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Next 10 Tips

Hand-tooled jigger model vs. 3D-printed and cast

I have a profile drawing I want to match (upper left). On the left is my first attempt to tool a model. Even though I attempted to jigger the plaster to match, the profile is way off. I lost the enthusiasm to even get it smooth. For the one on the right I 3D-printed a shell, poured the plaster in and then smoothed off a bit on the wheel after the set. It matches the template and it is perfectly round (because I have a good 3D printer, a Prusa MK3S). This is revolutionary! That drawing: I hired someone on to draw it for me using Fusion 360. He draws things in such a way that I can fine tune them.

Tuesday 15th 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

By the magic of delflocculation, this powder will mix into that water and still fit in the container

This is 1100cc of water and 3000 grams of M370-2 casting. Amazingly, it is possible to get all that powder into that little bit of water. And still fit in the container (2250cc) and still produce a very fluid slurry for casting. How is this possible? That water has 11 grams of Darvan 7 deflocculant in it, it causes the clay particles to repel each other such that you can make a liquid with only little more water than is in a throwing clay! This is a test mix of M370-2 casting (it uses a large-particle kaolin), my pieces cast in 7 minutes (less than a third of the normal time). Using a good propeller mixer (in a bigger container of course) the slurry can be mixed silky smooth in a couple of minutes.

Friday 4th 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

G2934Y glaze on Standard #112 body at cone 6

Produces an appearance very similar to dolomite-matte-glazed ware fired in cone 10 reduction. The effect would be similar using speckled bodies made by other manufacturers. Pieces made by Tom Friedman.

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

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