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How to make a zero-fired-shrinkage clay

Eight fired clay test bars

It is about the recipe and the "magic material" that makes it work. And about the firing temperature. This is Plainsman BGP, a terra cotta, mixed with 30% dolomite. Note the "DSHR" column in the SHAB test data (third last column): The drying shrinkage still averages over 7% even with the 30% dolomite, so BGP is very plastic. Notice the "FSHR" (fired shrinkage) column, it is negative for the first five test bars fired at cone 05-01, that means the bars grew in size! But notice the shrinkage hits 0% at cone 1 (bar #6). By cone 2 the trend has reversed to 0.3% shrinkage. The #6 bar is appears to be vitrifying, the color is darkening and it is strong. But notice the last "ABS" column (water absorption), it is 18.7%! This body was intended as a high-porosity ceramic at the lower ranges (it has 25% porosity at cone 05), but the dolomite is also slowing the densification as it goes through the vitrification process. Without the dolomite the top bar would be melting! By cone 1 its firing shrinkage would be 7% and the porosity would be zero.

Context: Dolomite, Firing Shrinkage

Thursday 17th June 2021

Ravenscrag GR6-A glaze with Frit 3134 and Fusion F-12

As this cone 6 melt flow test demonstrates, the Fusion F-12 is giving very similar performance to the Ferro. The GR6-A recipe is just 80% Ravenscrag Slip and 20% frit (10% zircopax has also been added to opacify). The degree-of-melt on the glazed tiles in also very similar, however notice that some of the whiteness has been lost on the second F-12 tile (the first is frit 3134). We are attributing this to the better melting of F-12, that is amplifying the color of iron present in the Ravenscrag Slip. For the third tile we reduced the frit to 15%, that has whitened it somewhat. Likely an increase in the zircon and would whiten it more.

Context: Fusion Frit F-12, GR6-A

Monday 14th June 2021

How to get more accurate firings time after time

When we fire our two small lab test kilns we always include cones (we fire a dozen temperatures). I want the firing to finish when the cone is around 5-6 oclock. To make that happen I record observations on which to base the temperature I will program for the final step the next time. Where do I record these? In the schedules I maintain in our Insight-live.com group account. I use this every day, it is very important because we need accurate firings.

Context: Electric Hobby Kilns: What You Need to Know, Digitalfire Insight-Live, Firing Schedule, Cone

Monday 14th June 2021

Why would I use a heavily pigmented black glaze on a food surface?

Two mugs, black glaze on the inside, red glaze on the outside

These are actually two different cone 6 base glazes to which I add a black stain. I trust them because I formulated and perfected them myself: G2926B clear and GA6-B Alberta Slip base. They are durable, fit my clay bodies, melt well yet can host a stain without loss of gloss. I even know the chemistry, both have plenty of SiO2 and Al2O3, that is a hallmark of durability. I fired these using the PLC6DS schedule. I add 5% black stain to the former and 4% to the latter, both yield a jet-black. The GA6-B requires ball milling. Stains are inherently much safer to use than raw metal oxide colorants because they are sintered as colorant/stabilizer blends. And much less is needed. Contrast that with raw metal oxides, it is common to find black recipes containing up to 15% of blends of nickel, cobalt, iron and manganese! At times the manganese alone can be 8% or more! So, I feel relatively safe using these coloured glazes on a surface that will be exposed to hot and acidic liquids.

Context: Are Your Glazes Food Safe or are They Leachable?, Ceramic Stain

Sunday 6th June 2021

Cone 10R dolomite matte effect at cone 6 oxidation

Two matte glazed mugs on a speckled body

This clay, L4115J3S, a Plainsman 3D-based experimental body, fires vitreous and dense (it contains 0.2% granular manganese). These glazes are very durable and functional. The outside glaze on both is G2934W (adds 10% zircopax). In our C6DHSC firings this produces as matte a surface as is possible without having excessive staining problems. Left mug inside glaze: An 85:15 mix of G2934 matte (without zircopax) and G2926B clear glossy. Right mug inside: G2926B clear glossy ball-milled, over this body it produces a striking visual surface. These mugs look as close to cone 10R dolomite-glazed ware as we have ever seen!

