These test bars are fired at cone 10 reduction (top) and 10, 9 and 8 oxidation (downward) - they demonstrate the importance of measuring physical properties. The charts for each show data for drying shrinkage, firing shrinkage and porosity (water absorption). The left bars are #6 Tile kaolin and the right are EPK. These two kaolins had almost the same drying shrinkages in this SHAB test, that suggests the same plasticity. And the EPK fires whiter. So it should make a better plastic porcelain, right? Not so. In reality, #6 Tile kaolin is far more plastic - EPK requires the addition of significant bentonite to equal it (bentonite is dirty and that compromises whiteness). And EPK fires less vitreous - when feldspar is added color darkens. And, although both have extremely high firing shrinkages, the EPK is much higher than the #6 Tile (even though it is not as vitreous). Bottom line: #6 Tile is a better kaolin for clay bodies.
In ceramics, EPK, or EP Kaolin, is used in clay bodies and glazes. Top right: Pure EPK is fairly plastic on wedging. But during the throwing process, it splits at the rim like this. The forming properties that it does have thus seem to be as much related to its stickiness and cohesion as plasticity. Without the help of bentonite or ball clay this would not be able to host the addition of feldspar and silica to make a usable porcelain or stoneware. But EPK shines in what it does as a slurry. Left: This slurry has been mixed to only 1.15 specific gravity and forms a thixotropic gel that clings to the spatula in an even layer. Bottom: This low specific gravity gel is thick enough that it will hold this heavy spatula vertical! Considering that our typical glazes have a specific gravity of 1.45 yet are still quite fluid it is evident just how much EPK can gel (and suspend a suspension). It is thus no surprise that it is the kaolin of choice in ceramic glazes. Are there other sticky kaolins that gel like this? Yes. Grolleg and New Zealand kaolin.
In ceramics, glazes and bodies have a chemistry, a mineralogy and a physical presence. All of these need to be understood to adjust and fix issues.
Tile #6 Kaolin
A kaolin that gels slurries (thus handy to suspend ceramic glazes). It is plastic and fires white enough that it is also valuable in porcelain bodies.