in the preferred way: crystalline (fast cooling produces a glass). Thus the rutile in the glaze on the left has had its way, dancing as the kiln cooled, producing all sorts of interesting variegated visual effects. The glaze on the right employs Ferro Frit 3195. It has lots of Al2O3 and has contributed enough to stop the rutile dead.

These two mugs are the same dark burning stoneware (Plainsman M390). They have the same clear glaze, G2926B. They are fired to the same temperature in the same firing schedule. But the glaze on the left has 4% added iron oxide. On a light-burning body the iron changes the otherwise transparent glass to amber colored (with speckle). But on this dark burning clay it appears transparent. But amazingly, the bubble clouds are gone. We have not tested further to find the minimum amount of iron needed for this effect.

This glaze has just been applied to a bisqued tile. It contains wollastonite, which can agglomerate in storage. The white wollastonite lumps can be broken down by sieving the slurry through 80 mesh or finer. Many other materials behave in a similar manner (e.g. barium carbonate, iron oxide, cobalt oxide, clays, tin oxide, zircon).

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.

This cone 6 mug is made from a black clay (containing 10% burnt umber). The engobe on the inside is covered by a clear glaze. The color is the same as if the engobe were on a white or buff firing stoneware. Engobes get their covering power from the fact that they do not melt. If you see an engobe with lots of frit it will likely melt too much, be suspicious.

These are the same material, however the one on the right has been burnt to 600F. At this surprisingly low temperature the color transforms into a deep redish brown.

The cone 03 porcelain cup on the left has 10% Cerdec encapsulated stain 239416 in the G2931K clear base. The surface is orange-peeled because the glass is full of micro-bubbles that developed during the fired. Notice that the insides of the cups are crystal-clear, no bubbles. So they are a direct product of the presence of the stain. The glaze on the right has even more stain, 15%. But it also has a 3% addition of zircon. Suppliers of encapsulated stains recommend a zircon addition, but are often unclear about why. Here is the reason!

The amber glaze on the outside of the left mug contains 20% super-low thermal expansion Ferro Frit 3249 as the melter. With no underlying engobe it can form enough of a bond with the body that it does not flake off at the rim (even though it is under excessive compression because its low thermal expansion). This flaking is called "shivering". The engobe, which does not melt like a glaze, has a more fragile bond with the body (and the glaze is pushing enough to make that bond fail). The mug on the right employs 20% Frit 3195 melter instead, producing a glaze that fits better. I hammered both of these rims repeatedly with a metal object to stress them, that one on the right definitely fits better.

These balls are easily broken down by the propeller in a slurry mixer. But they do not break down easily in a dry mixer, even when in a mix with other materials (like silica and feldspar). They just bounce around on a vibrating screen. That means that without some sort of finishing device in the dry material feed stream to break down these lumps before the pugmill, it is difficult to manufacture homogeneous plastic body employing it.

These are cone 03 porcelains with G2931K clear glaze base plus Mason 6021 encapsulated stain (which is very expensive). The one on the left has 15% stain added. The one on the right is slightly less dense red but has only 10% stain plus 2% zircon (zircopax). Notice the zircon has smoothed the surface also, this is a known benefit of using it with encapsulated stains. The 2% addition is not enough to opacify, the color remains deep and translucent. But the surface is still not completely smooth and glassy as is the base transparent glaze on its own. This can be improved using a drop-and-hold firing schedule.

Black burning bodies are popular with many potters. They are normally manufactured by adding around 10% burnt or raw umber to an existing buff-burning cone 6 stoneware. Umbers are powerful colorants, they have high iron and also contain manganese (the latter being the primary source of the color). But these clays can be troublesome. First, good kiln venting is needed to avoid breathing the dangerous manganese metal vapors. Micro-bubble clouding/gloss-loss in the glazes and blistering/bloating of the bodies are common. But this mug fired perfectly. Why? The umber was added to a cone 10 stoneware instead (and it has fluxed the body to mature at cone 6). The mug has been white engobed on the inside and partway down the outside during leather hard stage. After bisque it was clear glazed on the inside giving a flawless surface (using G2926B) and dipped in GA6-A Alberta Slip base amber-clear. The GA6-A over the black clay produces a very deep, rich, almost black ultra-gloss surface.

The outside glaze is a copper blue, but that is not the one we are interested in here. It is the clear glaze on the insides of these two identical cone 6 porcelain mugs. Why add such a small amount of zircon to it? It is not being added to opacify, it is being added to toughen the surface and reduce the thermal expansion.The presence of the 2% zircon has not affected the gloss or transparency of the glaze on the right. However the 3% on the left has opacified it just slightly and made the surface a little silky. So that is too much for this glaze (although it might be OK if the melt fluidity was higher). So, if you are interested in the most functional possible surface, consider a 2% zircon addition to your transparent.

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.

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