Dialometric chart produced by a dilatometer. The curve represents the increase in thermal expansion that occurs as a glass is heated. Changes in the direction of the curve are interpreted as the transformation (or transition) temperature, set point and softening point (often quoted on frit data sheets). When the thermal expansion of a material is quoted as one number (on a data sheet), it is derived from this chart. Since the chart is almost never a straight line one can appreciate that the number is only an approximation of the thermal expansion profile of the material.

In the glaze on the left (90% Ravenscrag Slip and 10% iron oxide) the iron is saturating the melt crystallizing out during cooling. GR10-K1, on the right, is the same glaze but with 5% added calcium carbonate. This addition is enough to keep most of the iron in solution through cooling, so it contributes to the super-gloss deep tenmoku effect instead of precipitating out.

An example of an engobe (slip) applied to dry ware and then fired at cone 2. The one of the left has been poured, the right sprayed. Control of the thickness of engobes is important, thus the specific gravity and viscosity of the slurries are very important. Engobes are invaluable since a red or brown burning body can be made to fire white like porcelain (enabling much better glaze surface quality).

All of these are on a cone 10 reduction fired iron stoneware (Plainsman H443). Far left: G2894 Ravenscrag Tenmoku with 10% whiting and 10% iron oxide added. Center: Pure Alberta Slip plus 5% whiting and 1% iron oxide. Right: Pure Alberta Slip plus 5% whiting and and 2% iron. The Alberta Slip versions are less messy to use because so much less iron is needed (iron also causes the slurry to gel). The Ravenscrag version is running, it is too fluid. Likely 5% calcium carbonate would be enough (and maybe less iron).

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.

True functional mattes have fluid melts, like glossy glazes. They need this in order to develop a hard, non-scratching durable glass. The mechanism of the matte on the right is high Al2O3 (G1214Z), it is actually melting more than the glossy glaze on the left (G1214W).

These flakes have been screened from a highly fritted boron glaze mixed using hard water and stored for a year. They formed as a film across the top of the settled surface.

Left: What GA6-C Alberta Slip rutile blue used to look like. Middle: When it started firing wrong, the color was almost completely lost. Right: The rutile effect is back with a vengeance! What was the problem? We were adjusting firing schedules over time to find ways to reduce pinholing in other glazes and bodies. Our focus was slowing the final stages of firing and soaking there. In those efforts the key firing phase that creates the effect was lost: it happens on the way down from cone 6. This glaze needs a drop-and-soak firing (e.g. cooling 270F from cone 6, soaking, then 150F/hr drop to 1400F).

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

Slips and engobes are fool-proof, right? Just mix the recipe you found on the internet, or that someone else recommends, and you are good to go. Wrong! Low fire slips need to be compatible with the body in two principle ways: drying and firing. Terra cotta bodies have low shrinkage at cone 06-04 (but high at cone 02). The percentage of frit in the engobe determines its firing shrinkage at each of those temperatures. Too much and the engobe is stretched on, too little and it is under compression. The lower the frit the less the glass-bonding with the body and the more chance of flaking if they do fit well (either during the firing or after the customer stresses your product). The engobe also needs to shrink with the body during drying. How can you measure compatibility? Bi-body strips. First I prepare a plastic sample of the engobe. Then I roll 4 mm thick slabs of it and the body, lay them face-to-face and roll that down to 4 mm again. I cut 2.5x12 cm bars and dry and fire them. The curling indicates misfit. This engobe needs more plastic clay (so it dry-shrinks more) and less frit (to shrink less on firing).

This is part of a project to fit a fritted vitreous engobe (slip) onto a terra cotta at cone 02 (it fires harder there). Left: On drying the red body curls the bi-clay strip toward itself, but on firing it goes the other way! Right: Test bars of the white slip and red body compare their drying and firing shrinkages. Center back: A mug with the white slip and a transparent overglaze. Notice the slip is going translucent under the glaze. Why? It is too vitreous. That explains how it can curl the bi-clay bars toward itself (it has a higher fired shrinkage). So rather than add zircon to opacify the slip, it is better to reduce its frit content (thereby reducing its firing shrinkage). Reducing the frit in the slip will also make it more opaque (because it will melt less). Front: A different, more vitreous red body (having a frit addition) fits the slip better (the strips dry and fire straight).

