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Polar Ice

Description

The whitest, most translucent yet most plastic porcelain we make. A casting version is also available.

Plainsman Polar Ice, P300, M370 and M340 (Whiteware transparent glaze on the porcelain, Stoneware transparent glaze on the M340).

On the left is Plainsman M370, right is Polar Ice.

This body employs New Zealand Halloysite, the whitest burning kaolin available. To that it adds the highest quality ceramic plasticizer available. The full throwing version is a no-compromise product. It is the most translucent, the strongest, the whitest and the most plastic clay body you likely have ever used! At the same time it dries well.

Disclaimer: The price of Polar Ice is a reflection of how expensive it's materials are and how difficult it is to pug. Notwithstanding that, we do not have filter-pressing, pre-pugging and stainless-steel pugging equipment (if we did the price would be far higher). Even if we did have such equipment this body would be too sticky to filter-press or pre-pug. This means that there may be some isolated specks. Still, it is far whiter and cleaner than any other product we make.

Process Properties

It is like a rock in the box, but softens dramatically when you cut a piece and start to move it. We must pug softer to be able to process it. However it sets in the box on aging. Thorough wedging is a must to loosen it up and remove laminations that can develop over time. Wedge thoroughly to create a homogenous material.

Polar Ice has extremely high plasticity (to properly pug it we must run it too soft). Others claim to be plastic, but they use the word in a relative sense (meaning a little less flabby than that other really flabby porcelain). Do not attempt to use Polar Ice if it is too soft (stiffen it before use to experience its full plasticity). To reduce the water content wedge it and flatten down onto a very clean plaster table or large bat (or you may be able to leave a lump under a cloth over night or longer).

21 mugs made from 1/2 box of clay, 10 kg ( (all scrap was reclaimed). Polar Ice is plastic and you can make more pieces because it can be thrown thinner than most other clays. These have a weight-to-capacity ratio of 1.09 (each 1 gram of fired porcelain can contain 1.09 grams of water). This is the highest of any of our products.

The most prominent side effect of the plasticity is its stickiness, this body is extremely sticky. It will stick to your hands, to the table, to the cutting wire, anything that touches it. During trimming it will stick back to itself and tools. If you attach ware to the wheelhead with water to trim, it will stick fast there also. After trimming it balls up under your fingers if you attempt to round corners by pressing on them. However if you stiffen the body to optimal throwing stiffness, it will be much less sticky.

Drying

Even though it is very plastic, it dries well (if not too soft).

The keys to successful drying are stiffening the clay before use (if needed, see info above) and drying ware evenly. In the picture shown here, of 21 mugs made, only one had an S-Crack (it was the first thrown off the hump). The rest do not have the slightest crack, even around the handle join at the bottom (the handles were simply slipped and pressed on using pressure only). Again, dry evenly. At no time during the process from throwing to dry should one part of a piece be stiffer than another. During final drying cover ware with cloth that can be wrapped around under the board on which the ware sits to guarantee no draft can enter.

Firing

We only guarantee consistent results when it is fired close to cone 6. We formulated it so that a typical vertical walled mug with flared lip will not pull to an oval-shaped rim during firing (by the weight of the handle). Use cones in your kiln to verify that your controller is going to exactly cone 6. Notwithstanding this, in our lab we can get translucency down to cone 4 and have gone to cone 10 (although severe sagging will occur there). Very durable, strong and translucent ware can be made using this body. Thin pieces will still be resistant to warping during firing even though it is highly vitreous.

Again, do not fire over cone 6 unless you have tested thoroughly. Do not trust cone-fire mode on an electronic kiln controller without verification of a cone in the firing. If you finish a cone fire program with a soak, your kiln will almost certainly over fire. If your kiln is over or under firing (according to the cones you place within), compensate somehow. Consider manually programming each step of the firing. Or compensate by: 1) Using a preset to fire one or one-half cones lower or higher as appropriate. 2) Adjust hold time at the end to fine tune the fall of the cone.

Impeccable cleanliness is needed to minimize fired specking for transparent glazes. At the same time, we cannot guarantee a completely speck-free result. This body is not filter pressed. While this background mug is speck free, the other two are not. The blue speck on the mug rim (right) is likely contaminant picked up during the process. The small black ones on the left could have come in the material.

