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

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.

Original floating blue close up

Stockpile of crude feldspar from MGK Minerals (India) deposit

Closeup of in-situ quartz mineral at the MGK quarry site in India.

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

Port Krishnapatnam is 65 kms from the MGK feldspar mines and 180 kms from the Chennai port.

Map showing location of MGK Feldspar and Quartz mine near Chennai, India.

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.

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.

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.

Cone 03 white stoneware with red terra cotta ball-milled slip and transparent overglaze. These are eye-popping stunning. They are test L3685U (Ferro frit 3110, #6 tile kaolin, Silica), near the final mix for a white low fire stoneware. The G1916J glaze is super clear. Why? Two reasons. These were fired in a schedule designed to burn off the gases from the bentonite in the body before the glaze fuses (it soaks the kiln for 2 hours at 1400F). Terra cotta clays generate alot of gases at cone cone 03 (producing glaze micro-bubbles), but here the terra cotta is only a thin slip over the much cleaner burning white body.

Melt fluidity test showing Perkins Studio clear recipe original (left) and a reformulated version that sources the boron from Ferro Frit 3134 instead of Gerstley Borate (right). The later is less amber in color (indicating less iron) and it melts to very close to the same degree.

Cone 6 transparent glaze testing to fit Plainsman M370: Left and right: Perkins Studio Clear. The far left one is a very thick application. Center: Kittens Clear. The porcelain for all is Plainsman P300. Why? Because P300 is much more likely to craze the glaze because it has a lower silica content (about 17% and only kaolin whereas M370 has 24% silica plus the free quartz that comes with the 20% ball clay it also contains). If a thick layer works on P300 it is a shoe-in to fit M370. If it also passes the oven:icewater test.

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.

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.

The flow on the left is an adjusted Perkins Frit Clear (we substituted frit for Gerstley Borate). It is a cone 6 transparent that appeared to work well. However it did not survive a 300F oven-to-icewater test without crazing on Plainsman M370. The amount of flow (which increases a little in the frit version) indicates that it is plenty fluid enough to accept some silica. So we added 10% (that is the flow on the right). Now it survives the thermal shock test and still fires absolutely crystal clear.

This is an example of cutlery marking in a cone 10 silky matte glaze lacking Al2O3, SiO2 and having too much MgO. Al2O3-deficient glazes often have high melt fluidity and run during firing, this freezes to a glass that lacks durability and hardness. But sufficient MgO levels can stabilize the melt and produce a glaze that appears stable but is not. Glazes need sufficient Al2O3 (and SiO2) to develop hardness and durability. Only after viewing the chemistry of this glaze did the cause for the marking become evident. This is an excellent demonstration of how imbalance in chemistry has real consequences. It is certainly possible to make a dolomite matte high temperature glaze that will not do this (G2571A is an example, it has lower MgO and higher Al2O3 and produces the same pleasant matte surface).

Left: Cone 10R buff stoneware with a silky transparent Ravenscrag glaze. Right: Cone 6 Polar Ice translucent porcelain with G2916F transparent glaze. What do these two have in common? Much effort was put into building these two base glazes (to which colors, variegators, opacifiers can be added) so that they fire to a durable, non-marking surface and have good working properties during production. They also fit, each of these mugs survives a boil:ice water thermal shock test without crazing. And the clays? These are vitreous and strong. So these pieces will survive many years of use.

Polar Ice at cone 6. Glaze is Plainsman M340 transparent with green stain added. These pieces were done by the visiting artist at the Medalta Artists in Residence program in 2014.

This vase is 14 1/2 inches tall after drying yet was made from only about 5 1/2 lbs of clay. This is really plastic! The walls are only 3/16 thick on average (I did a little trimming on the bottom 3-4 inches). It wants to be thin and tall. It is easy to get it too thin at the bottom and too thick at the top!

Overfired Polar Ice porcelain. This bowl fired with an oval-shaped rim and was sticking to the shelf.

These cone 6 porcelain mugs have glossy liner glazes and matte outers: VC71 (left) crazes, G2934 does not (it is highlighted using a felt marker and solvent). Crazing, while appropriate on non-functional ware, is unsanitary and severely weakens the ware (up to 300%). If your ware develops this your customers will bring it back for replacement. What will you do? The thermal expansion of VC71 is alot higher. It is a product of the chemistry (in this case, high sodium and low alumina). No change in firing will fix this, the body and glaze are not expansion compatible. Period. The fix: Change bodies and start all over. Use another glaze. Or, adjust this recipe to reduce its thermal expansion.

Clays of very high plasticity often stiffen during storage in the bag. This is Plainsman Polar Ice, it contains 4% VeeGum. This slug is like a brick, yet it will totally loosen up completely when wedged. If a clay is too stiff to wedge you can simply throw it on the floor a few times (turning it each time) to pre-soften it for wedging.

G2926B (center and right) is a clear cone 6 glaze created by simply adding 10% silica to Perkins Studio clear, a glaze that had a slight tendency delay-craze on common porcelains we use. Amazingly it tolerated that silica addition very well and continued to fire to an ultra gloss crystal clear. That change eliminated the crazing issues. The cup on the right is a typical porcelain that fits most glazes (because it has 24% silica and near-zero porosity). The center one only has 17% silica and zero porosity (that is why it is crazing this glaze). I added 5% more silica to the glaze, it took that in stride, continuing to produce an ultra smooth glossy. It is on cup on the left. But it is still crazing just as much! That silica addition only reduces the calculated expansion from 6.0 to 5.9, clearly not enough for this more severe thermal expansion mismatch. Substituting low expansion MgO for other fluxes will compromise the gloss, so clearly the solution is to use the porcelain on the right.

I enter (and tune) programs manually and document them in my account at insight-live.com. This controller can hold six, it calls them Users. Whatever program I last entered or edited is the one that runs when I press "Start". When I press the "Enter Program" button it asks which User: I key in "2" (my cone 6 test bar firing program). Then it asks how many segments: I press Enter to accept the 3 (I am editing the program). After that it asks questions about each step (rows 2, 3, 4): the Ramp "rA" (degrees F/hr), the Temperature to go to (°F) to and the Hold time in minutes (HLdx). In this program I am heating at 300F/hr to 240F and holding 60 minutes, then 400/hr to 2095 and holding zero minutes, then at 108/hr to 2195 and holding 10 minutes. The last step is to set a temperature where an alarm should start sounding (I set 9999 so it will never sound). When complete it reads "Idle". Then I press the "Start" button to begin. If I want to change it I press the "Stop" button. Those ten other buttons? Don't use them, automatic firing is not accurate. One more thing: If it is not responding to "Enter Program" press the Stop button first.

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!).

This is one of the things Gerstley Borate does to your glazes. Stir this and you might have 2 seconds to dip something before it turns to jelly again (this was even deflocculated with Darvan and it was OK yesterday). It has a low specific gravity (a high water content) and will dries very slowly on my bisque ware. How can I make this glaze into a fast drying beautiful-to-use slurry? Replace the Gerstley Borate with something else. What? Gerstley Borate sources B2O3, I can supply it using frits or Ulexite (depending on the amount of GB that is in the recipe). I can do that in my account at insight-live.com.

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