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Is it possible to spot a leaching glaze just by looking at it?

Often the answer is yes. This glaze looks too matte, too metallic, too crystalline. This picture was sent to me by a worried person who had bought it and noticed it discolouring on the inside. The potter may very well have considered this safe just because it was fired to cone 10. It is common among potters to overload glazes with raw metal oxide blends, often 15% or more (e.g. manganese, copper, iron, nickel, cobalt). These percentages cannot be held in solution in the melt as it cools and solidifies, so they precipitate out and crystallize, especially if the glaze is not melting well or has insufficient SiO2. The crystalline forms of these metals might look nice to some people, but the glaze is likely to leach them. It is better to use a ceramic stain to create a black like this, adding it to a stable matte base glaze (one that melts well and has sufficient SiO2 and Al2O3 to create a durable glass). The concept of a limit recipe is helpful in eyeballing recipes for their likelihood of leaching.

A matte black coffee mug with leaching glaze

Related Pictures

Why would I use a heavily pigmented black glaze on a food surface?

Two mugs, black glaze on the inside, red glaze on the outside

These are actually two different cone 6 base glazes to which I add a black stain. I trust them because I formulated and perfected them myself: G2926B clear and GA6-B Alberta Slip base. They are durable, fit my clay bodies, melt well yet can host a stain without loss of gloss. I even know the chemistry, both have plenty of SiO2 and Al2O3, that is a hallmark of durability. I fired these using the PLC6DS schedule. I add 5% black stain to the former and 4% to the latter, both yield a jet-black. The GA6-B requires ball milling. Stains are inherently much safer to use than raw metal oxide colorants because they are sintered as colorant/stabilizer blends. And much less is needed. Contrast that with raw metal oxides, it is common to find black recipes containing up to 15% of blends of nickel, cobalt, iron and manganese! At times the manganese alone can be 8% or more! So, I feel relatively safe using these coloured glazes on a surface that will be exposed to hot and acidic liquids.

Links

Glossary Limit Recipe
This term refers to critical thinking ability that potters and technicians can develop to recognize recipes having obvious issues and merit, simply by seeing the materials and percentages.
Articles Are Your Glazes Food Safe or are They Leachable?
Many potters do not think about leaching, but times are changing. What is the chemistry of stability? There are simple ways to check for leaching, and fix crazing.
Articles How to Liner-Glaze a Mug
A step-by-step process to put a liner glaze in a mug that meets in a perfect line with the outside glaze at the rim.
Articles Is Your Fired Ware Safe?
Glazed ware can be a safety hazard to end users because it may leach metals into food and drink, it could harbor bacteria and it could flake of in knife-edged pieces.

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