Context: Dolomite Matte

Sunday 6th June 2021

Calculating a substitute for Minspar

Melt flow tests comparing the two felspars

Why do this? We did not have it in stock and customers needed to mix recipes. When the chemistries of the two feldspars are very similar substitution is often not a problem, especially when a recipe only calls for 5 or 10%. However, when a recipe calls for a significant percentage the situation becomes much trickier (in our cone 6 test recipe, "Perfect Clear", 40% Minspar is needed). Feldspars are almost a glaze in themselves, just needing silica and alumina to shift their chemistry toward 'glazedom'. In this project I calculated a mix of materials, in my Insight-live.com account, that sources the same chemistry as Minspar. I made a cone 6 GLFL test comparing the Minspar and Minspar substitute (left) and comparing the Perfect Clear glaze with each feldspar (right). As you can see, the similarity in melt flow is stunning! This is a real demonstration of just how practical and valuable glaze chemistry calculation can be.

Context: Minspar 200, Insight-Live share on how I calculated a substitute for Minspar, Create a Synthetic Feldspar in Insight-Live

Sunday 6th June 2021

Are manganese speckled clay bodies a toxicity hazard?

A mug made of manganese speckled clay

Before jumping to conclusions consider all the factors that relate. This is M340S, it is fired at cone 6. That temperature is a "sweet spot" for this effect, high enough for the particles to bleed and low enough they do not bloat the body. Such bodies contain only about 0.2% of 60-80 mesh granular manganese (compare this to many glazes that employ 5% powdered manganese as a colorant). Further, the vast majority of the manganese particles are encapsulated within the clay matrix. The tiny percentage exposed at the body surface are under the glaze. It is not the manganese particles themselves that expose at the glaze surface. Rather particle surfaces that contact the underside of the glaze bleed out into it from below, doing so as a function the glaze thickness and melt fluidity. Thus, food contact with a glass surface having isolated manganese-pigmented regions is not at all the same thing as with raw manganese metal. Consider also that the total area of manganese-stained glass on a functional surface is extremely small for this effect.

Context: Manganese Granular, G2934Y glaze on Standard #112 body at cone 6

Wednesday 2nd June 2021

The glaze is flaking off this low temperature plate. Why?

The glaze on an organge plate is flaking off

At low temperatures glazes and slips/engobes are not stuck on nearly as well as with stoneware and porcelain. So the glaze fit has to be better (poor fit will be evidenced by flaking at the lip). But that is not what is happening here. In this case a pigmented slip, or underglaze, was applied first, at leather-hard stage (thus it is being used as an engobe). The integrity of two bonds must now be considered: Slip-with-body and glaze-with-slip. Slip-to-body bonding is never as good as glaze-to-body or glaze-to-slip. When an engobe, or underglaze, is refractory then the bond-with-body is especially poor. Ceramic stains are highly refractory in comparison with low-fire bodies, simply adding them to an underglaze base recipe will make it refractory also. In addition, stains vary widely in their refractory character and the percentage of stain needed varies greatly with color. Some underglaze manufacturers compensate by incorporating a compensatory percentage of frit in each underglaze recipe. Other manufacturers simply have one base and add all the colours to that. Claims that underglazes work well across wide temperature ranges do not get tested when they are brushed on as decoration, but when they are applied like this, as an engobe, disaster strikes! In this case we can see that the failure is occurring at the underglaze-body interface and the glaze/underglaze "sandwich" is releasing in large flakes.

Context: Creating a Non-Glaze Ceramic Slip or Engobe, Underglaze

Monday 31st May 2021

A frit manufacturer that used to publish chemistry

I was impressed with this frit company, Reimbold & Strick. Their frit data was educational, by studying the chemistry of their matte frits, for example, you could see the various mechanisms that produce the effect. But, it is no longer available. However, with a little determination you could likely find the pages at the internet archive (see link below).

Context: Frit A 2120, Frit A 3021, Frit A 3032, Reimbold & Strick, The Internet Archive

Monday 31st May 2021

Ferro Frit 3124 vs Fusion F-19 at cone 04

Melt flow test of Frit 3124 vs F-19

On paper, Fusion F-19 has a very similar chemistry to 3124. However, as can be seen here, it is flowing a little more and appears to have a lower surface tension. The glass is also more transparent and the entrained bubbles are bigger. The differences could be partly to Fusion using a different set of raw materials to source the chemistry or differences in their smelting process.

Context: Ferro Frit 3124, Fusion Frit F-19, Ferro Frit 3124 vs Fusion F621/19 at cone 04

Monday 17th May 2021

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