|Monthly Tech-Tip |
This demonstrates the amazing melt behaviour of lead-as-a-flux for ceramic glazes. Not only does it melt early, but it softens slowly over a 300F range of temperatures before it goes off the end of the runway on this GLFL test. Then, when fired 200F hotter than that, it remains a stable, clear and uncrazed glass. Beginning around 1750F, this becomes a transparent glaze, by itself.
These were 10g balls melted using our GBMF test. Frit 3602 is lead bisilicate. But it got "smoked" by the Fusion FZ-16 high-zinc, high-boron zero-alumina! Maybe you always thought lead was the best melter. That it produced the most transparent, crystal-clear glass. But that is not what we see here. That being said, notice the lead is not crazing but the FZ-16 is crazing badly, that is a problem for many applications. Notice something else: Each frit has a distinctive melt fingerprint that makes it recognizable in tests like this.
This piece was bought in Sinaloa in 2020 (made in Puebla). By breaking it and refining shards I estimate the firing temperature around 1800F. This lead test procedure involves leaving white vinegar in the piece overnight, pouring some of that into a test tube, dipping a cotton swab into a reagent solution and then stirring the vinegar with it. The darkening of the color indicates the concentration of lead in the leachate. It has turned black! Yet a typical fritted lead bisilicate PbO:2SiO2 glaze (having 10-15% clay to suspend it) does not leach lead (when melted well). The very thin glaze application suggests potters were trying to save money. Frits are expensive so it seems likely they are using raw white or red lead powders. But they are not mixing enough silica to produce a stable lead silicate chemistry.
Yet this pottery is a tradition in Mexican culture (and elsewhere) and is used for food and liquid surfaces everywhere. There are manufacturers trying to make stoneware that retains the traditional terra cotta appearance, but people prefer this.
Ferro Frit 3602
Lead Bisilicate Frit
A standard frit of 1 molar part of PbO and 2 of SiO2. It is considered stable and non-leachable.
Lead in Ceramic Glazes
Lead is a melter in ceramic glazes and performs exceptionally well and must be misused to be toxic. It is also now environmentally pervasive. It is toxic and cumulative at any level of exposure.
Comparing the Melt Fluidity of 16 Frits