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Feldspar Glazes

Feldspar is a natural mineral that, by itself, is the most similar to a high temperature stoneware glaze. Thus it is common to see alot of it in glaze recipes. Actually, too much.

Key phrases linking here: feldspar glazes - Learn more

Details

Quite simply, feldspar glazes are high in feldspar (or nepheline syenite). Feldspar by itself melts well at high temperatures, however, to be a balanced glaze (durable, well fitted to the body, non-leachable, etc) it needs additions of other fluxes and silica. It is very educational to work through the process of comparing the chemistry of a feldspar to a target formula for a typical medium or high-temperature glaze. Instructors commonly show students how to add materials to a feldspar to bring the chemistry into line with the type of glaze being sought.

Since feldspar melts so well, it is common to find glazes that contain high percentages, even up to 70%. High feldspar glaze can cause alot of misery in ceramics and pottery. Anything above around 40% is usually trouble.

1) High feldspar glazes settle in the bucket. Why? Almost all glazes need significant Al2O3 (for durability and to thicken the melt). Typically it is sourced mainly from clay, especially kaolin, and secondarily from feldspar. But when feldspar percentages are high kaolin must be reduced, or Al2O3 is oversupplied. That accounts for the poor application and slurry properties (e.g. settling, dusting, drips and running). These situations can be fixed using glaze chemistry to source Al2O3 more from kaolin or ball clay and less from feldspar (the Na2O/K2O can come from a much lower alumina material, like a frit (e.g. Ferro Frit 3110).

2) High feldspar glazes have high amounts of Na2O and K2O. Yes, these are good melters (fluxes) but they have by far the highest thermal expansions of any oxide. High feldspar glazes almost always craze (unless crow-barred to lower COE with lots of MgO or B2O3). Glaze chemistry is again needed, it will never be enough to just add some silica. The solution is to trade some of the K2O and Na2O (KNaO) for lower expansion fluxes (preferably MgO, but also CaO, SrO, Li2O; any other flux because they all have much lower expansion that KNaO). When feldspar is reduced in the recipe Al2O3 and SiO2 are lost but these can be easily made up by kaolin and silica.

High feldspar glazes are often the product of a line or triaxial blending project. But the problem with this approach is that glazes are selected based too much on the visual appeal of a fired sample. When the chemistry is not considered the out-of-balance recipe gets into production and later slips into the online trade in undocumented unsuitable glaze recipes. Thousands of recipes too-high-in-feldspar are in common use. Crazy recipes with up to 65% are still out there! Not only is crazing an issue, but their tendency to have an unbalanced chemistry impacts their leachability and durability.

There is often discussion online about substituting one feldspar for another in specific recipes. People sometimes claim that a recipe requires a specific brand of feldspar to produce the visual effect, but they most often do not know why. Glazes of this type (where the mechanism is unknown) are generally too "touchy" to produce consistent ware in production. Substituting feldspars is not generally "rocket science". If two feldspars have about equal KNaO (total K2O+Na2O) then they are likely interchangable. Of course, some feldspars have lower iron content and thus produce whiter glazes. The difference between a soda feldspar and a potash feldspar may not be as much as the names indicate. Soda feldspars are named such if they have more Na2O than K2O (meaning they have significant K2O, e.g. 5% K2O, 6% Na2O) whereas potash feldspars generally predominate in K2O (e.g. 9% K2O, 3% Na2O). If you calculate the chemistry of the glaze recipe, then it is practical to simply view feldspars as contributors of K2O, Na2O, Al2O3 and SiO2. In this way it is easy to juggle a recipe to restore any chemistry differences introduced by switching a feldspar.

Related Information

Feldspars, the primary high temperature flux, melt less than you think.

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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.

This feldspar melts by itself to be a glaze, but crazes badly

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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 oxide. By far! 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.

Frits melt so much better than raw materials

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Frits, talc, feldspar melting

Feldspar and talc are both flux sources (glaze melters), they are common in all types of stoneware glazes. But their fluxing oxides, Na2O and MgO, are locked in crystal structures that neither melt early or supply other oxides with which they like to interact. The pure feldspar is only beginning to soften at cone 6. Yet 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! The frits progressively soften, starting from low temperatures, both because they have been premelted and have significant boron content. In both, the Na2O and MgO are free to impose themselves as fluxes, actively participating in the softening process.

A soda feldspar applied like at glaze at cone 4-7

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Feldspar as a glaze on porcelain tiles

This is pure soda feldspar (Minspar 200) fired like a glaze at cone 4, 5, 6 and 7 on porcelainous stoneware tiles. The bottom samples are balls that have melted down at cone 7 and 8 (although they appear to be well melted they exhibit no movement in a melt fluidity test. Notice there is no melting at all at cone 4. Also, serious crazing is highlighted with ink on the cone 6 sample (it is also happening at cone 5 and 7). Feldspars have high KNaO, that means they have high thermal expansions. That is why high-feldspar glazes almost always craze. Since feldspar is barely melting at cone 6 it is not possible to make a functional cone 6 glaze that only uses feldspar as the flux (boron, lithia or zinc are also needed).

Inbound Photo Links


Feldspars melting
Which common American/Canadian feldspars can substitute for each other?

Links

Troubles Glaze Slurry is Difficult to Use or Settling
Understanding glaze slurry rheology is the key to solving problems and creating a suspension that does not settle out, applies well, dries crack free.
Materials Ferro Frit 3110
High sodium, high thermal expansion low boron frit. A super-feldspar in clay bodies.
Materials Feldspar
In ceramics, feldspars are used in glazes and clay bodies. They vitrify stonewares and porcelains. They supply KNaO flux to glazes to help them melt.
Media Desktop Insight 1B - Turn a Feldspar Into a Glaze
Learn to compare a target formula with the chemistry of a feldspar. See why it does not make a good glaze by itself and what materials need to be added to make it into a balanced glaze.
Media Substituting Nepheline Syenite for Soda Feldspar
Learn to substitute Nepheline Syenite for Soda Feldspar (and vice versa) using the KNaO concept in Insight. You will see the benefit of in-recipe substitution calculation rather than making general substitution rules.
Media Desktop Insight 3 - Dealing With Crazing
Learn what crazing is, how it is related to glaze chemistry, how INSIGHT calculates thermal expansion and how to substitute high expansion oxides (e.g. Na2O, K2O) with lower expansion ones (e.g. MgO, Li2O, B2O3).
Minerals Feldspar
An indispensable material in the ceramic industry. Most ceramic bodies employ feldspar as a flux to
Glossary Glaze Crazing
Crazed ceramic glazes have a network of cracks. Understanding the causes is the most practical way to solve it. 95% of the time the solution is to adjust the thermal expansion of the glaze.
Glossary Ceramic Glaze
Ceramic glazes are glasses that have been adjusted to work on and with the clay body they are applied to.
Oxides KNaO - Potassium/Sodium Oxides
Articles Chemistry vs. Matrix Blending to Create Glazes from Native Materials
Is it better to do trial and error line and matrix blending of materials to formulate glazes or is it better to use glaze chemistry right from the start?
By Tony Hansen
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