Polar Ice fired bars (cone 4-8 oxidation bottom to top)

Glazing

We stock commercial cone 6 bottled glazes in many colors and surfaces. However you should check for glaze fit to assure the highest quality ware. For food surfaces (and lower cost), it may be better to mix your own glazes. Develop or adopt a good transparent base and add colors and opacifiers to it. For best quality, consistency, slurry workability we recommend avoiding recipe fluxed with Gerstley Borate, use frits. We supply (as products and recipes) transparent glossy whiteware and matte frit base glazes. Their documentation describes how to mix, use and fire them and showcases stain and other additions to create an infinite number of effects.

Crazing: Function ware you make must remain craze-free for years (crazing is unsanitary and drastically reduces ware strength). Do a boiling water:ice water test to check for it. M370 and Polar Ice fit our recommended base glossy and matte glazes (mentioned above). P300 is the most difficult. More glazes will fit it than in the past (because of the higher silica content of its new recipe). The G2934 matte base works well on P300. However, while our glossy whiteware recipe fires without crazing on P300 it does not survive a 300F:IceWater test (thus crazing would appear over time). We are working on lower expansion recipes. Two promising examples are G3838A and G3813B are among them.

Our standard whiteware glossy may not have a enough melt fluidity to create reactive visual effects for additions of certain colors and variegators. The G3806C fluid melt recipe is an alternative (however crazing can be an issue, especially on P300).

Glaze slurry consistency and quality: A secret to achieving even glaze coverage is controlling the thixotropy of the slurry (prepare a more-fluid-than-normal glaze slurry and flocculate it to gel it slightly). In the gelled condition the glaze goes on much more evenly, does not drip and can be applied in a thinner layer (for more information google "glaze thixotropy"). Always screen glazes when first making them (80 mesh). Be alert to any particulate that may appear after storage (e.g. precipitates) and screen again if needed.

For slip decoration be careful to match the fired shrinkage of the slip with the body. We recommend using a slip (or engobe) recipe based on M370 itself. Add 2% VeeGum or Bentonite (the extra stickiness helps it adhere well to leather hard ware). Be careful about adding fluxes (e.g. frit), this increases fired shrinkage and can make the slip translucent. Stains can do the opposite (lowering fired shrinkage).

Casting Recipe

Like the plastic version of Polar Ice, do not compare this with other casting bodies you may have used. This requires much more care and better mixing to deflocculate and get the slurry to the right consistency (however it may very well cast faster and thinner that others). Polar Ice Casting will also warp on firing if pieces are thin (of course you are likely using it for that very purpose, to make thin ware, so it is up to you to make stable shapes that are small enough to fire successfully).

Note: The first run of Polar Ice casting mix contained 1% standard bentonite to give it strength to pull away from the mold. That mix performed well using a mix of 70% powder, 30% water and 0.34% Darvan 7. However subsequent runs switched to 1% VeeGum (it burns whiter, imparts even more plastic strength and gives better translucency). However to deflocculate this requires more water (thus a lower specific gravity) and double the amount of Darvan. While this might not seem desireable, you will find its ability to cast very thin pieces (as little as 1 mm) is outstanding. However before deciding on a casting process in favor of throwing to achieve thinner ware remember one thing: Standard Polar Ice of the right stiffness can be thrown very thin (it is not non-plastic and flabby like other super-white porcelains).

Can you mix all this powder into that little water? Yes! This is a full 20 Kg bag of powder and only 9 Kg of water in the bottom of that pail. But the water contains 200 grams of Darvan, it is the magic, it makes the particles repel each other. It enables making a liquid with only a little more water than is in a throwing clay! Click here to learn more about the magic of deflocculation.

Polar Ice Casting (not quite the same recipe as plastic Polar Ice, it has less VeeGum) has very good casting properties (but only if properly deflocculated). Pieces with wall thickness of as little as 1mm can be cast (with 1 minute set time) and they will still pull away from the mold. You even use heat-lamps or fans to get mold extraction within minutes of pouring. For very thin pieces, use a very sharp knife when cutting away excess around the rim (to prevent splitting). Assuming the viscosity and specific gravity are good, and you have good molds, the slip will drain well and wall thicknesses will be even. Watch out for powdery or dry feeling pour surfaces (shortly after pouring out the slip), these mean over deflocculation.

