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Fireclay

In the ceramics industry, clays that are resistant to deforming and melting at high temperatures are called fireclays. Kiln bricks are often made from fireclay.

Details

A refractory naturally occurring secondary clay. Fireclays are refractory because they contain high concentrations of Al2O3 and low concentrations of fluxes (like Na2O, K2O, CaO, MgO). Kaolins actually qualify as a super-duty fireclay because they contain almost no fluxing oxides (and are thus very refractory). However they are not used for other reasons, not the least of which is that they are highly refined, in comparison, and therefore much more expensive. In addition, fireclays are typically quite plastic (which kaolins are not). This is actually an advantage because they can support the addition of grog and still function well in the forming process. Fireclays often contain particulate impurities (that need to be ground down) and enough iron to stain them somewhat when fired.

A fireclay with a PCE of 30 is said to be a super duty. Fireclays have high porosities when fired to cone 10 and commonly contain 35% or more Al2O3. Siliceous fireclays have the lowest Al2O3 content, less than about 30%. Aluminous fireclays can have very high alumina, even 60%.

It is not unusual for clays to be labeled as fireclays when they actually are not, the term can be relative within the scope they are used.

Related Information

IMCO 400 Fireclay fired bars

Cone 10R top, 11 oxidation and downward below that. This material, although called a "fireclay", is more fine grained and much more vitreous than what would normally be considered a refractory fireclay. Is it similar to Lincoln Fireclay (from California).

PBX Fireclay fired test bars

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

Newman Red clay fired test bars at a range of temperatures

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.

M-4 Fireclay fired bars

Cone 10R top, cone 11 oxidation downward below that.

Is Lincoln 60 really a fireclay? Simple physical testing says...

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.

Skatgit Fireclay test bars

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

Skagit Fireclay PSD test

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

Pine Lake fireclay lab test bars

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

Jordan Fireclay fired test bars

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

Lignite can be big trouble

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.

Links

Glossary Refractory
In the ceramic industry, refractory materials are those that can withstand a high temperature without deforming or melting. Refractories are used to build and furnish kilns.
Glossary Crucible
In ceramics, potters make crucibles to melt frits, stains and other materials. Crucibles are made from refractory materials that are stable against the material being melted in them.
Glossary Firebrick
In the ceramic industry, these are the bricks used to build kilns. This term grows out of their ability to withstand high temperatures that would melt or deform structural bricks.
Glossary Secondary Clay
Clays form by the weathering of rock deposits over long periods. Primary clays are found near the site of alteration. Secondary clays are transported by water and laid down in layers.
Materials Fireclay

By Tony Hansen


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