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Technical Tips: Next 10 | Reset

Why throw on a plaster bat when making larger pieces?

Even drying, that's why. As soon as was practical I covered the piece with a cloth and then put it inside a garbage bag. While that put the upper section a little ahead in drying, over night the base caught up as the plaster sucked the water out. In the mourning I lifted it off without having to cut it, after an hour or so it was stiff enough to trim. I secure the plaster bat to the wheelhead using a "Batmate", that works extremely well. A thin layer of slip applied to the batt and firmly throwing the piece of clay down onto it sticks it well (it requires practice to hit center). No other method will assure even drying throughout and prevent cracking as well as this.

Tuesday 22nd October 2019

Getting a 31 inch porcelain plate through drying and firing without cracks

What does it take? Three months! Porcelains are fine grained and, for heavy pieces, they will not tolerate uneven drying at any stage. These cone 10 plates are made by Peter Flanagan at Okanagan Pottery in Nelson, B.C. Firing is also a real challenge. Pottery porcelains are high in quartz, getting a piece like this down through quartz inversion (~1200-900F) without dunting is only possible if done very slowly. The fact that ancient Chinese potters made very large porcelain pieces means they knew about slow cooling also (and it was a natural consequence of the heavy kilns they used). But our modern kilns cool quickly so the drop must be slowed. Peter adds an extra level of "super humanness" by actually lustre firing these pieces, that means 2 more trips through the hazardous quartz inversion territory! If you do this be prepared to fire super slow (e.g. 25 degrees per hour) through this range.

Tuesday 15th October 2019

For even coverage white majolica glazes must be applied by dipping

The mug on the left has three coats of Spectrum Majolica base, painted on by brush. Drying was required after doing the inside coats, so the total glazing time was several hours. The glaze layer is way too thin and it is not even at all! The one on the right was dipped in a 5 gallon bucket-full of Arbuckle white (that was weighed out according to a recipe and slurried at 1.62 specific gravity). It took seconds to dip-apply, the thickness coverage are good. As is obvious, it makes sense to make your own base white. Then, you can decorate using the overglaze colors (e.g. the Spectrum Majolica series). Another advantage of making your own white is that you can splurge on the amount of opacifier (in this case 9% zircon and 4% tin oxide), to achieve maximum whiteness and opacity. And, you can proportion a mix of two frits (having higher and lower thermal expansion) to fine-tune the fit with the body (a big issue at low fire).

Monday 14th October 2019

Does a grog addition improve thermal shock resistance?

Pyrax (Pyrophillite) is a mineral having a very low thermal expansion. It stands to reason that if we can maximize its percentage in a body and not fire the body to a point that changes the crystal structure, it will be resistant to thermal-shock-resistant cracking. To that end I mixed it with only kaolin (ball clay would add some quartz that would increase thermal expansion) and made slip-cast pieces. I fired them to cone 2 (after finding that by cone 4 shock-resistant properties begin to decline). As you can see from the video, the addition of grog actually harms the performance! The higher the Pyrax, the better. Will this work for kiln shelves? Yes!

Friday 4th October 2019

What does it take to opacify a low temperature terra cotta glaze

Tin oxide is a powerful opacifier, but the 5% in the glaze on the left is clearly not enough. 10% more zircon had to be added to produce the one on the right.

Thursday 3rd October 2019

A heavily grogged casting body still casts with a smooth surface!

20% 20-40 mesh grog was added to a Pyrax/Kaolin thermal shock body. While the insides of the pieces have a very rough surface, the outsides are smooth! Grogged casting slips have issues with the particle settling during storage and casting, however in this body the grog suspends long enough for a 15 minute casting time (and it easily mixes back in after storage). Pieces can be put into the kiln wet-out-of-the-mold and fast-heated to 250F and they do not crack.

Thursday 3rd October 2019

Trafficked online recipes waiting for a victim to try them!

You found some recipes. Their photos looked great, you bought $500 of materials to try them, but none worked! Why? Consider these recipes. Many have 50+% feldspar/Cornwall/nepheline (with little dolomite or talc to counteract their high thermal expansion, they will craze). Many are high in Gerstley Borate (it will turn the slurry into a bucket of jelly, cause crawling). Others waste high percentages of expensive tin, lithium and cobalt in crappy base recipes. Metal carbonates in some encourage blistering. Some melt too much and run onto the kiln shelf. Some contain almost no clay (they will settle like a rock in the bucket). A better way? Find, or develop, fritted, stable base transparent glossy and matte base recipes that fit your body, have good slurry properties, resist leaching and cutlery marking. Identify the mechanisms (colorants, opacifiers and variegators) in a recipe you want to try and transplant these into your own base (or mix of bases). And use stains for color (instead of metal oxides).

Monday 2nd September 2019

G2926B with 10% Mason 6304 Stain on Polar Ice Casting

2% zircon also was also added, it helps prevent micro-bubbling. The PLC6DS (drop and soak) firing schedule was used. The G3806 base clear glaze is normally better than G2926B for really bright colors but this stain is an exception.

Thursday 8th August 2019

Supercharge the plasticity of cone 6 reclaimed clay

If your reclaim is short and non-plastic you can make it better-than-new by using an additive of 50% ball clay and 50% bentonite. While only a few percent bentonite supercharges the plasticity of any clay body it is almost impossible to get it to mix into a wet slurry or plastic clay. But thoroughly shaking it together with ball clay (in a plastic bag) separates the super-tiny particles of bentonite between the almost-as-tiny particles of ball clay, that new powder will easily mix with water. And it fires to a tan-buff stoneware at cone 6 so it won't change the fired appearance of most buff or brown cone 6 stoneware bodies. There is one downside: I can leave a scum on your plaster batt if your bentonite is high in soluble salts, so test on a small bat first. Or dewater by another method. Or use a dedicated batt whose surface you can scrape periodically.

Friday 26th July 2019

BEWARE of leaving outsides of functional ware unglazed

This mug is made from the strongest porcelain I have, it is so vitreous that the bare fired surface does not even coffee-stain. So I glazed it only on the inside. That created a time-bomb waiting for hot coffee! Three others did exactly the same. Four other mugs glazed on the outside were fine. Why? Glazes need to have a lower thermal expansion than the body so they do not craze over time. When ware is glazed inside and the compressive forces the glaze finds itself under keep it crack free and also significantly strengthens the piece (like pre-stressed concrete). But here there is no outside glaze to be counteract the inside one pushing outward. When suddenly heated it pushes even harder. Structural weak points, outside surface imperfections or pronounced contour or thickness changes provide crack-initiation-points to relieve the stress. The only way to make this inside-only-glazed technique work is carefully tuning the thermal expansion of the inside glaze. That means a lot of testing and a lot of broken pieces.

Wednesday 24th July 2019

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