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Veegum

Alternate Names: Veegum T, Veegum CER, Veegum Pro, VGT

Notes

Vanderbilt Minerals describes Veegum T as "Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, water-washed white-firing smectite clay, is used as a suspending agent for glazes, as a plasticizing agent for nonplastic formulations such as high alumina, zirconia and porcelain bodies, and as a nonmigrating binder in extruded bodies." They do not provide a chemistry, but usually percentages used in recipes are very small anyway. When the term "Veegum" is used in ceramics it generally refers to Veegum T.

On this site we often refer to Veegum in a general sense, meaning that other highly refined bentonite, smectites, hectorites, attapulgites, etc. might also be suitable in your application. Veegum is the one we have experience with.

Veegum, or VeeGum T (or VGT) is not a 'gum', rather it is a refined fine particle mineral called 'smectite' (bentonite and hectorite are members of the smectite group, smectite is CAS 12199-37-0, bentonite is CAS 1302-78-9). It is a complex colloidal and extremely plastic and sticky magnesium aluminum silicate (CAS 1327-43-1). It is an off-white insoluble flaky consistency and swells to many times its original volume when added to water. Its aqueous dispersions are thus high viscosity thixotropic gels at low solids. A potter encounters this phenomenon when employing significant percentages of VGT in glazes and porcelain bodies (e.g. more than 2%), finding that much more water is needed to produce a pourable suspension (meaning the low specific gravity suspensions can be thickened). Veegum is not subject to attack by microorganisms. Various grades are classified according to viscosity and ratio of aluminum to magnesium content.

It is important to properly hydrate the powder, mix it in water before adding other ingredients (different grades of Veegum hydrate at different rates). They emphasize not underestimating the time needed, pointing out that in 25C water it could take 120 minutes using a propeller mixer! Using hot water or a higher energy mixer can drastically cuts the time needed. If mixing does not hydrate all particles, then variations in mixing will produce variations in properties, so use the same water temperature, mixing time and energy and viscosity each time it is used to get consistent behavior in the slurry or pugged material.

In glazes VGT is used as an in-mix suspending agent and thickener (enabling low specific gravities). This is especially valuable in brushing glazes, when high water content is advantageous to brushing properties. For such, a Veegum addition is a way to thicken yet still suspend a glaze slurry that would otherwise be thin-as-water (see info on Veegum CER below).

It can also be suitable for use as a spray-on surface hardener before decorating (mix it with water, start with 0.2% for testing).

In bodies VGT is employed as a plasticizing agent. It is a nonmigrating binder because it is not dissolved in the water. Its key advantage is that it is clean and therefore does not affect fired whiteness. 1.5-2.0% added to a porcelain, that is otherwise a little to short for modeling or throwing, will transform it into a plastic material. Amazingly, VGT can plasticize completely nonplastic materials (such as calcined alumina, zirconia, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, dolomite) at only 3-4%! White burning porcelains are low-plasticity by nature, but VGT in higher percentages (up to 4%) can produce fantastic plasticity and workability. VGT may produce more plasticity in one body than another, depending on the type of kaolin present and the particle dynamics of the mix. For some formulations it is difficult to produce the needed plasticity without ending up with a body that is too sticky or requires too much water.

Veegum CER is described as a mixture of VEEGUM T and medium viscosity sodium carboxymethylcellulose that serves as a hardener, suspending agent and viscosity stabilizer in glazes. A maximum viscosity suspension can be made from about 45 grams per litre of water (you will need a good propeller mixer and hot water to do this). A Veegum CER solution can be added to an already-mixed dipping glaze to impart the above properties, although it lowers the specific gravity is also gels the slurry. If enough is added more water will also be needed, in this way slurries of low specific gravity can be made (e.g. for brushing glazes).

Veegum Pro is Veegum T treated with amine to improve dispersibility. It is recommended for use where a minimum amount of water is required and/or only low shear mixers are available.

Other grades (like F, HV, K, R, HS) are used in non-ceramic applications (like pharmaceuticals and personal care products).

Since this is a mineral family it is very difficult to supply a chemistry. We recommend using the bentonite chemistry (it is possible in INSIGHT to label a recipe line as Veegum yet specify bentonite as the material database look-up value).

