Want to get the Plainsman monthly informational email?

With stuff like you see here.

Home

A gunmetal glaze I have wanted for decades!

After 40+ years of making pottery I finally have a perfect gunmetal black. It has an incredible silky surface. It does not cutlery mark. It does not craze on anything. It is easy to clean. This is G2934Y with 6% Mason 6600 black stain firing using the PLC6DS schedule. I had to tune it a bit, adding about 15% glossy G2926B, because it was a little too matte on initial firings. But now it is perfect. These are heavy mugs made using the M340 casting recipe (and the casting-jiggering process). The speckled mug was made by casting a thin layer of the speckled version of the slip first, then filling the mold with the regular slip. I used a 40-minute cast to get walls nice and thick!

Sunday 2nd February 2020

Red burning, customer-found terra cotta clays tested

We tested four different clays (brought in by customers). One is from BC and three from Alberta. These fired sample bars show rich color, low soluble salts and high density and strength at very low temperatures. L4233 (left): Cone 06 to 3 (bottom to top). Reaches stoneware-density at cone 02 (middle bar). Plasticity is very low (drying shrinkage is only 4.5%). But, it is stable even if over-fired. L4254 (center bottom): Cone 04,02,3,4 (bottom to top). Very fine particled but contains an organic that is gassing and bloating the middle two bars. L4243: Fires lighter and looks stable here (cone 02,01,1,2 shown) but melts suddenly less than a cone above the top bar (well before vitrification is reached). L4242 (right): Hyper-plastic (12% drying shrinkage!). Already melting by cone 02 (third from top). Achieves almost zero porosity (porcelain density) at cone 04 (#2 bar). Even when mixed with 20% kaolin and 20% silica it still hits zero porosity by cone 1. What next? I'll mix L4233 (left) and L4242 (right), that should produce stoneware density at cone 02 (about 1% porosity).

Saturday 1st February 2020

New dealer showroom clay sample boards almost ready (not available retail)

We have new boards for high temperature oxidation and reduction, medium temperature and low temperature. These feature QRCodes for each of the bodies (they go to the information pages for that product on our website, these pages are getting more and more detailed with how-to information). Each body is shown with two glazes. Those glazes have QRCodes at the bottom that will take you to a page with everything you need to know about how to use and get or mix them.

Friday 20th December 2019

Hand-tooling a mug model vs. 3D-printing a mold to cast it

I am creating molds for a 2019 casting-jiggering project to reproduce heavy stoneware mugs manufactured here 50 years ago. I have a profile drawing I want to match (upper left). The solid plaster model on the left was my first attempt at manual tooling. The metal template was time-consuming to hand-make, its contour was difficult-to-match to the drawing and the plaster surface turned out rough and difficult-to-smooth. To make the plaster model on the right I printed a shell (using my 3D printer), poured the plaster in, extracted it after set and then smoothed it on the wheel using a metal rib and trimming tool. It matches the drawing perfectly and the round is very true. 3D-printing is revolutionary for this type of thing! The drawings: I hired someone on Upwork.com to make them for me (using Fusion 360). The shell-mold (to cast the model) on the upper right: I printed that too, in two pieces.

Friday 13th December 2019

Cooling rate drastically affects the appearance of this glaze

This is G2934Y satin matte with Mason 6600 black stain. The piece on the left was fired using a slow-cool firing schedule (C6DHSC). The schedule for the one on the right turned the kiln off at 2100F (after a half hour drop-from-2200F-and-hold), then it free-fell. The slow cool gives the glaze on the left time to crystallize, thus it is now a stony matte (rather than a satin matte). It is interesting that to this mix of the glaze I added 20% glossy clear, yet it still matted on the slow cool.

Tuesday 26th November 2019

What we see in the park beside the Plainsman plant

The Plainsman Clays factory is right beside a baseball park. A beautiful place in the summer where children play and teams compete. But in the afternoon and evenings the deer move in. And mow the grass! The deer stay around all winter, in this residential area they are away from the coyotes and occasional mountain lion in the nearby river valleys.

