|Monthly Tech-Tip |
Gerstley Borate has just become Costly Borate. The supplier, LagunaClay.com, likely raised the pice to wake us all up to take action in substituting it before supplies run out. It is a ceramic glaze flux, sourcing boron to melt far better than any other common raw material. It has been a foundation material in low and middle temperature pottery glaze recipes for many decades. Potters have a love/hate relationship with it: Enjoying its low melting point but enduring its problems (inconsistency, gelling of the slurry, crawling, micro-bubbles, boron-blue discoloration). Strangely most people have used it without knowing what it really was. And few realize how easy it is to replace. Yes, existing substitutes work sometimes - but it is better to adjust each glaze recipe to source boron from a frit (fixing other issues also). Please read that last statement carefully. It did not say that there is any frit that can substitute. It said that frits can source boron.
This frit, or any of similar chemistry (e.g. Fusion F-12) IS NOT A 1:1 SUBSTITUTE for Gerstley Borate, their chemistries are too different. That being said, the frit sources lots of B2O3, that makes it a candidate to weave into recipes as the source of boron. To show the difference I have put 100 parts of each in side-by-side recipes in my Insight-live.com account, set the calculation type to non-unity formula and increased the frit until the B2O3 in the two match. Notice it takes 118g of the frit to source the same amount of B2O3 as 100 GB. Notice also that the frit sources almost triple the amount of Na2O per weight unit (that is a big deal because it means the recipe containing the Gerstley Borate to be substituted needs an Na2O-sourcing material that can be reduced to compensate). And the frit sources 3.5 times the SiO2 (other SiO2-sourcing materials in the recipe will need to be cut to compensate). And the Gerstley Borate has significant MgO while the frit has none (so an MgO-sourcing material like talc will be needed). Minor tweaks will also be needed to reduce other sources of CaO (since the frit has quite a bit more). The recipe will also need enough flexibility to do the final matching of Al2O3 and SiO2. The GBMF test confirms the difference at 1700F, these 10-gram balls melted down onto the tiles very differently.
Here the melt fluidity of Gerstley Borate (GB) is being compared to Ferro Frit 3134 (using a GLFL test). Clearly, these are two very different materials. GB is a clay, Frit 3134 is a man made powdered glass. Notice the GB shrinks to about half its original size by 1600F and then suddenly by 1650 it has exploded out of the starting gate and crossed the finish line! The frit, conversely, slowly softens through the entire 1350-1650 range and then starts down the runway between 1650 and 1700F. While it is clear that frit 3134 is not a direct substitute for the Gerstley Borate (GB) it's more gradual melting make it a better source as a source of B2O3 (boron).
This is a GBMF test, it compares the melt fluidity of the Gerstley Borate based cone 6 Perkins Studio clear recipe original (left, our code number G2926) and a reformulated version that sources the boron from Ferro Frit 3134 instead (right, our code number G2926A). The latter is less amber in color (indicating less iron). The good news was that it melted so much better that we were able to add significant Al2O3 and SiO2 to really drop the thermal expansion (improving glaze fit on common clay bodies), which produced our G2926B base recipe. Every time I use it I think of how unfortunate we would have been had we continued to use the Gerstley Borate original.
These pieces are fired at the same temperature. The glaze on the left is a popular recipe found online, Worthington Clear (our code number G2931). The Gerstley Borate in it is "farting" as the glaze is melting (the calculated LOI of the glaze as a whole is 15% mainly from that one material). Unless applied very thinly tons of micro-bubbles appear (this example is fired to cone 03). And strange, it is crazing badly also despite the low calculated thermal expansion. Using my account at insight-live.com I was able to source the B2O3 and MgO from a frit (actually two frits) to create the G2931K recipe. Although the thermal expansion calculates higher it is strangely fitting better (albeit not firing as white). As you can see, the new fritted glaze is very glassy and clear (thick or thin).
Use Insight-live.com to replace Gerstley Borate
GerstleyBorate.com - The best place for info on Gerstley Borate
How I Improved a Popular Cone 6 Clear Glaze Using Insight-Live
How I found a ceramic glaze recipe on Facebook, substituted a frit for the Gerstley Borate, added the extra SiO2 it needed and got a fabulous more durable cone 6 clear.
Getting Frustrated With a 55% Gerstley Borate Glaze
I show you why people love/hate this material and how I substituted it for Ulexite in this crazy recipe to make a far easier-to-use slurry that fires identical.