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.
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.
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.
What is the temperature difference between these two cones?
Four degrees F. I was consistently getting the cone on the left using a custom programmed firing schedule to 2204F. However Orton recommends that the tip of the self supporting cone should be even with the top of the base, not the bottom. So I changed the temperature to 2200F and got the cone on the right.
In 2015 we did a project comparing common cone 6 fluid-melt base glazes, picked a favourite (Panama Blue) and fixed it's slurry issues and crazing. Fluid-melts almost run off ware when applied thick, but they host stains & opacifiers to produce super-gloss, super-brights. That recipe, G3806C, has been among the most popular pages on our site. In 2019 we moved the thermal expansion much lower (from 7.3 to an incredible 5.7, it can survive a 325F-to-icewater test on our toughest-to-fit porcelain). The best variation, G3806N, is fluidity-controllable (by adjusting kaolin content), durable (double the Al2O3/SiO2 of other common ones) and employs lithium, strontium and magnesia frits. This version, G3806E, has 4% added copper oxide and sources SrO, Li2O and MgO from strontium carbonate, spodumene and Frit 3249. Follow the link here to see the entire history of this development effort (beware, there are multiple pages, each with many columns).
This cone 6 black glaze looks glossy until placed beside the cone 04 one
The cone 6 one is on the left, it contains about 25% frit. Both are colored using a black stain. That low fire glaze on the right has a high percentage of frit, likely more than 80%, that is the main reason for the beautiful surface. Frits are really fantastic, and standard practice in industry. However potters have been slow to adopt them, thinking they are more expensive. But from a "total cost" viewpoint, they are cheaper.
This was left for 24 hours. Wrapped in stretch wrap. Then the surface of the glaze was inspected under a lamp to detect any differences between the lemoned and non-lemoned surfaces. Lemons are highly acidic. This glaze passed because the base recipe, G3806N, was methodically developed so that it has plenty of Al2O3 and SiO2 (in the fired chemistry) to build a stable glass.
Our base glazes plus opacifiers on a dark burning body at cone 6
The body is Plainsman M390. These are commonly used base glazes. The top one is an MgO matte, next down is a calcium matte. They behave very differently to these additions. Notice also the difference when titanium dioxide is applied thickly. Tin oxide fires whiter than zircon (e.g. Zircopax). Each opacifier has issues. Tin is expensive. Titanium is difficult to mix into the slurry (screening required), not as white or opaque, variations in thickness produce more difference in results and it can turn blue. Zircon is more likely to cutlery mark, twice as much is required and it amplifies the color of any iron present.
It takes 80 pallets of dry materials to make a run of 4000 boxes of M370
M370 is now our second-most-popular clay body. Are you curious of the recipe? It is really quite simple. It has enough silica to resist crazing. It has enough Nepheline Syenite to mature to 1% porosity at cone 6. The rest is a mix of #6Tile kaolin and M23 ball clay with a little added bentonite to push up plasticity.
G3806C has been our recommended base recipe for reactive glazes (by the addition of colorants and opacifiers). It excels for copper blues, for example. But its thermal expansion is high enough that it crazes on some bodies (e.g. Plainsman P300). To adjust it (via glaze chemistry) I introduced some low expansion Li2O (from Spodumene) at the expense of high expansion KNaO, this dropped the calculated COE from 7.1 to 6.6. The melt fluidity, shown here at cone 6 (its most important feature), is exactly the same. The color is bluer. But not as dark, so copper oxide might be better. Or a higher percentage of copper carbonate. The base recipe (without the copper and tin) is potentially very valuable to create other reactive effects that depend on melt mobility. Why? Because it is very difficult to create a high gloss melt fluid glaze that also has a low thermal expansion.
It is impossible to dry this clay. Yet I did it. How?
These are made from a 50:50 mix of bentonite and ball clay! The drying shrinkage is 14%, more than double that of normal pottery clay. It should be impossible to dry them, the most bentonite bodies can normally tolerate is 5%. Yet notice that the handle joins with the walls are flawless, not even a hairline crack (but the base has cracked a little). Remember that the better the mixing and wedging, the smaller the piece, the thinner the walls, the better the joins, the more even the water content is throughout the piece during the entire drying cycle and the more damp of a climate you live in the better your drying success will be. What did it take to dry these: 1 month under cloth and plastic! I changed the cloth every couple of days. So by implementing these same principles you will have better drying success.
