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Warping & Cracking When Fired

Sometimes cracking and warping problems come from a common source, the casting and drying of the piece.
Other causes of cracking can be related to how the piece is fired.
This page looks at problems related to casting and drying.

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Drying Ceramics

Ceramics contain clay which can absorb and hold water.
Before firing, it is important to remove all of the water so that the piece will not crack or explode when heated.
This is often accomplished in steps with firing being the last stage.

Understanding Drying

Basically, drying is the removal of water from a piece of pottery or ceramic by evaporation.
As the piece is dried, the film of water separating the clay particles gets thinner and thinner, the solid particles get closer together and the piece shrinks.
Shrinkage stops when the particles finally contact each other.

Drying Faults

Cracking, and warping may not become evident until after firing.
They are usually caused by drying too fast or unevenly.
If the piece is not completely dried and is heated too fast, the pressure from water vapor inside the piece can cause cracking.
Pieces dried only on one side can shrink more on that side causing warping or bending of the piece.
When one surface finishes drying, the piece is now too stiff to recover and the warping becomes permanent and this can lead to cracking.
Pottery and ceramics made of very plastic clays or having a high clay content need to be dried uniformly and slowly.

Thicker walled pieces will often have a greater tendency to warp or distort because the outside usually dries before the inside does.
Laying the piece on its side and using a fan on low will help the piece to dry more evenly.

Care needs to be taken to allow for uniform air movement around all sides of a piece to avoid drying problems.
Sometimes drying must be slowed down to avoid cracking by loosely draping a piece of plastic over the piece, or placing the piece in a cooler room.

Handles on cups can have a tendency to pull away from the mug and doll heads and chest cavities may cave inward.

Reduce Warping and Cracking

To reduce warping and cracking, take steps to dry more slowly and more evenly from all sides.

Don’t dry a flat object on a wet or cool surface like a formica, plastic table tops or damp newspaper.
If you do, the piece can only dry on one side.

Dry objects on something porous like wood or plaster and set them so air can circulate around them.
It helps to turn the pieces over during drying for a more even result also.

Slow the drying of thick walled pieces and hand built wares.

Support areas during drying that might cause stresses to build up, such as a part of the piece that sticks out past the main body of the piece.

Drying Techniques

Slip cast or commonly called ceramic pieces, may warp or crack if pulled out of shape when removed from the mold.
Even if the piece is gently returned to the original shape, the created stress will ultimately cause the piece to warp or crack.

Wheel thrown pieces should not distort during drying unless they are subjected to more shaping once they have started drying, let the piece dry naturally on a bat or shelf and it should be fine.

Thick hand built pieces need to be dried for a very long time before they can be fired or it may explode during firing.
Several days may be required or a low heat drying in an oven may be necessary to remove all the water.
Pieces should not be dried in a kiln, the moisture can damage the kiln.


Even drying is particularly important with plates.
Warping can cause the center of plate to fall or arch up.
Rims and centers must dry evenly to prevent warps, humps and cracks.


Drying tiles can present a particular challenge because it can be difficult for the piece to dry evenly.
Usually air is passed over the top of the tile.
This results in warping because the bottom of the tile remains wet.
Drying tiles in tile racks or on screen shelves can help air movement for a more even drying.

Don't be in a rush when drying your pottery or ceramics, a good way to check to see if the piece is dry, is to touch parts of it to your wrist, if it feels cold it is still wet and if it feels warm it is dry.

Remember haste makes waste and one wet piece in a kiln load can make junk out of the whole load if it blows up!!!

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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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