|Monthly Tech-Tip |
Colemanite has been a popular natural source of insoluble boron for many decades. It is similar to Ulexite in its oxide contribution to glazes (although the latter sources Na2O also). Frits are used as boron sources in industry whereas potters and smaller companies have used colemanite.
Colemanite does not melt as low or as uniformly as Ulexite. Gerstley Borate contains significant amounts of colemanite. Pure colemanite, however, is much higher in B2O3 than Gerstley Borate.
Higher percentages of colemanite in a glaze can result in wrinkling of the fired surface, likely due to to a phenomenon called 'decrepitation' (very active decomposition) that occurs when colemanite is heated. The glaze layer can actually delayer, even disintegrate if sufficient colemanite is present (pieces of glaze can be spit off the ware onto other ware or the kiln shelf. For many applications Ulexite is thus a better choice. If you must use Colemanite, be sure to screen out any materials coarser than 200 mesh, or ball mill the glaze. Gum or other binders also help.
Colemanite is available from Turkey, Chile and California. The chemistry of these varies quite a bit, and of course, none of the available materials have the theoretical chemistry shown here.
Decrepitation refers to a decomposition accompanied by scaling, delayering, even disintegration of the glaze layer. Moving rightward these glazes have increasing percentages of colemanite. At its worst (far right) the glaze is spattering off the sample and onto the kiln shelf. The others are crawling, first pulling away from the corners (far left) moving toward pulling away on the flat surfaces (center). Gerstley Borate and Ulexite, similar minerals, are far less likely to do this (but they have other serious issues also). A much better solution is to use frits to source the oxide B2O3 (easy to do in your account at Insight-live.com). Photos courtesy of Nigel Hicken.
The ulexite in Gerstley Borate melts first, producing an opaque fired glass having the unmelted (and still gassing) particles of colemanite suspended in it. By 1750F the colemanite is almost melted also. Boron-containing frits, by contrast, begin softening at a much lower temperature and gradually spread and melt gradually. Not surprisingly they produce a more stable glaze (albeit often less interesting visually).
The Colemanite-based black underglaze over which a raspberry non-colemanite glaze was poured resulting in severe crawling as the Colemanite exfoliated and detached the overglaze. Courtesy of Nigel Hicken.
Colemanite at Wikipedia
Gerstley Borate Substitutes
Be careful, many of these materials are approximate substitutes (e.g. they have similar chemistry but much different physical properties). There is no exact substitute.
Generic materials are those with no brand name. Normally they are theoretical, the chemistry portrays what a specimen would be if it had no contamination. Generic materials are helpful in educational situations where students need to study material theory (later they graduate to dealing with real world materials). They are also helpful where the chemistry of an actual material is not known. Often the accuracy of calculations is sufficient using generic materials.
Materials that source Na2O, K2O, Li2O, CaO, MgO and other fluxes but are not feldspars or frits. Remember that materials can be flux sources but also perform many other roles. For example, talc is a flux in high temperature glazes, but a matting agent in low temperatures ones. It can also be a flux, a filler and an expansion increaser in bodies.
Most ceramic glazes contain B2O3 as the main melter. This oxide is supplied by great variety of frits, thousands of which are available around the world.
|Oxides||CaO - Calcium Oxide, Calcia|
|Oxides||B2O3 - Boric Oxide|
|Materials||PotteryCrafts Frit P2954|
|Materials||Ferro Frit 4112|
|Frit Softening Point||1050C|
|Solubility||in HCl but not in water|
|Density (Specific Gravity)||2.95|
|Density (Specific Gravity)||2.4|