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Plainsman Clays is one of more than 90 ceramic suppliers in North America. But we are the only company that produces most of our products from clays that we mine ourselves. This affords an unmatched ability to maintain quality and supply (which we have done through a dealer network for 50 years).

Technical Tips Blog

Here is my setup to make brushing glazes by-the-jar

Glaze mixing setup

To make a low SG version of G2934BL I have already weighed out a 340g batch (it contains 5g each of Veegum and CMC gum to gel the slurry and slow the drying). I use 440g of water initially (adjusting that according to experience in brushing behaviour). After shake-mixing all the powder in the plastic bag I pour it into the water on low speed and finish with 20 seconds on high speed. This produces a low specific gravity brushing glaze, it just fills this 500ml jar. In subsequent batches, I adjust the Veegum for more or less gel and the CMC for slower or faster drying. Later I also assess whether the CMC gum is being degraded by microbial attack - often evident if the slurry thins and loses its gel. Since each glaze recipe responds differently and changes differently over time, good notes are essential. We are working on dozens of these at any given time, each is code-numbered in our group account at This is so worthwhile doing that I make quality custom labels for each jar!

Context: CMC Gum, Two methods to make.., Learn to mix any.., Control gel by adding.., Brushing Glaze, Blender Mixing

Wednesday 20th September 2023

Ravenscrag Slip + 10% talc = fantastic cone 10R silky matte glaze

Two mugs with silky matte glaze

The clays are Plainsman H450 and H550. Firing is cone 10 reduction. A 50:50 mix of roasted and raw Ravenscrag slip was used. L3954N black engobe was applied at leather hard stage (on the insides and partway down the outsides). We call this recipe GR10-C Ravenscrag Talc Matte, it is on the insides of both and on the outside of the one on the left. The outside of the other is G2571A Bamboo, it is also an excellent matte base. The silky matte surfaces produced by these two are both functional (they are very durable and do not stain or cutlery mark). And they are very pleasant to the touch.

Context: Ravenscrag Slip 19 F.., Ravenscrag Slip, GR10-C, Ravenscrag Slip 1 F.., Dolomite Matte

Tuesday 19th September 2023

This titanium blue fails when we switch frits

A change that kills a floating blue

The L4655 floating blue recipe is on the outside of the mug. It adds titanium to the GA6-A base. We wanted to reduce the thermal expansion to minimize the likelihood of crazing. So the obvious question was: Could we substitute the Ferro Frit 3134 for Frit 3195 in the base (effectively using GA6-B instead of GA6-A)? The calculation showed that the thermal expansion should drop from 7.6 to 7.2. Unfortunately, it did not work. The two tiles in the front show that (the one on the right adds 2% iron, we thought that might enhance the rutile blue effect). Why did this fail? Likely the raising of the Al2O3 makes the melt stiffer, that is preventing the freedom of movement needed to form the crystalline phases.

Context: Crystallization of this glaze..

Friday 15th September 2023

Sometimes it is better to replace the base in a production glaze recipe

Almost all ceramic glazes are a base recipe with additions of colors, opacifiers, variegators, etc. Our traditional G3933 oatmeal glaze is a good example (recipe on the left). It can produce rich brown silky matte surfaces, especially on dark burning bodies. But one problem has emerged: The tendency to crawl. Much testing has yet to reveal the reason. Would it be possible to base the recipe on Ravenscrag Slip and achieve the same chemistry? Yes. And some unexpected benefits accrued. In the recipe on the right I sourced MgO (the key to the matte surface) from dolomite and Ferro Frit frit 3249 (earlier tests sourcing from talc were unsuccessful, off-gassing from the talc was puffing up the glaze with micro-bubbles). The all-new G3933E recipe has the same chemistry (I derived it in my account at It is not likely without problems, but it looks better, it does not crawl and it is recipe and chemistry flexible. It is glossy when cooled fast and silky matte when cooled slowly. The MgO can be increased easily to get matteness with quick cool also. The mix of calcine and raw Ravenscrag Slip also enables a lot of control of the slurry and application properties.

Context: Ravenscrag Slip, Base Glaze, Glaze Chemistry

Friday 15th September 2023

A pottery glaze so melt-fluid it can eat through a firebrick. The fix struck boron-blue gold!

A glaze eats though a firebrick

The melt fluidity tester was fired at cone 6. The glaze on the left is G2826A2, a 50:30:20 Gerstley Borate glaze historically used for reactive glazes. The one on the right is G2926A3, an adjusted version that cuts the B2O3 level and adds lots of SiO2. The result is much more sane, although still very melt-fluid glaze. This is also a lesson in the chemistry that produces boron-blue, the one on the left does not and the one on the right does. This is the most decorative boron-blue we have ever seen, especially on dark bodies. Why? High B2O3 is not the key, it is lower. CaO is lower but it was higher in the original 50:30:20 recipe and that had plenty of boron blue. The SiO2 appears to be the enabler, it is much higher. And we are using 325 mesh silica, so it dissolves in the melt better.