This demonstrates the difficulty you can encounter when trying to get an engobe working with a clay body. Here the slip/glaze is flaking off the rim of pieces at cone 04 (does not happen at 06). The front bi-clay bar demonstrates the white and red clays dry well together (the slight curve happened on the drying). They also fire well together (the curvature did not change on firing). The back two thin bars seem to demonstrate thermal expansion compatibility: a thick layer of glaze is not under enough compression to curve either bar during firing. While the white clay contains 15% frit and forms a good bond with the red body, that bond is not nearly as good as the one between the glaze and the white slip. Yet it is still flaking off the rim at the slip/body interface. Why? At first it seemed that failure was happening at quartz inversion (because the body had less quartz than the white slip). However now it appears that the combination of compressions of the slip and glaze are sufficient to break the slip-body bond on convex contours. The compression of the slip and glaze likely did not demonstrate well on the bars because at this low a temperature they are not vitreous enough to be easily curled.

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).

Keeping your valuable notes like this? Recipes? Test results? Are your pictures lost in a cellphone with no keywords or connections to anything? If you test and develop you need to organize in a way that a book cannot do. Like link recipes to each other and other things like pictures and firing schedules. You need to group test recipes in projects, classify them. Calculate chemistry and mix tickets. Research materials. Do keyword searches. Book and binder records do not do this. Your account at Insight-live.com does!

This is Ravenscrag Slip, I am going to calcine about 10 pounds of it in this bisque ware vessel to destroy the plasticity. I will fire to 1000F and hold it for 2 hours to make sure the heat penetrates. Why calcine? Because I have found that in some glazes having 70% or more Ravenscrag Slip, cracking on drying can occur if it is applied too thick. I love the working properties of these glazes and want to optimize them to avoid any problems. I am going to mix 75:25 raw:calcine on the next batch of glaze. However, Ravenscrag 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 750 raw and 250*.91=227.5.

M390 horse under construction by Katie Stone at Medalta in 2014.

Five common North American Ferro Frits fired at 1850F on alumina tiles (each started as a 10 gram ball and flattened during the firing). At this temperature, the differences in the degree of melting are more evident that at 1950F. The degree of melting corresponds mainly to the percentage of B2O3 present. However Frit 3134 is the runaway leader because it contains no Al2O3 to stabilize the melt. Frit 3110 is an exception, it has low boron but very high sodium.

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.

Samples fired to cone 6. Lower left: Plainsman M390. Upper left: M390 plus 12.5% 48 mesh kyanite (no visible effect on fired color or character). Upper right: M390 plus 12.5% Christie STKO 22S 40 mesh grog (strangely it fires a darker color and appears more vitreous and there is no soluble salts circle). Both grogs were wedged into the clay and did not stiffen it or affect plasticity much (in fact, both were easier to pull up during throwing). The percentage water content went from the 21% to 19% in both.

A closeup of the rim and a transparent-glazed cup made from a high-iron clay (Plainsman Redstone) and fired at cone 6. Iron-bearing clays tend to gas more on firing and can generate many more bubbles in glazes for this reason (a buff stoneware would be almost free of bubbles with this glaze, Plainsman M340 transparent). Thus, it is best to use opacified glazes with this type of body.

The glaze on the left is called Tenmoku Cone 6 (a popular, and old, CM recipe). It is 20% calcium carbonate, 35% Custer feldspar, 15% OM4 Ball Clay and 30% silica, 10% iron oxide. If you have any experience with glaze you will note two things that a fishy here: There is no boron, lithia or zinc sourcing material. How can this melt enough at cone 6? It looks melted, but the ease of scratching it shows it is not. So, it appears that if we saturate an incompletely melted glaze with a lot of refractory brown colorant on a dark body the effect can be black. A better idea is the glaze on the right. We start with a stable, reliable base transparent, G2926B. Then we add 5% Mason 6666 black stain (stains are smelted at high temperatures, quenched and ground, they are inert and relatively safe). A bonus is we end up with a slurry that is not nearly as messy to use and does not turn into a bucket of jelly.

