|Monthly Tech-Tip |
Ten-gram GBMF test balls of these three glazes were fired to cone 6 on porcelain tiles. Notice the difference in the degree of melt? Why? You could just say glaze 2 has more frit and feldspar. But we can dig deeper. Compare the yellow and blue numbers: Glaze 2 and 3 have much more B2O3 (boron, the key flux for cone 6 glazes) and lower SiO2 (silica, it is refractory). That is a better explanation for the much greater melting. But notice that glaze 2 and 3 have the same chemistry, but 3 is melting more? Why? Because of the mineralogy of Gerstley Borate. It yields its boron earlier in the firing, getting the melting started sooner. Notice it also stains the glaze amber, it is not as clean as the frit. Notice the calculated thermal expansions: The greater melting or #2 and #3 comes at a cost, their thermal expansions are considerably higher, so they will be more likely to craze. Which of these is the best for functional ware? #1, G2926B. Its high SiO2 and enough-but-not-too-much B2O3 make it more durable. And it runs less during firing. And crazes less.
You will see examples of replacing unavailable materials (especially frits), fixing various issues (e.g. running, crazing, settling), making them melt more, adjusting matteness, etc. Insight-Live has an extensive help system (the round blue icon on the left) that also deals with fixing real-world problems and understanding glazes and clay bodies.
Boron (B2O3) is like silica, but it is also a flux. Frits and Gerstley Borate supply it to glazes. In this test, I increased the amount of boron from 0.33 to 0.40 (using the chemistry tools in my insight-live.com account). I was sure that this would make the glaze melt more and have less of a tendency to craze. But as these GBMF tests for melt flow (10 gram GBMF test balls melted on porcelain tiles) show, that did not happen. Why? I am guessing that to get the effect B2O3 has to be substituted, molecule for molecule for SiO2 (not just added to the glaze).
Raw ceramic materials are minerals or mixtures of minerals. By taking the characteristics of these into account technicians can rationalize the application of glaze chemistry.
Calculated Thermal Expansion
The thermal expansion of a glaze can be predicted (relatively) and adjusted using simple glaze chemistry. Body expansion cannot be calculated.
Ceramic glazes melt and flow according to their chemistry, particle size and mineralogy. Observing and measuring the nature and amount of flow is important in understanding them.
Glaze chemistry is the study of how the oxide chemistry of glazes relate to the way they fire. It accounts for color, surface, hardness, texture, melting temperature, thermal expansion, etc.
Glaze Melt Fluidity - Ball Test
A test where a 10-gram ball of dried glaze is fired on a porcelain tile to study its melt flow, surface character, bubble retention and surface tension.
Gerstley Borate was a natural source of boron for ceramic glazes. It was plastic and melted clear at 1750F. Now we need to replace it. How?