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Have you ever opened the kiln and found a big crack on your favorite piece?
It is really frustrating, huh?
I bet you wondered what you did wrong?
Well, there are quite a few reasons why pottery and ceramics crack and this page should give you some ideas of how to stop such damage.

CAUSES

Cracks usually result from stress in the clay.
There is always some stress in clay because it shrinks as it dries, when it is fired and it also expands and contracts during firing.
Sometimes if the stress is too much for the clay to handle it cracks.
How the piece of pottery or ceramic is made can either minimize cracking or contribute to cracking.
If you sit unfired pottery upside down on its rim, you will put stress on the rim.
A crack may not appear right away, but it could show up later as the pottery dries more or when it is fired.
It is a good idea when turning pottery upside down, to place the rim on a piece of soft foam.
Different clays can handle different amounts of stress without cracking.
The shape of the pottery or ceramic may cause the cracking.
Sharp corners concentrate stress and are more prone to cracking.
Fast drying will tend to cause more stress than slow drying.
Over firing pottery or ceramics or firing it multiple times will tend to make it more susceptible to cracking.
Differences in thickness of the pottery or ceramic will also set up stresses, since the thin areas will dry faster than the thick and the stress won't be evenly distributed.
This is very common when the base of pottery is thicker or thinner than the walls.
Sometimes this will show up as a circular crack around the bottom edge of the pottery.
A thick layer of glaze on the inside of a pottery or ceramic and a thin or no layer on the outside will cause stress which will result in a spiral crack up the sides.
If glaze pools on the inside of a pot, tension is created and the pottery or ceramic may crack or split across the base.

Specific Types of Cracks

Shivering

Shivering Glaze
Sometimes a piece of glaze will crack off, normally near a rim or at edges.
Some clay may be attached to the glaze piece that cracks off.
This occurs because stress has built up between the clay and glaze that can't be absorbed.
It is often caused by over sponging which takes away the fine clay particles and leaves behind the groggier clay particles which are not elastic enough to absorb the stress.

Crazing

Aqua Crazing Ashtray
This is a network of very fine cracks in the glaze.
It is caused by a mis-match between the clay and glaze.
It often will not show up until the pottery or ceramic is cooled or sometimes even until it has been heated and cooled a few times.
Some people believe slow cooling will prevent crazing, but the stress still exists and eventually the crazing will occur.

Dunting

This is a special type of crack which occurs from stresses caused during firing and cooling.
This stress primarily occurs during two critical points of firing called silica inversions which occur at 1063˚ F or 573˚ C and 439˚ F or 226˚ C.
At these inversion points, the structure of the silica molecules rearranges.
It is important to fire slowly through these two temperatures and electronic kiln profiles often do this for you automatically while they are heating.
Most dunting however is caused during cooling.
These cracks appear as long, clean, body cracks with sharp edges.
If the pottery or ceramic is glazed, the glaze edges are sharp.
They can be vertical, horizontal or spiral.

There are three main reasons why cooling dunts occur.

The first occurs as you cool through the first silica inversion at 1063˚ F.
At this inversion the body contracts suddenly.
The more silica, quartz, in the body, the more contraction.
Since different parts of the pottery or ceramic reach this temperature at different times, it doesn't all contract together and that causes stress which can crack.
Take for example a tall pot.
The top will cool much faster than the bottom, because the bottom has the whole temperature of the kiln shelf keeping it warm.
The top will cool faster than the bottom, causing a crack around the bottom wall.

The second occurs as you cool through the 439˚ F inversion.
A similar thing happens as above.
But, pottery and ceramic artists sometimes like to open their kilns at about this temperature to see their pieces and this will make it much worse.

The third type of cooling dunt occurs months or even years after firing.
Sometimes the pottery or ceramic might split right in half after three months.
This is usuallly the result of thermal shock.
In this case the clay and glaze expand at different rates when exposed to temperature variations and this change causes the object to crack.
To be more specific, the body contracts more than the glaze.
If the glaze is weaker it will shiver.
If the clay is weaker the object will crack.

S Cracks

One of the most common cracks found in pottery, is the "s" crack, which occurs at the bottom of a pot, in the shape of an s, usually on thrown pieces, but can also happen to a poured ceramic.
The most important thing to remember, is that you should keep the bottom of the pottery or ceramic as dry as possible while throwing or pouring and compress the bottom during throwing and trimming.

Troubleshooting A Crack

If you have a crack, find the point where it is widest.
This will be the point where the crack started and will help you understand what happened.
Cracks in the rim usually were caused by stresses in the raw stage.
Cracks in the base usually occur in the firing.

Another way to determine the cause of a crack is to look at the surrounding glaze.
If the glaze at the end of the crack is sharp, it cracked in the later stages of firing, probably during cooling.
If the glaze is round at the edge of the crack, the crack probably occurred early in firing and the glaze had time to heal over.

This is just few of the reasons pottery or ceramics can crack.
Most clay is pretty tolerant or you would get a lot more cracks.

Don't be afraid to make a piece of pottery or ceramic just because it might get a crack.
If you take heed of the causes above, usually you won't get any cracks.
Even if you do get a crack there are many ways to fix or hide it.

Ok, get to crackin, OOOOP's, slip of the tongue, I mean get busy and create a perfect and beautiful piece of pottery or ceramic!!

"Copyright BigCeramicStore.com, reprinted with permission."

Don't let your mind become so busy that your heart can't respond.



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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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