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

This measuring cup contains 30 squares of toilet paper or 11 grams (which has disintegrated quickly and has been propeller-mixed). I am about to dump the paper fiber and 1000 grams of plastic porcelain powder into the water and then mix that up and pour the slurry onto a plaster bat. Although the fiber is only 1% by weight of the dry mix, this completely changes the working properties of the clay. It is still plastic, but much more difficult to cut with a knife or wire. It rolls out nicely into very thin slabs and they are very tough and easy to manipulate and build with. As it hardens it is still pretty plastic.When forced to bend it slowly breaks as the fibers release across the boundaries. Two dry pieces of this clay can be joined using only water and they stick together! Of course this paper needs to burn out during firing, so you need good ventilation on your kiln. You might think that this paper clay shrinks much less than the non-paper version. Actually, it shrinks more (likely because of the increased percentage of water needed). The paper is imparting strength, that strength is enough to resist cracking on drying.

These are made from a whiteware having 0.5% paper fiber added. The paper addition speeds up the dewatering time. The clay throws well and the handles pulled extremely well. The mugs were stable enough to attach the handles immediately. Then I just left them out to dry overnight. There were no cracks in the morning, so I turned them upside down and rewet the bottoms by setting a wet sponge on them for a few minutes. That enabled me to trim them.

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.

The specific gravity of a glaze slurry is simply its weight compared to water. Different glazes optimize to different specific gravities, but 1.4 to 1.5 is typical (highly fritted glaze are higher). To measure, counter-weigh a plastic measuring cup on your scale and fill it with 500 grams of water and note how high the water fills it (hopefully to the 500cc mark!). Fill the container with your glaze to the same place. Divide its weight by the number of ccs (in this case, 500) and you have the specific gravity. The more you weigh the more accurate is the test.

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.

Not much. These mugs were exactly the same height before a bisque firing to cone 06. The clay is a porcelain made from kaolin, feldspar and silica.

A bowl cast from Polar Ice porcelain and fired to cone 6. I has a thinner wall than the thrown pieces made from Polar Ice throwing, yet it is much less translucent. This appears to be because the VeeGum is much less.

VeeGum T is expensive. Each of these boxes contains a 50 lb bag. You are looking at $6000 worth of material! This is enough to plasticize 450 20 kg boxes of porcelain containing 4% VeeGum. Is it worth it? Yes, this is the king of bentonites, nothing can produce a porcelain body that has the workability and translucency this can impart. Yes, translucifies. Not sure how yet but it does.

This is an admirable first effort by a budding artist. They used a built-in cone 6 program on an electronic controller equipped electric kiln. But it is over fired. How do we know that? To the right are fired test bars of this clay, they go from cone 4 (top) to cone 8 (bottom). The data sheet of this clay says do not fire over cone 6. Why? Notice the cone 7 bar has turned to a solid grey and started blistering and the cone 8 one is blistering much more. That cone 8 bar is the same color as the figurine (although the colors do not match on the photo). The solution: Put a large cone 6 in the kiln and program the schedule manually so you can compensate the top temperature with what the cone tells you.

I love making pottery, but I love the technical side more. I searched for all the test specimens in this load of cone 10 reduction ware first, then pushed it back in and forgot about it. For three months! I really anticipate the test results (I am developing and adjusting many of bodies and glazes at any given time). The data and pictures for them go into my account at insight-live.com, it enables me to compare the chemistry and physical properties of recipes and materials side-by-side. That teaches me which roads to abandon and which ones to pursue. My last kiln went back in for six weeks, so things are getting worse!

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.

These bars were fired at cone 10, they were straight when dry. The back one is a cone 10 Grolleg body, the front one is a cone 6 Grolleg body. This simple test is valuable to determine susceptibility to warping in porcelains. If the pyro-plastic deformation is too much, for example, the weight of a handle will pull the round rim of a mug into an oval shape, for example.

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).

These are translucent porcelains, they are vitreous. The firing is to cone 10. The one on the left is a cone 6 body, and, while it survives to cone 10 it does warp. But more important, it is much more vitreous (more melted). The plucking problem makes it quite difficult to get a good foot ring. The other, which has only slight plucking, is also quite vitreous (high in feldspar). The plucking problem on both can be solved by simply using a better kiln wash. What is better? More refractory, and therefore having a powdery, non-stick surface. Spend more money on your kiln wash, base it on calcined alumina or zircon.

The left half of this cone 6 buff burning native-clay stoneware (Plainsman M340) was sponged at the dry stage. That exposed iron-bearing particles that are normally pushed under the surface. The result is a denser population of fired specks. While not usually a problem on flat surfaces, this can be an issue when rims of functional pieces are sponged and glazes stretch thin there during firing.