Sunday 24th November 2019

This is how much casting slip 10,000 grams of powder makes

To-the-brim the bucket holds 8.8 liters (2.43 Canadian gal, 1.9 US gal). The slip itself weighs 14 kg (30 lb). It has a specific gravity of between 1.75 and 1.8. The slurry was power-mixed in a larger bucket.

Friday 22nd November 2019

Deep, deep blue without any cobalt. How?

These have to be seen to be believed, it is the deepest, richest blue we have ever produced. This is Plainsman M340 fired to cone 6. Black-firing L3954B engobe (having 10% Burnt (not raw) Umber instead of the normal 10% Zircopax) was applied inside and partway down the outsides (at the stiff leather hard stage). The incising was done after the engobe dried enough to be able to handle the piece. The glaze is Alberta Slip rutile blue. Firing schedule: Cone 6 drop-and-soak.

Wednesday 20th November 2019

The matteness of this glaze depends on the cooling rate

This is the G2934Y matte cone 6 recipe with a red stain (Mason 6021). The one on the left was fired using the C6DHSC slow-cool schedule. The one on the right was fired using the drop-and-soak PLC6DS schedule. The only difference in the two schedules is what happens after 2100F on the way down (the slow-cool drops at 150F/hr and the other free-falls). For this glaze, the fast cool is much better, producing a silky pleasant surface rather than a dry matte.

Wednesday 20th November 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 7th November 2019

Is it possible to make a thin flat porcelain tile from a plastic pottery body?

Yes. The body is Plainsman M370 (~ 25 silica, 25 feldspar, 30 kaolin, 20 ball clay + talc to tune maturity). It is 3.8 mm thick fired (vs. commercial tiles at 5-7mm). It was rolled (in the plastic state) and dried completely between sheets of plaster board. Bisque and glaze firing were on an alumina shelf in an electric pottery kiln (at 300F/hr up through quartz inversion on the glaze firing). Cooling on both firings was free-fall in a fairly empty kiln. It is flat and flexible enough that I could lay it on the cement floor and stand on it without it breaking! Of course, to produce these consistently special furniture that sinks minimal heat and a kiln that can evenly apply it front and back are needed. This is doable for custom applications. Of course, to compete in the commercial market, they need to be dust-pressed and there are lots of specifications to meet.

Sunday 27th October 2019

Same body, same glaze, same firing. Why did one crawl?

The body: M370. Glaze: G2934Y (with added green stain). Firing: Cone 6 drop-and-hold. Glazing method: dipping (using tongs). Thickness: The same. The difference: Wall thickness. The one on the right was cast thinner so the glaze took a lot longer to dry (the bisque lacked sufficient absorbency). Common pottery glazes contain clays which need to shrink somewhat during drying. The bond with the bisque, although fragile, is normally enough to prevent cracking during drying if: drying occurs quickly. That happens when the body has enough porosity to absorb all the water quickly. Otherwise, cracks appear and these become crawls during firing. A complicating factor is that stain and/or zircon additions make an already-crawl-susceptible glaze even worse. Solution: Heat bisque before dipping, glaze the inside and outside separately (with drying between) or increase calcined kaolin:raw kaolin ratio in the glaze.

Sunday 27th 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 a 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 half 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.

Wednesday 23rd October 2019

Pottery made from cremation ash, increasingly popular!

As you can see from the search, this is becoming "a thing". The ash is being incorporated into both clay bodies and glazes. The ash of pets and humans. If you are a potter wondering about doing this here are a few tips. Do testing, better to use up some of the ash for that than have to throw away the ware to make! If the ash has not been ground (likely the case for pets) there will be bone fragments, these won't melt so need to be removed for glazes. For wedging into the body, testing will be needed (consider the possibility of lime-popping). Be careful to write down your procedure during testing so that production does not bring surprises. While you can add ash to commercial bottled glazes, the percentage will be low. If you make your own dipping glaze, 50% ash should be possible. Do tests without colorants to get a base glaze that is melting well and does not crawl. Add stain powders to test colors, zircon and titanium dioxide to opacify (the latter will variegate more). Color and opacifier additions can introduce crawling, test these well also. Development procedures for wood ash glazes can provide a starting point.

Wednesday 23rd October 2019

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