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Glaze Terms

Glazes are the protective coatings that make ceramics safe, useful and beautiful. Without the fired surfaces, pottery and ceramics would not be able to hold water or be safe for food.

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Glazes and Decorating Pottery

All About Pottery Glazes

Common Glaze Terms
Toxic Ingredients used in Glazes
Alternative Glaze Materials
Troubleshooting Glaze Cracking
Glazing Defect and Remedies
Glaze Dipping
High Bisque Low Glaze
Making a Hydrometer
What is an Overglaze
Lead Testing an Overglaze
Refinishing Bought Pottery
Surface Tension and Glazing
Salt Firing Glaze
Choosing Your Colors
Firing Copper Matte
Glaze Recipes
Crystals in the Glaze
Crystalite Glazes
Crystalline Glazes
Crystal Glazes
Earthenware Glazes
Troubleshooting Crystal Glazes
Oil Spot Glaze
Mojolica Method
Raw Glazing Pottery
Red, Yellow and Orange Glazes
Making Test Tiles for Glazes
Shino Glaze
Glaze Settling
Clear Dipping Glaze
Using a Viscosity Cup

Pottery Glazes
Mayco one of many companies that makes glazes.
The many types and textures of glazes that Mayco offers are almost endless, from bright shiny reds to soft pastels, metallic gold to satiny or rich black.
Mayco is committed to bringing the latest technology and safest products to market for the pottery workers and ceramist.
All of Mayco colors are tested independently by a toxicologist to insure that they meet or exceed the government's strictest standards.
There are some terms that the consumer needs to know when choosing a glaze for any finished piece.
These terms let the user know the characteristics of the glaze, whether it is shiny or dull, transparent or opaque, safe to use on utility items or for decorative items only.
Reading the label is the best way to insure that you have selected the correct product for your piece of pottery or ceramic.

The label should be read each time that you use a product.
At times raw materials may change or become obsolete.
In order to continue producing a specific color, changes to the formula may be required. The label will have the most up to date information concerning your safety and that of the piece of pottery or ceramic you are producing.


The first category for glazes deals with how the surface will look.
The following terms will help you understand the labels more clearly and will allow you to make the best choice of products for great looking results.
Some glazes fall in between all of these groups.
Some glazes even have tiny specks or granules of a contrasting or complimenting color floating in them.


Shiny and smooth, bright high gloss and a highly reflective surface.


Not really shiny, but not dull either.
Think of an eggshell or a satiny sheen.


The opposite of gloss.
This surface is duller than satin, reflecting little shine.

Dead Matte

Even duller than matte.
This surface reflects no light.


Refers to the transparency of the glaze.
Some glazes are so transparent that it's like placing a clear piece of glass on top of your pottery or ceramic.
These clear glazes can act like a magnifying glass on top of the pottery or ceramic surface or on top of underglazes.
Some glaze colors are nearly opaque and others totally so.


C: Clear

The glaze is completely clear, adding only a shiny, wet look and bringing out the true underlying colors on the piece.

T: Transparent

The color underneath is slightly tinted by the overlying glaze changing the appearance only a little.

ST: Semi-Transparent

The underglazes beneath these are identifiable, but are changed by the tone of the glaze over them.

SO: Semi-Opaque

Light underglaze colors will not show through and dark colors will be muted.

O: Opaque

Most colors will not show through.


One of the most important considerations when choosing a glaze deals with whether they will be used on utilitarian or serving pieces.
Several words are used to describe the level of potential hazard that a glaze poses to a customer.
Some words are used to describe the product in the liquid state and others are used to describe the finished glaze surface after firing.
To determine the toxicity of a glaze in its liquid state, formulas are submitted to an independently licensed toxicologist who examines each glaze formula and determines whether the product can be labeled as non-toxic or whether it requires a health caution label.

To determine a glaze dinnerware safe, a second set of tests are required.
Samples of the glaze in its fired form are tested by an independent laboratory facility for leach ability of lead and cadmium.
If the surface passes the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), then it may be used on food contact areas and can be labeled as dinnerware safe. Dinnerware safe only refers to the leach ability of lead and cadmium; other surface characteristics are not considered.
Be aware that if a finished surface is bumpy, grooved, pitted, cracked or rough, there is potential for bacteria to hide out in the surface texture.
Even if a glaze is technically dinnerware safe, it may not be practical for use on food or beverage containers due to the difficulty of cleaning.
A comparison would be a cutting board and the care required when preparing foods.

Glazes Categories


Refers to the product in the jar.
Contains no harmful ingredients in sufficient quantities that could be harmful to humans.

Health Caution

Refers to the product in the jar
There are some ingredients present in large enough quantities that the product may be harmful to humans.
There will be detailed information on the product label as to the type of risk that is posed as well as proper handling instructions.
Even more detailed information is available on the relevant

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

Dinnerware Safe and Food Safe

Refers to the finished, fired surface of the glaze.
Once fired according to the instructions on the product label, the fired surface may be used in contact with food or beverage without leaching potential harmful elements from the glaze into the food or beverage.

Not for Dinnerware Use and Not for Food Use

Refers to the finished, fired surface of the glaze.
Even when the glaze is fired according to label directions, the fired glaze may potentially transfer harmful elements into food or beverage upon contact.

Here are some examples to illustrate the differences:

Stroke & Coat Glazes

They are non toxic and dinnerware safe.
There are no toxic elements present in the liquid state and therefore, no toxic elements will be leached into food or beverage.

Classic Crackles and Crystalites

They are non-toxic, just like the Stroke & Coats.
And although they are also dinnerware safe, the surface should be examined to determine if it is easily cleaned after food contact, having no bumps, cracks or grooves.

C-109 Wonder Clear Dipping Glaze

It has a health caution and is dinnerware safe.
There is lead present in the liquid glaze and care must be taken to avoid exposure through inhalation or ingestion.
But when fired according to label directions, the fired surface of C-109 conforms to the standards established by the FDA and is dinnerware safe.

Other products, like Exotic Glazes, have a health caution and are


for dinnerware use.
There are potentially harmful elements present in the liquid glazes and instructions must be followed for proper use to avoid exposure.
Even when the glazes are fired according to label instructions, they should not be used on food or beverage contact areas, as enough of the harmful elements may be transferred to the food or beverage to be considered harmful to humans.

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