I am comparing 6 well known cone 6 fluid melt base glazes and have found some surprising things. The top row are 10 gram balls of each melted down onto a tile to demonstrate melt fluidity and bubble populations. Second, third, fourth rows show them on porcelain, buff, brown stonewares. The first column is a typical cone 6 boron-fluxed clear. The others add strontium, lithium and zinc or super-size the boron. They have more glassy smooth surfaces, less bubbles and would should give brilliant colors and reactive visual effects. The cost? They settle, crack, dust, gel, run during firing, craze or risk leaching. In the end I will pick one or two, fix the issues and provide instructions.

On dark burning medium temperature stoneware bodies, clear glazes often do not look good. These bodies contain more raw clays that contain larger particles that generate gases on decomposition during firing. These often cloud up typical clear glazes with micro bubbles, marring their appearance. There are solutions. Although more fluid-melt clear glazes have risks (e.g. running, blistering) they do clear bubbles better. If applied thinly (so they do not run during firing) they can work very well in this circumstance. Of course they do darken the body color (this body, Plainsman M390, fires red without glaze). This outside glaze is G3806C.

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.

L3685X white slip (left mug) has 5% more frit than Y (right). The frit is a melter, creating more glass bonds to adhere it to the body (it also hardens it and darkens the color a little). But the frit also increases firing shrinkage, 'stretching' the white layer on the body as the kiln cools (the slightly curled bi-clay bar demonstrates that). However the glaze, G2931G, is under some compression (to prevent crazing), it is therefore 'pushing back' on the white slip. This creates a state of equilibrium. The Y slip on the right is outside the equilibrium, it flakes off at the rim because the bond is not good enough. Adding more frit, the other side of the balance, would put the slip under excessive tension, reducing ware strength and increasing failure on exposure to thermal shock (the very curled bi-clay bar in the front, not this clay/slip demonstrates the tension a poorly fitted slip could impose).

The key is avoidance of methods that result in one part of the piece being stiffer at any stage of drying (not vinegar in the water, compressing the bottoms, etc.). Throw mugs with walls of even thickness. Put them on a plaster bat (it dewaters the base). Make the handles a while after you have made the mugs (they stiffen quicker). Apply them as soon as the rims are stiff enough to maintain shape (in my climate, two hours). Use a join method that enables application of lots of pressure (better than scoring). Use only enough slip (of thick cream consistency) to make the join (no excessive squirting out at the perimeter). Pack all the mugs closely on bats, rims up, cover with flowing cloth (e.g. arnel). Put them inside big bags or wrap plastic around and tuck it under. Trim the bases the next day (to the same thickness as the walls). Place rims down (with handles at the center) on smooth batts (not plaster) and cover them with large fabrics that can wrap under leaving no holes exposed to the outside air (in our dry climate two days dries them).

It also contains less than 10% borax frit and some Cornwall stone.

These are samples made by Boxcar Press. They make different depths, you need the 0.047 relief depth. While the others will press a crisp design into the clay, the shallow depth will make it difficult to avoid rubbing out the color from the recesses when you a sponging it off the top. Traditionally polymer plates have had metal backing and were expensive, but these are plastic and inexpensive. When designing them create a border around the outside of the design to contain it. This is needed because when the stamp is pressed hard into the clay, it smears away from all outer edges of the design, that containment-line keeps those edges clean. Also, they do not actually need to be stuck to a piece of wood, it is often better to lay them face down on the clay and use a wooden block and hammer to press them in to stiff clay. Use spray cooking oil as a parting agent if needed. They are flexible and peel off easily.

The fired clay is vitreous and lightly grogged (large particles).

If this happens you need to screen it. There is nothing unusual in the recipe, this can happen to any glaze that contains frits or other slightly soluble materials.

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.

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.

B-Mix is a popular high-ball clay very plastic grey cone 10R stoneware in North America. The two mugs on the left have pure Ravenscrag Slip on the inside (the middle on the outside also), it fires almost transparent with a slightly silky surface. Pure Alberta Slip is employed on the outside of the left one and the inside of the right one. The outside of the right one is RavenTalc silky matte. In all cases the Ravenscrag and Alberta Slip are mixed half-and-half calcined and raw. B-Mix fires dark enough and with enough specks that a normal transparent glaze is not very interesting. But these Ravenscrag ones look much better (for liner glazes).

