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In the low fire range, commercial glazes are the most popular. There is a very large variety of glazes available to achieve many kinds of effects (from bursting crystals of color, to simulations of natural stone), and many finishes (from shiny to matte.) They come in small containers so you can buy a lot of different colors without spending too much money. They are very consistent and can be counted on without a lot of testing. They mesh well with the style that many low fire ceramists work in, which is a more painterly style, where you can focus on the decoration rather than the chemistry of the clay and glaze.
At the other end, Cone 10 Reduction and Oxidation, most people make their own glazes using raw ingredients. There are some commercial pre-mixes available. One example is the Laguna dry mixes we carry. These come in dry form and are simply mixed with water. Another example is the Spectrum High Fire line, for cone 10 oxidation, which are all available in liquid form, and some in dry. They are usually used by people who are still learning or for some reason not ready to take the next step of making their own glazes. When firing at this temperature range, results vary a lot depending on the atmosphere, the type of clay used, the thickness, and other factors, so it is very important to test your glazes.
The middle range, Cone 5-6 electric, is a more eclectic mixture. Some people use commercial, others make their own, and some do both. The benefit of commercial glazes in this range is that they tend to be very stable glazes, which makes your life a lot easier. However, they can still vary depending on usage so they should be tested. They come in liquid and dry forms. Commercial glazes make a lot of sense especially if you use small quantities but want to have a wide variety of colors and textures. Assembling all the raw ingredients to mix a lot of different glazes can be expensive, especially if you aren’t buying them in bulk. And sometimes people simply don’t have the space to be able to store ingredients and mix large batches of their own glazes.
But the advantage of making your own glazes from recipes or from scratch is that if you want to change a glaze, it is easier because you know what is in it. There are books and programs available to help you adjust glazes to better fit your clay body, or to react in different ways (more runny, less runny, more shiny, less shiny, more crazing, less crazing, etc.) If you use large amounts of a glaze, it is much more cost effective to make your own. The disadvantages are that you have to learn more about glaze chemistry, and you need some up front investment in scales, sieves and such. And while there are many recipes available, not all of them are stable or will work in your environment. So you have to be prepared to do a lot of testing to find ones that work for you
If you want to get started making your own glazes from scratch, you will need: buckets with lids, one or more sieves (different glazes recommend different meshes), an accurate electronic or triple beam gram scale, a mixer (such as a Jiffy Mixer), various glaze chemicals, and probably at least one book on glaze chemistry. And of course recipes. While we don’t collect recipes, we do list other places that do.
If you are ready to make this step, we can assist you in finding what equipment you need.
In future tips we will cover:
Different ways to do glaze tests, and
Software for glaze filing and calculations