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Basic Engobe Recipe

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When I first heard the word engobes, the name sounded like some strange tribe living in the jungles of South America to me, but I found out that it is just a way of decorating pottery and ceramics.

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Engobes can be defined as liquid clay slips of different make ups, which are applied to the surface of pottery or ceramics.
The purpose of the engobe can be as different as the varied forms it comes in, which is to give color to a piece, to improve the surface texture, to provide a surface to do further decoration on and to add textures on your piece.

Engobes can be put onto wet clay surfaces, leather hard pottery, greenware and even bisqued.
What ever you put the engobes on, the shrinkage rate should match that of the clay underneath, otherwise cracking, which happens when the engobe shrinks more than the clay underneath or shivering which happens when the clay underneath shrinks more than the engobe on top.

Here is a simple Cone 6 to 11 engobe you can try out on leatherhard clay, but be sure to do some tests first, before using it on any important stuff.

Basic Engobe Recipe

INGREDIENTS PERCENTAGE
Kaolin 25%
Ball Clay 25%
Potash Feldspar 20%
Flint - Silica> 20%
Zircopax 5%
Borax 5%
TOTAL 100%

If applying the above to greenware or bisque, experiment by substituting increasing amounts of calcined kaolin.
Usually these ingredients can be bought at most pottery or ceramic shops.

Application techniques for engobes also greatly vary.
They range from dipping to brushing, spraying and even slip trailing, but in contrast to applying glazes to bisque, it pays to be careful when putting engobes on greenware, especially if the pottery is dipped too long, as the clay can soften and your piece can become deformed or ruined completely.
Wax or latex can be used as a resist and when engobes are put on and fired, the resist will burn off and leave the design on the pottery.
Once the engobe has hardened and before your pottery is fired, designs can also be scratched in, revealing the clay body underneath.
Various oxides, carbonates and commercial stains can be used to color base engobe recipes.
If you want to use commercial stains, refer to the instructions on the container for information on what amounts to use or you can experiment yourself with your own amounts.
The following chart can be used as a guide for adding amounts of oxides to engobe recipes for color results.
These colors refer to results obtained in oxidatiion firings.

Colorant Color Amount To Be Added To Basic Recipe

INGREDIENT COLOR PERCENTAGE
Iron Oxide Rust 2.0%
Cobalt Oxide Blue 2.0%
Nickel Oxide Gray/Silver 2.0%
Manganese Dioxide Black 3.0%
Cobalt Oxide Dark Blue 1.5%
Copper Oxide Mid Green 3.0%
Yellow Ochre Ochre 4.5%
Iron Oxide Mid Tan 3.0%
Rutile Creamy Tan 6.0%
Iron Chromate Dark Gray 3.0%
Manganese Dioxide Purple Brown 6.0%

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