This glaze creates the opaque-with-clear effect shown (at cone 7R) because it has a highly fluid melt that thins it on contours. It is over fired. On purpose. That comes with consequences. Look at the recipe, it has no clay at all! Clay supplies Al2O3 to glaze melts, it stabilizes it against running off the ware (this glaze is sourcing some Al2O3 from the feldspar, but not enough). That is why 99% of studio glazes contain clay (both to suspend the slurry and stabilize the melt). Clay could likely be added to this to increase the Al2O3 enough so the blisters would be less likely (it would be at the cost of some aesthetics, but likely a compromise is possible). There is another solution: A drop-and-soak firing. See the link below to learn more. One more observation: Look how high the LOI is. Couple that with the high boron, which melts it early, and you have a fluid glaze melt resembling an Aero chocolate bar!

Left two mugs are pure Ravenscrag Slip, right is RavenTalc silky matte. The speckled mugs have 10% of an A1:St. Rose Red mix added.

These are thermal expansion curves for body, engobe and glaze (from a dilatometer, a device that measures it against increasing temperature). The upper line is the body. The center line is the engobe. The lower line is the glaze. The ceramic tile industry is very conscious, not only of glaze-fit but also engobe-fit. Engobes (slips) are employed to cover brown or red burning bodies so they glaze like a porcelain. Typically technicians tune the formulation of the engobe to have an expansion between the body and glaze. The body is highest so that during cooling, as it contracts, it puts a squeeze on the engobe (the engobe thus never finds itself under tension). The glaze has the lowest expansion, it is under a state of compression by the engobe (and slightly more by the body). This equilibrium enables the tile to wear for many years without crazing or shivering. Chart courtesy of Mohamed Abdelmagid.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This is a white engobe (L3954B) drying on two dark burning cone 6 stoneware leather-hard mugs (Plainsman M390). Those lumps are on the left cannot be screened out, they are agglomerates. That slip has excessive flocculant (Epsom salts are added to gel the slurry so that it stays put on the piece after dipping). About 4 drops of Darvan were added to one gallon of the slurry, this immediately transformed the slurry, making it smooth and a perfect consistency for application. It remains stable on ware (without runs). Engobes require tight control to have the right specific gravity, viscosity and thixotropy. When they are right they are a joy to use, when they are not your ware is ruined.

Left is Plainsman M340. Right is M390. Each mug has been white engobed inside and half-way down the outside. The insides have been glazed using G2926B clear. The inside surface has more depth and has a richer appearance than you could achieve using a white glaze (especially over the dark burning body). The outside of the left one is Alberta Slip base GA6A using Frit 3195 (it produces a more stable glass of lower thermal expansion). The outside glaze on the right is the clear plus 4% iron oxide. This technique of using the engobe enables porcelain-like functional surfaces on the insides and striking visual contrast and character on the outside of the dark body mug.

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.

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 is Odyssey slip, a popular engobe that is trafficked on the web. It is recommended for low, medium and high fire ware. It is 30% Ferro Frit 3110 and 70% ball clay. This is a bi-clay strip, a sandwich of two plastic clays rolled into a thin slab and cut into a bar (to make the bar the Odyssey slip was dewatered to typical pottery clay stiffness). We are looking at the engobe side (the other side is Plainsman M390). During the latter stages of the firing the engobe has begun to melt and blister and darken in color (which it should not be doing). During earlier stages of firing this engobe would certainly have had a higher shrinkage and would have bent the bar its way. But it is now bent the other way. That means the engobe could well be under compression (having a lower thermal expansion than the body). Or the body could simply have pulled it the other way when the engobe lost its rigidity. Either way, the engobe does not fit this body at this temperature.

Why? Glaze fit. These are available on Aliexpress (as Drip Pottery) and they are made by a manufacturer that has a dilatometer to precisely match the thermal expansion of the glaze with the body. The inside glaze has to fit better than normal because of the absence of an outside glaze. Too low of a thermal expansion and it's compression (outward pressure) will fracture body (especially if the latter is thin). Too high a thermal expansion and it will craze. And that thick glaze? It will shiver or craze with far less forgiveness than a thin layer. And there is one more problem: How to get the glaze on thick enough to flow like this. The answer is two-fold: Deflocculate it, take the specific gravity up to 1.7 or more. Glaze the inside, let it dry, then glaze the outside.



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