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Salt and Soda Glazing

Salt glazing is a single fire technique whereby common salt is introduced into the kiln chamber at the clay’s maturing temperature.
The salt combines with silica on the ware’s surface and creates a glaze.

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Depending on the clay used, a more or less strong orange peel effect is produced as shown below.

Salt fired laying on it side on shells

Salt glazing is usually done in large wood or gas kilns, salt is introduced into the mature kiln chamber by the pound at the end of a firing.
Due to the intense heat, the salt volatilizes and the sodium combines with aluminum oxide and silica oxide in the clay, forming a glaze on any exposed surface of the work.
Salt and soda glazing for pottery and ceramics will amaze you when you see how a typical orange peel effect occurs.
As the salt creates the glaze, the pre-application of glazes is unnecessary, although underglaze decoration may be applied for a great effect.
Sufficient space should be left between the individual pieces, so the salt vapor can circulate freely and reach as much of the work as possible.

The salt kiln should be made from dense, high alumina bricks to resist deterioration from the salt as long as possible.
After many uses, a thick layer of salt glaze will form on the surface, virtually fusing the inside of the kiln.
This is the natural course of the salt kiln.
A kiln cannot be used for general firing of greenware or pottery after it has been used for salt glazing.
Usually a used kiln is bought and used for this purpose only.

A typical salt firing may start in the afternoon or early evening.
If in a secure environment, the kiln can then be left on overnight to get to mid range temperature, then fired to stoneware temperature the next day.
When the kiln reaches the maturation temperature of the clay, usually in the stoneware range, salt is introduced into the kiln in increments of about half a pound into each available port, while the firing continues.
Typically a salt kiln will have two or more salt ports, where the salt, packed in small paper sachets, can be thrown in.
Alternatively a long piece of angle iron serves well to dip the salt deep into the ports. Be Careful, the salt may splatter out from the port.
Thick leather gloves, goggles and possibly a good gas mask should be worn.
If the kiln doesn't have special salting ports, the burner ports on gas kilns and peep holes on electric kilns will have to do.
White smoke will billow out from the flue.
This smoke may contain small amounts of acid.
The amount of salt thrown into the kiln will depend on the kiln's size, but about 10 to14 pounds fine salt should be enough for a medium sized kiln.
Less is required if it is an older salt kiln, as salt residue will help to get the desired effect.
Moisture added to the salt will also help the conversion, but also increases the amount of smoke.

Soda glazing was developed in the 1970's as a chloride free alternative to salt glazing.
Soda glazing involves introducing sodium carbonate or bicarbonate into the kiln at a high temperature to create soda vapor.
Various soda introduction techniques are used, including spraying a water and soda solution, dropping small amounts of sodium carbonate into the kiln or introducing a solid plaster like mixture made from sodium carbonate and bicarbonate, whitening and water.
As with salt glazing, the soda reacts with the alumina silicate surface of the clay, creating a glaze.
Despite the similarities with salt glazing, the surface effects of soda-glazing can be quite different as shown below.

Stoneware, thrown and altered on wheel, Soda fired

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