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Digitalfire Reference Library

A public ad-free, no-tracking, Google destination, technical reference website for potters, educators, technicians and hobbyists in pottery and ceramic production. Since 2000.

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The Digitalfire Reference Library is a public website at, it exposes parts of our internal database. It has no ads, no analytics and no bots that follow you in or out. An online library of practical technical information about traditional ceramics for hobbyists, potters, education and manufacturing. It contains thousands of evolving pages about how to adjust and fix issues with materials, recipes and procedures. It is about understanding things from the physical and process levels down to the material, mineral and chemistry levels. It has been under constant construction since the mid-90s and it's pages have been Google-top-tens since then. It is mobile-first, hierarchically organized, interlinked and searchable.

The Digitalfire online library is authored internally by our own content management system (CMS), pages for public consumption are assembled, by code, from that database. Our CMS is now a combination of systems. Tony Hansen created the first part of it using DOS Foresight (which he wrote in the middle 1980s), it was a multi-user laboratory notebook product and enabled continuous compilation of lab testing data (at Plainsman Clays) but also authoring of technical content on many levels (e.g. chemistry, mineralogy, material, process, recipe, firing, etc). By the early 90s custom code was publishing shared parts of it as a PDF file (The Magic of Fire book). The system evolved into the online 4Sight CMS which we still use, it had automatic publishing tools that created 5000 pages of the library online until 2020. Starting in the late 1990s Tony also began publishing using similar techniques, it has developed into an information resource in parallel. He also incorporated authoring, sharing and publishing tools into, our account there is now part of our CMS. Today, new publishing code creates a Bootstrap-based UI for a mobile-first experience with many new features (it reaches into shared content in our 4Sight system, Plainsman Clays and also our group account). Throughout the time of development, Tony has published end-user versions of our software products (desktop Insight, Foresight, giving everyone many of the calculation and data management tools we use internally.

Page development at the Digitalfire library is primarily driven by our own body, glaze, engobe and material product development (at Plainsman Clays) and the tech support we render in response to thousands of requests (from customers of our Digitalfire products and the 10,000 users of Plainsman Clays). Instead of just answering we research and often do our own testing and then weave the results of that into our internal CMS (either by adding information or modifying existing content). We then direct the person to the pages online (that are automatically produced or updated from the content we modified). These drivers have been the primary growth catalyst for decades - and the source of a lot of the photos. An important benefit of this information source is that it is most often from potters. They face every production challenge, a very different situation than when a worker at a manufacturing plant has an issue - he/she generally has minimal knowledge and control of the overall process and is restricted on information that can be shared. As a result, we often do not have the resources needed to do any applicable testing. That being said, customers often tell us their manufacturing facility could not exist if it were not for the Digitalfire library!

Related Information

The New 2020 Digitalfire Reference Library is Here

The Digitalfire Reference Library on desktop and smartphone

It has morphed into a webapp, reflexive and menu-driven (based on Twitter Bootstrap). It now employs permanent URLs. And pages have logical, and hierarchical URLs (e.g., It correctly forwards 5000+ old URLs. Terms from the glossary automatically hotlink throughout (as do code-numbers for recipes, tests and firing schedules). The search field in the menu bar is area-specific (or all-area at Still no ads and no tracking. The UI displays from server #1, it calls the database API on #2, the email system on #3, media from #4 and from server #5! So it is super fast, flexible and expandable. There are new areas (e.g. projects, pictures, typecodes). Media displays better. Every page still has a contact form, so you can ask any question anywhere. What till you see what's coming!

An example of a material report at the Digitalfire Reference Library

Many of the materials listed are not described well or at all by their manufacturers. This is an example of where we had to do our home work, researching and rationalizing it to determine what information is likely more and less reliable. In many cases we simply do testing in our own lab.

Here is what looked like in 1997!

We already had a large library of educational material (the predecessor of the Digitalfire Reference Library). The Foresight product was the fore-runner to today. And it was free like today. And we were warning people about the importance of safe glazes and understanding the "why" questions about the ceramic process.

Magic of Fire book

Magic of Fire book

A book published by Tony Hansen (no longer available). It explained why we need to think about materials (and the bodies and glazes made from them) as more than just powders. They have physical, chemical and mineralogical presences, a knowledge of which provides better control in ceramic production. This was the first widely read book to show how, using this knowledge and glaze chemistry, readers could solve all sorts of problems. It showcased the real value of the oxide viewpoint in ceramics and explained how to use Digitalfire Insight and Foresight software in each scenario. From 2000-2014, the book was used as courseware in universities around the world. In 2015 it was superseded by the online Digitalfire Reference Library (which is a superset of its content).

Inbound Photo Links

Bottled glazes, weighing out your own
Covid taught us about supply interruptions


The Digitalfire Reference Library
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