Density (Mg/m3): 2.6
Viscosity (after shear mixing, 5% dispersion): 250 cps +/- 25%
Moisture: 8% max
pH: 8.5

Related Information

The premium plasticizer has a premium price. Brace yourself.

VeeGum T is expensive. Each of these boxes contains a 50 lb bag. You are looking at $6000 worth of material (in 2015)! This is enough to plasticize 450 20 kg boxes of porcelain containing 4% VeeGum. Is it worth it? Yes, this is the king of bentonites, nothing can produce a porcelain body that has the workability and translucency this can impart. Yes, translucifies. Not sure how yet but it does.

10% Veegum porcelain slurry dewatering on plaster

It has taken a couple of days to reach this state, it still has a very high water content and needs another day or two of stiffening. This cracking occurs because much more water is needed to thin a slurry enough to be able to propeller-mix it effectively. Typical clays can be dewatered in this manner in a few hours but not this one. By the way, this is fantastically plastic to use on the potters wheel, but high percentages of Veegum like this would not be affordable or practical.

How fast will Veegum settle in water?

This is VeeGum T, a processed smectite clay (similar to bentonite, extremely small particle size). I have propeller-mixed enough powder into water that it has begun to gel. How long does it take for them to begin to settle? Never. This sat for a month with no visible change! That means it is colloidal.

Ridiculously plastic porcelain! How?

Wow, just threw this mug from a porcelain having 10% Veegum plasticizer (of course no one could afford that, it is $15 a pound). But anyway, I was testing the extreme. These mugs did not twist during throwing, I could have pulled the wall thinner at the middle and top. The wall thickness at the bottom is 2.3mm (less than 3/32")! This mug is 15cm (6 in) tall. One problem: It takes forever to dry.

Mineral Colloid BP, Gelwhite H, Veegum T in plastic form

Each has been mixed with water and all produce a jelly-like translucent sticky material that takes a very very long time to dry. They are expensive and, among other uses, act as white-burning plasticizers in fine porcelain bodies.

Veegum T , Mineral Colloid BP, Gelwhite H at cone 6

The Veegum is dense and white, but not melting. The Mineral Colloid fires like a typical raw bentonite (dark brown, high soluble salts and beginning to melt). The Gelwhite is completely melted and foamed.

Veegum CER Saturated suspension

This is the most viscous suspension we can make, 300ml water with 13.25g Veegum CER (50:50 mix of Veegum T and CMC Gum). It required the use of hot water and our two-gallon-mixer, on its highest speed, mixing in this cup. Add this gel to a raw glaze to improve its brushing properties and slow down drying. Often this works better than CMC gum alone because it gels the slurry enabling increasing the water content and improving suspension properties. Or, substitute this for part of the water in low-clay-content recipes (if the glaze is already viscous, just add this). In slurries having sufficient clay use pure CMC gum instead (unless a high-water-content slurry is needed).

Throw Zircopax on the potters wheel. Just add VeeGum.

These crucibles are thrown from a mixture of 97% Zircopax (zirconium silicate) and 3% Veegum T. The consistency of the material is good for rolling and making tiles but is not quite plastic enough to throw very thin (so I would try 4% Veegum next time). It takes alot of time to dewater on a plaster bat. But, these are like nothing I could make from any other material. They are incredibly refractory (fired to cone 10 they look like bisqued porcelain). However I have had mixed results for thermal shock resistance.

How much VeeGum is needed in a super white porcelain?

When formulating a white throwing porcelain that employs a white expensive plasticizer (like Bentone or Veegum) the optimal range of percentages can be surprisingly narrow (I am assuming at least 40% kaolin is present). The trimming behavior is one indicator. When there is insufficient plasticizer the tool will chatter (of course in extreme cases edges will tear). Smoothing the corners after trimming (using your finger) will also give you an indication. If there is too much plasticizer, the material will ball up under your finger, if there is insufficient it will not smooth out well. The percentage can be critical: 0.5% too high and the drying shrinkage could sky rocket, 0.5% too low and lips can split at the rim during throwing.

VeeGum percentage must be precisely tuned in a porcelain

This fine white New Zealand porcelain body has to be plasticized using an expensive white bentonite (VeeGum). In this test mix, the percentage of VeeGum was slightly low (3.25%). Although it is very plastic and throws well on the potters wheel, the tendency to split at the rim is evident on this dried mug. Only 0.5% more Veegum is needed to solve this issue. The percentage is critical, enough to eliminate this issue but not too much or the drying shrinkage will be excessive.

