Glaze Making

For my first real blog post I thought I’d just right into one of my most feared processes in pottery, the art of glaze making. Whether you want to make your own glazes at home or purchase them from a supplier, it’s always best to have an understanding of how glaze is made. The reason for this is you always want to make sure you are using food safe glazes that is if the purpose of your work is functionality as opposed to decorative. A good book for glaze making is Mastering Cone 6 Glazes – By Ron Roy. This book is excellent for those firing to cone 6.  It is clear, concise and extremely well written. If you are going to attempt to create your own glaze, it’s always best to start off making a clear and then working your way up into blues, greens and black. Since the weather has gotten a lot warmer I had time over the weekend to top up my clear glaze. I will post a step-by-step process on how I make my clear as well as the tools you will need. Firstly I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you are being safe when making glazes. Meaning you purchase a high quality mask to protect yourself from breathing in any of the chemicals. I also recommend making glazes in a very well-ventilated area, I normally end up making my glazes outdoors on a non-windy day. The materials you will need for glaze making are as follows:

  • A #80 sieve
  • Five gallon bucket x 2
  • Stir stick
  • Measuring Cup
  • Brush
  • Paint Mixer
  • Digital Scale
  • Scoops
  • High quality dust particle mask

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The first step is to measure all your ingredients according to your recipe, and place the dry mix into a 5-gallon bucket. Always weigh your ingredients with a digital scale, it is more accurate and you will less likely make mistakes judging how much of each material you are adding to your glaze. Another good tip is to designate some scoops to glaze making only. This way you won’t mix up any other measuring cups/scoops you use with ones that are coming into contact with chemicals.

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Once you have your materials measured out you are going to want to dry mix the ingredients together before you start mixing with water. Make sure you have your mask on at all times, especially when pouring out the dry mix as it produces a cloud of dust and you do not want to breathe any of that in.

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With your second bucket, you’ll want to add at least four litres of water and carefully pour your dry mix into the bucket of water. The reason for this is you want to make sure your glaze mix will be properly mixed. This allows the mix from clumping together too much, which would make it very difficult to mix. Trust me on this, I’ve done it and it’s definitely something you would want to avoid doing.  Once you have done that you can take out your trusty paint mixer and start mixing away. While you’re mixing you’ll want to add more water to your glaze. How much water you add is dependent on the glaze you’re making.

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Every glaze is different, a good rule of thumb is to add enough water so your glaze resembles a heavy cream. A good way to test your glaze is to dip two fingers in your glaze, if the glaze is too thick it will coat your fingers entirely, if it’s too thin it will run right off. Generally based on my experiences, I find if the glaze coats your fingers well enough that it is still slightly translucent, your glaze should be at a good consistency. However everything is based on trial and error, but keep in mind it is easier to add water to a glaze then to take away. If you do end up adding too much water to your glaze and it’s not firing properly, let your glaze sit for a few days and allow the mixture to settle to the bottom. You will then be able to skim some water off the top making your glaze thicker.

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Once you’ve gotten your glaze to a good consistency it’s time to sieve. Using your #80 mesh sieve, start pouring the glazing back into the first bucket you were using and with your brush stir the glaze around to get out all the lumps. This will allow for a smooth clean glaze for your pieces.

Once you are done and you are happy with your consistency your glaze is ready for a test firing! As horrified as I was at first to make my own glazes, it’s not actually as difficult as I thought it would be.

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Once you understand the process before jumping into it, it makes the entire process a lot easier. Much like reading a difficult recipe entirely before you start cooking. I hope this post provides you with some useful tips, oh and happy glaze making!

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