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


R. T. Vanderbilt describes this material as a clean, water-washed low iron, white-firing smectite clay: excellent for viscosity/plasticity modifications and glaze suspensions. An excellent plasticizer for extruded and pressed ware. The high plasticity provided by VEEGUM T is necessary when clays of higher iron and titanium content such as ball clays cannot be used.

The manufacturer does not provide a chemistry, but usually percentages are very small anyway. If you wish to include VeeGum in chemistry calculations, simply set the Lookup in the recipe line to Bentonite (the chemistry will be similar).

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. Veegum is not subject to attack by microorganisms. Various grades are classified according to viscosity and ratio of aluminum to magnesium content.

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

The manufacturer says 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 cut the time needed. If you are unable to mix the Veegum-containing slurry for the necessary time you can simply use a great percentage (however keep in mind that this is a very expensive material). It is important to 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 surface hardener. It is also suitable for use as a spray-on surface hardener before decorating (mix it with water and put a light layer on dried ware). Be careful not to use too much, even 0.5% can gel the slurry having existing but insufficient clay, (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 a mixture of Veegum T and medium viscosity sodium carboxymethylcellulose that gives optimum surface hardening of unfired ceramic glazes for safe handling of the ware. It serves as hardener, suspending agent and viscosity stabilizer in glazes.

Veegum Pro is Veegum treated with amine to improve dispersability. Veegum Pro hydrates readily in hot or cold water to form high viscosity dispersions. Recommended for use where a minimum amount of water is required and/or only slow type 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).

Related Information

Highly refined plasticizers after firing to cone 6

Veegum (left), Mineral Colloid and Gelwhite fired to cone 6 oxidation. 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.

Ridiculously plastic! 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.

Wet, just-formed buttons of Mineral Colloid BP, Gelwhite H and Veegum T

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.

Each 50 lb VeeGum bag is packaged in its own box

This is a quality but expensive material!

A body containing excessive non-plastics having a high bentonite addition for plasticity

This can happen during tooling (I am making a crucible here). While the plasticity is sufficient for throwing, at lower water contents it drops off quickly. This is a mix of 5% bentonite, 10% ball clay and 85% calcined alumina. For better trimming some refractory capability needs to be sacrificed for more ball clay (perhaps 20%).

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.

The percentage of VeeGum must be precisely tuned to plasticize 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.

You will not believe the secret of translucency at cone 6

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!

Why is that high fire porcelain on the left so much more translucent?

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 fluxing the body to make it much more translucent. Although not clear from this picture, the entire mug on the left is covered with blisters, it has over vitrified (while the one on the right is stable).

VeeGum is a very strong flux in a cone 10 porcelain

These two cone 10 porcelains have the same recipe (50:25:25 Grolleg kaolin, feldspar, silica). But the one on the left is plasticized using 3.5% VeeGum T while the one on the right has 5% raw bentonite. The VeeGum delivers better plasticity and obviously whiter color, but it is also acting as a very strong flux and has transformed the body into an over mature mass of blisters. That means it should be possible to make this porcelain using a 50:20:30 mix.

How fast will a fine particled bentonite settle in water?

This is VeeGum T, a processed Hectorite 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.

The VeeGum required to plastify a frit 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.

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.

Making your own hexagonal shelves from alumina

The home-made kiln shelf (left) was fired it at cone 10. It is half the weight (and thickness) of the cordierite one (but remember that it does not have the thermal shock resistance of cordierite). It is made from a body consisting of 96.25% calcined alumina and 3.75% Veegum. It rolls out nicely and dries perfectly flat over about three days. But the Veegum does not give up its water easily. I cut it 1/4" larger than the other and it has fired to the same size; this body has incredibly low shrinkage.

Guess which of these fired clays employs New Zealand kaolin

The whitest test bar here is a New-Zealand-kaolin-based cone 6 porcelain (NZK). NZK has low plasticity, so this body employs VeeGum to improve it. Immediately to the left of it are three North American-koalin-based bodies using standard bentonites. The bar to its right is a Grolleg-based body that uses a standard bentonite rather than a white burning one. All are plastic.


Oxide Analysis Formula
VeeGum Product Data Sheet and Description
Carboxymethylcellulose information
URLs Powerpoint presentation on the use Veegum
Materials Mineral Colloid BP
Materials Gelwhite H
Materials Bentone EW
Materials Magnabrite
Materials CMC Gum
Materials Bentonite
Materials Bentone MA
Materials Bentolite L
Materials New Zealand Halloysite
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.
Articles Binders for Ceramic Bodies
An overview of the major types of organic and inorganic binders used in various different ceramic industries.
Typecodes Additive
Materials that are added to bodies and glazes to impart physical working properties and usually burn away during firing.
Typecodes Body Glaze binders, additives
Minerals Smectite
Glossary Fritware

By Tony Hansen

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