VeeGum can plastify frits for making melt-flow test balls

Frit and veegum powder ready to mix with water

Nothing compares the fired properties of frits as well as a melt-flow comparison. Remarkably, each frit has such a unique melting behaviour that it is possible to identify them and determine if two are similar (without knowing the chemistry). But frits need a binder to make them plastic-formable. I mix 50g of frit with 1.5g of VeeGum (or 100g/3g) then stir the powder into 40g of water in a cup. That produces a consistency that is easy to stir smooth (using a teaspoon) but is still fluid enough to level out on a plaster bat (for dewatering to plastic consistency). The 3% VeeGum is not enough to affect the melting behaviour, but it makes them pretty workable (however each frit does exhibit different tactile characteristics). I roll them into 12g (wet) balls, then dry them. They fit nicely into the reservoir for my GBMF test.

VeeGum and bentonite in the same porcelain! How can they fire this different?

Translucent and opaque porcelain cups

These two cone 10 porcelains have the same recipe. 50% Grolleg Kaolin and 25% each of silica and feldspar. But the one on the left is plasticized using 3.5% VeeGum T and the one on the right uses 5% regular raw bentonite. The VeeGum is obviously doing more than making it more workable, it is acting as a powerful flux and super-catalyst for translucency! Although not clear from this picture, the entire translucent mug is covered with blisters, it has over vitrified. This is another big benefit of VeeGum, its use in a porcelain enables cutting the amount of feldspar significantly (while retaining the translucency). This is good because it permits increasing the kaolin content for plasticity. Or increasing the silica for glaze fit.

The secret of this cone 6 translucency will surprise you!

Three cone 6 mugs. All have zero porosity. Why is the middle one so translucent? Three reasons.
1. It has 10% more feldspar than the one on the left and reaches zero porosity already at cone 5.
2. It employs New Zealand china clay while the one on the left contains high-TiO2 #6 Tile kaolin.
But this is also true for the one on the right. The third difference is the key.
3. The center one contains 4% Veegum T plasticizer (while the other two use standard bentonite). This is surprising when I tell you one more thing: The mug on the right also contains 3% Ferro Frit 3110. That means that the frit does not have near the fluxing power of the VeeGum!

Links

Oxide Analysis Formula
URLs https://www.vanderbiltminerals.com/resources/Minerals_and_Chemical_for_Ceramics_and_Refractories_web.pdf
Vanderbilt Minerals for Ceramics Technical Sheet
Includes Vansil, Pyrax, Peerless, Dixie, Veegum, Vanzan, Darvan.
URLs https://www.vanderbiltminerals.com/resources/VAN_GEL_VEEGUM_Industrial_Applications_Web.pdf
VEEGUM Magnesium Aluminum Silicate For Industrial Applications
A very detailed technical booklet about Veegum and Van Gel from the manufacturer.
Materials New Zealand Halloysite
Materials Mineral Colloid BP
Materials Gelwhite H
Materials Bentone EW
Materials Magnabrite
Materials Bentone MA
Materials Bentonite
Materials CMC Gum
Materials Bentolite L
Articles Binders for Ceramic Bodies
An overview of the major types of organic and inorganic binders used in various different ceramic industries.
Articles Formulating a Porcelain
The principles behind formulating a porcelain are quite simple. You just need to know the purpose of each material, a starting recipe and a testing regimen.
Glossary Fritware
Typecodes Additives for Ceramic Bodies
Materials that are added to bodies to impart physical working properties and usually burn away during firing. Binders enable bodies with very low or zero clay content to have plasticity and dry hardness, they can give powders flow properties during pressing and impart rheological properties to clay slurries. Among potters however, it is common for bodies to have zero additives.
Typecodes Additives for Ceramic Glazes
Materials that are added to glazes to impart physical working properties and usually burn away during firing. In industry all glazes, inks and engobes have additives, they are considered essential to control of cohesion, adhesion, suspension, dry hardness, surface levelling, rheology, speed-of-drying, etc. Among potters, it is common for glazes to have zero additives.
Minerals Smectite

By Tony Hansen


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