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Test Tiles For Glazes

There are many reasons to making test tiles for glazes.
It helps you to test combinations of glazes easily and inexpensively and serves as a permanent reminder of what a glaze looks like on different clays.
Because if you’re like me, you'll never remember!



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All About Pottery Glazes

Common Glaze Terms
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Troubleshooting Glaze Cracking
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Making a Hydrometer
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Lead Testing an Overglaze
Refinishing Bought Pottery
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Red, Yellow and Orange Glazes
Making Test Tiles for Glazes
Shino Glaze
Glaze Settling
Clear Dipping Glaze
Using a Viscosity Cup







You can use any form of test tile for testing glazes.
Test tiles can range from small bowls to squares to circles to rectangles, I have heard of people just making an imprint or their thumb and using these.
Seconds, can be used so you can see it on an actual piece, without really caring how it turns out.
Actual pieces aren't as desirable because they take up too much room.
Tiles store much easier if you don't have the room.
Ok, get busy and get organized with your testing, you'll be glad you did down the road!

Some Good Ideas

Texture:

It is a good idea to add texture to half of your test piece so you can see how the glaze will respond to texture and carvings.

Holes:

Make a hole somewhere so you can hang the tiles on a wall board or off the handle of the bucket.

Marking:

Make sure that you label the tile with what glaze it is, what clay it is and maybe even the firing temperature.
You could also keep the details in a notebook by numbering each tile, but I think it is a lot simpler to have all that info right on the back of the tile, then you don't have to run and try to find the notebook whenever you want to know about a certain tile.
In order to have the notebook thing work, you will have to put it back in the same place every time you use it.
Me, I have a problem putting something back in the same place twice, especially if I'm hurrying to get something done!

Dipping:

It is best to do three dips.
First dip covers the whole area.
Second dip covers 2/3 of the area.
Third dip covers half the previous dip.
So you have 1/3 with 1 coat, 1/3 with 2 coats, and 1/3 with 3 coats.
Be sure to stilt and keep the thickest coat the furthest from the kiln shelf in case it runs.

Layer Multiple Glazes:

The easiest way to do this is to take a circle and dip 1/3 in glaze one, a 1/3 in glaze two, overlapping glaze one, a 1/3 in glaze three, overlapping glaze two on one side and glaze one on the other.
You will get three solid colors, plus three overlaping colors.
You can also take a square, dip ½ in glaze one, turn and dip ½ in glaze two.
At this point you have two solids, plus one solid over the other.
For the fourth section you could try layering the opposite way, glaze one over glaze two instead of glaze two over glaze one, have an underglaze coat or introduce a texture or a third color.

Other Layering Effects:

Undercoat a section with underglaze or paint an iron oxide and a cobalt oxide line so you can see if the oxides run or stay put during firing.

Best Shape to Use

L Shaped Rectangular Tiles

This is so you can see the glaze on a vertical and a horizontal surface.

T Shaped Tiles

These are made from an extruder.
Make one side of the leg of the T smooth and the other side a texture.
Do the three dips with the leg of the T.
Lay it upside down on the top part of the T to fire, which will help to catch runny glaze, or if you glaze the whole inside of the L, it will give you an idea of what the glaze acts like on a flat surface.

Other Shapes


Throw or buy a wide, shallow, bottomless vertical sided bowl.
Make sure you have a flange on the inside and outside bottom.
Tool one side when dry and then cut vertically.
This will give you a bunch of upside down T shapes with a slight curve.

Throw or buy a ring about 10 inches in diameter and the clay is only 2 inches from the perimeter and the inward leaning wall about 2 inches high.
When it is leather hard cut it into eight pieces like a pizza that way you'll have stand up tiles that will behave as the walls of your pottery or ceramic do.

Throw or buy a wide cylinder without a bottom that is about 2 or 3 inches tall and make two or three grooves in it.
When it's leather hard, cut it like a pie, in four or eight pieces depending on how wide you want it to be and to make identical tiles.
Each slice stands by itself and can be easily dipped in different ways at different angles to show different thickness of the glaze.

Extrude a hollow form with a hexagonal die and use a serrated rib to texture one side. When leather hard, cut into logs.
You have a piece that stands and has plain and a textured test of the glaze

Small cups, thrown or bought, with glaze on the interior

Use cookie cutters and make round tiles with a decent sized hole a little in from one edge.
Leave one half smooth and flat and use any method you like to create a raised pattern of some sort on the other half, so you get an idea of what the glaze would look like on an incised or impressed surface.

Extrude a hollow square or hexagonal form to create a long tube.
This gives you four surfaces to do different things on.
Scratch one with a fork or a serrated rib for texture.
One side gets black underglaze, one gets red underglaze and the last side can be left plain.
You can change this and add oxide lines to see how they react.
You can also slice into sections about 3 inches long and punch holes.

Hanging And Storage:

Hammer rows of nails onto a large board and hang the tiles on them.
The longer nails you use, the more tiles you can hang on the.
You can sort them by color, texture, etc.

Get several together, like all the tests that you like on a certain clay or a certain color range and then hang the groups on nails.

Put in a large box to keep, all those you will never want to use again!
Never throw glaze tests out... you think you will always remember the duds, but it is surprising how fast you forget the results even if you remember testing a certain glaze. Sometimes I can’t remember what glaze I put on a piece as soon as I take it out of the kiln!
Keeping good notes will definitely save brain power!!!!

Mixing Test Glazes:

Most people mix about 1/3 oz. batches of test glazes, but some that use bowls or larger pieces go up to 10 1/2 ozs.
A lot of people will make a larger batch, then break it down to small bottles for the addition of different colorants, stains and oxides.

With test batches, as with full batches, it is best to let the glaze sit for two days to fully absorb, then remix.

Many people use old blenders or stick blenders for mixing test batches.
They mark off with a magic marker where enough water for a 1/3 oz. test comes, so the next time they can just put in the water and add ingredients as they are weighed out.
Use a piece of masking tape until you are sure enough to draw your line with a magic marker.
Another reason to mark where a 1/3 oz. or a 7 oz. batch of wet glaze comes, is so you can add that much base glaze before adding colorants or other ingredients.

It is important to strain after each coloring oxide addition for smoother results. Inexpensive test strainers are available that fit over a jar or half pound margarine tub. You can also use permanent coffee maker filters as screens.

If your recipe calls for .5 gram and your scale is only accurate to 1 gram, weight out 1 gram onto a piece of paper.
With a knife, smooth it into a flattened square and separate it in half or quarters by eye.

I hope that some of these ideas will help you to make your test tiles, I know it sure helped me!

 

"Copyright BigCeramicStore.com, reprinted with permission."

Sometimes it is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.



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