Recipe Used in the Plainsman Lab

67.3% Polar Ice Casting Mix Powder
32% Water (distilled recommended)
0.7% Darvan No. 7

This should produce a specific gravity of around 1.7 with a Ford Cup viscosity of 40 seconds (Laguna Viscometer reading of 140 seconds). Polar Ice cannot tolerate over-deflocculation well, that is why we are using a conservative recipe with a lower-than-typical specific gravity (contact us if you have issues). If your slip is not flowing well enough consider adding more water rather than more Darvan.

Water and Darvan percentages are not cast-in-stone, adjust as needed. Add 90% of the Darvan to the water and mix it in. Then add the powdered body mix to the water under a propeller mixer. It might appear that it is impossible to get that much powder into the available water, but that is the magic of the Darvan (of course you also need a good mixer that can run continually and put enough energy into the slurry that its temperature will actually increase). Mix at least 15 minutes (the mixer needs to be powerful enough to pull a good whirlpool, but it should not suck air into the slurry). If you cannot get the last of the powder in, add the rest of the Darvan. Do a preliminary assessment:

  • Measure the specific gravity.
  • If it is high, add water (adding 50 grams of water to a 1 US gallon batch will drop the specific gravity by about 0.1 - e.g. from 1.79 to 1.78).
  • If it is too low, make a note for next time to use less water.
  • Check the viscosity. If the slip is still not fluid enough, mix it longer, another half hour if you can (or age overnight and power-mix more the next day). If it is still too viscous add a little water (you will have to tolerate a lower specific gravity).

If you are not doing alot of production and can tolerate your molds getting wetter (and longer mold extraction times), adding water will not be a problem (unless there is too much in which case it may settle out). Remember also that warm slip will flow better than cold.

You can find information on the mixer we use in our lab at http://digitalfire.com/4sight/education/a_one-speed_lab_or_studio_slurry_mixer_361.html.

You can make about 1 US gallon from 5000 grams of powder. You can make about 1 Canadian gallon from 6300 grams.

Physical Properties

 Drying Shrinkage: 5.0-6.0%
 Dry Strength: n/a
 Water Content: 21.0-22.0 Drying Factor: C130

Sieve Analysis (Tyler mesh):

 100-150: 0.1-0.3
 150-200: 0.5-1.0

Fired Shrinkage:

 Cone 5: 8.0-9.0
 Cone 6: 8.5-9.5
 Cone 7: 8.5-9.5

Fired Absorption:

 Cone 5: 0%
 Cone 6: 0%
 Cone 7: 0%

Compared to Others

Competing NZ Porcelains from Other Manufacturers: Polar Ice is likely very different. We are pretty sure you have never used anything like this before!

  • Polar Ice is much, much more plastic that other competing products we are aware of. And there is no need to age it to make it better.
  • It is likely more expensive (or much more expensive) than others you have tried. The white plasticizer used is twenty times more expensive than any other ingredient in the recipe. Other manufactures have chosen to minimize its percentage to keep costs and price down.
  • Polar Ice is more likely to be too soft and need stiffening. This is a necessity to being able to mix it properly with its high percentage of plasticizer.
  • It likely has a lower firing shrinkage. This is a product of our use of less feldspar.
  • It has a higher drying shrinkage, up to 7% (other porcelains will likely be 5.5-6.0%). This, again, is a product of the higher plasticity.
  • Drying performance may be worse or better. The higher shrinkage makes cracking more likely but the higher dry strength resists it and the higher plasticity enables making ware thinner and more even. Our experience is that with proper procedures and routine you will lose very few pieces.
  • It fires whiter. This is likely a product of our choice of feldspars and the high quality plasticizer.
  • It is more translucent (the reason for this is proprietary).
  • It is stickier. But the stickiness is much less if the water content is reduced before use.
  • It dries slower (because of the high plasticity).
  • It sets in the box. When you first feel it you will swear it is too stiff. But it isn't, once you start moving it it softens dramatically.

Downloads

  • Brochure for double-sided printing (uncheck the Fit to Page checkbox when printing or it will be too small)
  • QR Code Labels for box insert (print on Avery 5163 labels)
  • QR Code Logo Labels for inclusion with samples (print on Avery 5163 labels)

Gallery

G3806C Copper Green on Polar Ice at cone 6.

Polar Ice with a clear glaze fired at cone 6. Notice the translucency.

Safety Data Sheet

Click here for web view.

Logo Plainsman Clays Ltd.
702 Wood Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 1E9
Phone: 403-527-8535 FAX:403-527-7508
Email: plainsman@telus.net