Context: Example of variegation by.., Boron Blue, Melt Fluidity

Friday 8th September 2023

Example of variegation by thickness-induced boron blue

Boron blue on a black stoneware body

This is G2826A3, a transparent amber glaze at cone 6 on white (Plainsman M370), black (Plainsman 3B + 6% Mason 6666 black stain) and red (Plainsman M390) stoneware bodies. When the glaze is thinly applied it is transparent. But at a tipping-point-thickness it generates boron-blue that transforms it into a milky white.

Context: A pottery glaze so.., Boron Blue, Glaze thickness

Friday 8th September 2023

Here is why Gillespie Borate is crawling some glazes

Gillespie Borate crawls glazes because of this

This is a variation on the G2926B cone 6 pottery glaze recipe, it contains 22% Gillespie Borate (GB) and 12% calcined kaolin. Our objective was to create a glaze of the same chemistry but source the B2O3 from GB instead of a frit. While the fired result was near perfect (exactly matching the melt fluidity and crystal clear) the crawling is so bad that it is almost usable. The reason was not obvious until we fired a sample to 1550F and 1650F. At the former the integrity of the glaze layer is great, but by 1650F it does this (many of the edges of these are curling upward). Ulexite, which GB contains, is known for the behaviour of suddenly shrinking and then suddenly melting over a narrow range of temperatures. Since GB is plastic and suspends slurries well we thought calcined kaolin would be better than raw kaolin (to minimize drying shrinkage). However, it is making things worse (with raw kaolin the crawling was much less).

Context: Gillespie Borate, Gerstley Borate vs Gillespie..

Thursday 7th September 2023

G2926B glaze can precipitate crystals like this over time

Potters often store glazes for long periods so tiny spherical precipitate particles can form. These were found in a months-old bucket (about 2 gallons). These can appear over time, depending on factors like temperature, electrolytes in your water or solubility in the materials (likely, the frit is slightly soluble). The glaze slurry should be screened periodically (or immediately if you note the particles when glazing a piece). This is an 80 mesh sieve. Note the brush, using one of these gets the glaze through the screen much quicker than using a rubber spatula. The loss of material on the screen is tiny and inconsequential to the glaze. But it is crucial because these particles do not melt at cone 6, they will certainly mar the fired glaze surface if undetected.

Context: G2926B, Can frits be partially.., Precipitation, Sieve

Thursday 31st August 2023

Same glaze, same firing - titanium accounts for the difference

Titanium makes for color sensitivity iron

The glaze is L4655 fired at cone 6 using the C6DHSC firing schedule (the glaze is Alberta Slip with a frit addition and 4% titanium dioxide). These mugs were in the same firing. On the porcelain (left) the glaze fires the expected floating blue. The degree of difference on the right has two contributing apparent factors. While other clay bodies of similar color do not affect this glaze as much, the body used in the mug on the right contains Plainsman 3B, at cone 6 it vitrifies (releasing iron compounds) and it releases iron in soluble salts that are interacting with the glaze. Titanium is very sensitive to the presence of iron and this body is making it available in an effective form. The difference would be much less if rutile had been used, since it already contains significant iron.

Context: Titanium Dioxide

Monday 21st August 2023

What if G2934 fires too glossy, how can you increase matteness?

Typically the G2934 cone 6 MgO matte recipe fires with a surface that is too matte for functional ware (with cutlery marking and staining problems). This is intentional - it enables users to blend in a glossy base transparent to tune the degree of matteness. However, we have seen variation in the Ferro Frit 3124, serious enough that a recent production batch of glaze came out glossy (upper left in this picture)! This happened despite a C6DHSC slow cool firing. Shown here is a trial with additions of 4% calcined alumina (upper right) and 6 and 8% (bottom). All of these were too matte (1.5% turned up to be good). Although the slow-cool C6DHSC firing is the likely reason for the opacity here, opacity disruption still turned out to be a factor for stain additions (muting the colors slightly) even in faster cool firings. This is a testament to the critical chemistry balance that produces this matte surface. And the need to have adjustment options when inevitable variation occurs. Of course, it is important to use ultra-fine alumina (e.g. 400 mesh) to assure it will dissolve in the melt.

Context: Calcined Alumina, G2934, G2934Y, Cooling speed affects opacity.., Tune your glaze to.., The power of calcined.., Staining on a ceramic..

Monday 14th August 2023

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Plainsman Clays Ltd., 702 Wood Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 1E9
Phone: 403-527-8535    FAX: 403-527-7508