Brushing glazes can go on unevenly for more than one reason
Both of these were glazed by brushing. The inside transparent and white glazes are fairly easy to apply evenly but the bright color on the outside left one certainly is not. The problem is a combination of things. It is difficult to apply it evenly with a brush. It is difficult to get it on thick enough. And this commercial glaze does not contain enough of the purple stain (so I added 6 grams of Mason 6304 Violet stain powder to the 2/3 of a jar I had left, and mixed thoroughly). That, more careful brushing, and an extra layer produced the piece on the right!
Partially and fully opacified cone 6 G1214Z matte glaze
This is a calcium matte base (as opposed to the magnesia matte G2934). The clay is Plainsman M390. 5% Zircopax was added on the left (normally 10% or more is needed to get full opacity, the partially opaque effect highlight contours well). 5% tin oxide was added to the one on the right (tin is a more effective, albeit expensive opacifier in oxidation). The PLC6DS firing schedule was used.
Body made from Plainsman Fire-Red, ball clay and feldspar
Fire-Red is an unusual material for several reasons. It has a high iron content yet is a fireclay (the iron percentage is so high that it fires black at cone 10R). It is also non-plastic. Most important, it is not ground to 200 mesh like industrial materials. This body demonstrates it well: 42.5% Fire-Red, 42.5% ball clay and 15% feldspar. All that ball clay gives it awesome plasticity. The feldspar gives control of the degree of vitrification (just raise or lower it for more or less). This recipe produces good density and strength yet still exhibits deep red color! Look closely at the surface: It is covered by thousands of tiny iron eruptions, these will bleed through an over glaze to give "speck-city" like no other!
Orange is a very difficult color in ceramics. Inclusion stains are the only reliable method and universally used in industry. But you could ignore that and try a bunch of recipes online, buying exotic materials to complete each one. Maybe one will be orange enough, but will it craze or run or blister or leach or cutlery mark or crawl? Or you could put an orange stain into a transparent glaze you already know works on your clay. Or, how about trying a premixed orange at low fire? Ware can be amazingly functional and there are so many other bright colours available.
When the cone does this I need to adjust the program
This is a cone 04. It is bent too much, the kiln has over-fired a little (cone 03 was also bent somewhat). The built-in firing schedule goes to 1945, that would be much more over-fired than this was (and the built-in ones do not soak, drop-and-soak or slow cool). It only takes a minute to edit the program I made, all I have done is drop the step-three temperature to 1930 (it was 1935). I adjust my schedule fire-up-to temperature as needed, I cannot imagine not doing this.
This is a small cup-sized object made from Plainsman P600 (simply composed of Tile #6 kaolin, nepheline syenite and quartz). It is valued as a product-of-the-process piece, consigned to the "kiln God" as unglazed. It exhibits carbon-trap, soda glaze deposition and flashing. The soda-vapour atmosphere of the kiln glazed one side of the vessel early enough in the firing to trap carbon under a crystal-clear glass. Often such glazes are crazed, but this one likely is not because the body contains 25% quartz, giving it a high thermal expansion. The other side of the piece exhibits tones of red, brown and yellow on the bare, vitreous porcelain surface - this is characteristic of "flashing".
The glaze is G1214Z cone 6 base calcium matte. 5% titanium dioxide has been added. This Plainsman M390 tile was fired at cone 6 using the PLC6DS firing schedule. Titanium can create reactive glazes, like rutile, even with matte surfaces (provided the glaze has good melt fluidity). Calcium mattes host crystallization and work particularly well. Because titanium dioxide does not contain iron oxide lighter colors and better blues are possible than with rutile. Like rutile, the effects are dependent on the cooling rate of the firing, faster cools produce less reactivity.
Wowzers! These are actually hand-made, not thrown on the potter's wheel. You can see the vertical join by the handle as it rotates. Her's is a simple concept: A red clay (M390) with a thin application of partially opacified matte glaze. She flaunts a bare red clay base, polishing it. You can find her easily on Instagram and google.
How to give children a good experience in working with clay
Teachers who have never worked with clay face a formidable challenge with this. This read-in-three-minutes page is a complete beginners crash course in what you need to know. It explains what clay is, the advantages of working at lower temperatures, how to plan and inspire the children before starting, how to join and dry pieces, what is glaze and how to use it and how to fire the ware. The page explains things with an objective that the reader understand the basic whats, hows and whys of ceramics and pottery.