How to Solve Glaze Settling

Have you ever had a glaze that kept settling to the bottom of your bucket? This is a common problem for glazes prior to firing, and may also result in firing problems. When a glaze settles out, some of the heavier components of the glaze settle to the bottom of the container. If you try to use this glaze without thoroughly remixing you will be applying a glaze with key ingredients missing. A glaze stays in suspension due to the presence of various types of clays, such as bentonite, and/or gums, such as CMC. One common cause of settling out is the addition of too much water to the glaze, which dilutes the effect of the suspending agents and allows some of the glaze ingredients to settle out. Another possibility is the growth of bacteria which will consume an organic gum, such as CMC, and will lead to loss of suspension. To prevent bacteria growth do no return used glaze, which has been poured out of the original container, back into the original container. Also do not introduce possibly contaminated objects, such as brushes, into the original container. Storing glaze in a hot or sunny environment may also encourage bacteria growth. Freezing can also destroy the action of CMC. And glaze ingredients such as frits, nepheline syenite, soda feldspar and other slightly soluble materials slowly release sodium ions which can deactivate the suspension agent, making it ineffective.

If a glaze has settled out, but has not gone rock hard in the bottom of the container, you can add CMC or bentonite, if you happen to have it. But especially if you're dealing with commercial glazes you probably don't have that lying around. However, you can also use Epsom salts to suspend your glaze. Epsom salts can be readily purchased in most drug stores. First you need to create a saturated solution of Epsom salts by dissolving them in a cup of warm water until no more will dissolve. Then add this solution slowly and carefully to the glaze while continuously stirring the glaze. It should require less than approximately one teaspoon of Epsom salt solution per gallon of glaze. The quantity will depend on the severity of the problem. If a glaze has gotten too hard at the bottom to mix back up, first try my favorite glaze-stirring tool, a handheld kitchen stick blender. If that doesn't work, drain all the liquid off, work on dissolving the solid into the Epsom salt / water mixture, then add the rest of the glaze liquid back in.

copyright 2000, Cindi Anderson, www.bigceramicstore.com
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