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Ceramic Table Legs

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Hello everyone,

I would like to have a chunky table made which consists of four ceramic table legs and a wood on top. The table legs (W200mmxD200mmxH700mm) can be a rectangular steel hollow section (200 x 200 mm, 700 mm in height) that then gets encased in ultramarine glazed ceramic.

I worked with kilns when I was an architectural student, but now am curious to see if there are techniques or ways of doing these legs without firing them, as I am not sure any kiln could take that big size. I live in UK and can get decent raw materials, but the project is in Croatia and I am not sure if they have kilns in the vicinity of the house.

Second question, the table top would be made of ragged shaped planks that would naturally leave gaps between each plank as the wood curves in and out. I would like to pour ultramarine ceramic into these gaps, but again I won't be able to fire these free-formed ceramic stitches in the kiln as the wood would burn. Can I do anything with air drying ceramic mixture, is there anything like that? and then glaze it with some other solution on top?

I  appreciate all your suggestions and tips.

 

Thank you and all the best,

 

Dado

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Not sure what you mean by "ultramarine" ceramics. Are you meaning the color, or a specific clay body. If the latter, I am unfamiliar with this.

Heres the issues I see; you want to encase the steel in ceramic. You're not gonna want to fire them both together because the clay will shrink and break around the steel as it fires. Likewise, your pretty piece of steel will now have oxidized greatly, and cleaning it up will be a major PITA.

If you fire the ceramic seperate from the steel and want to join them after the fact, you will have to find the proper material to join the steel/ceramic; you will also have to calculate very precisely the shrinkage, so that the clay will have a snug, but not too snug fit, after the firing, to the steel, and still have enough room for your adhesive of choice. Of course, you could always make the ceramic much larger, and fill the cavity with an adhesive, but may not be the look you like. If the clay warps during the making or firing, your pieces may not fit at all.

Second, if you are counting on the steel being the structural supporting member, this means that the ceramic can't be load bearing (and shouldnt be, lest someone sits on your table, and chips a foot/leg), and if it cant be load bearing, then it cant go all the way to the bottom of your steel member, meaning you will have exposed steel somewhere. Unless you hide it with some kind of cover/plate.

There are plenty of kilns which are big enough to fire what you want; most "hobby" potters have kilns which are big enough to fire this. Industrial kilns are big enough to drive buses into them. Not sure about the access over in the UK but there should be plenty of community studios with kilns large enough.

Air dry clays could withstand a certain amount of moisture from expected use/spills, so in that sense it will survive better than water based clays, however they are not nearly as durable. They also shrink (not sure exactly how much), so you will have gaps as the clay dries. As well, there is no way to "glaze" them, as you'd have to heat them. Paints/enamels would work, but may not be the finish you want (durability wise).

All in all, Im not sure why you'd want to use ceramic at all. The material doesnt shine in situations like this, and doesnt provide any better surface than what you could achieve using other methods.

Id sand your steel legs to the perfect finish, and then paint them with auto body paints which will have a TON of color choices, and are very durable. The surface you can achieve will be as glossy/durable as any glaze (likely in some cases more durable) will be. For filling the voids in your table's wood, I would use an epoxy resin; there are a number of manufacturers of resins, and lots of "models" of resins, which have their own benefits over others. They can be tinted with a lot of materials, even encapsulating larger materials that are "mixed" into the resin. Their shrinkage rates are barely noticeable on a scale like you're working. I know a number of artists who use this method to make table tops. The wood surface and resin can be planed at the same time, so you can have a perfectly consistent surface. The resin can be sanded for a frosted look, or polished for a clear as glass look, painted for color.................

There are a number of "furniture" items which have been made from ceramic, but with your proposed project, I dont see the benefit, and in reality, poses more challenges, especially if you dont have much experience with clay. Just a question, why use ceramic at all? You have a reasoning I assume?

 

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Dado-

+ to what hitchmss says.

Do a search internet search  for epoxy river tables. You’ll find plenty to look at for ideas. Added benefits include less experimental time, proven technology, clear and opaque material availability, ease of construction, and encasing the metal legs doable, and able to be done without the need for equipment and skill sets which may not be available onsite.

Fred

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1 hour ago, liambesaw said:

I was thinking he meant like cast iron enameling

I had not thought of it in terms of ceramic coatings! That would be an effective way to treat the steel legs! The filling of the wood surfaces's voids though...

 

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2 hours ago, Tyler Miller said:

The material you are looking for is concrete.  Cheap, castable, available in every country on Earth, and sets without firing.

Concrete meets the requirement of being ceramic, at least according to the American Ceramics Society.

LT

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Air dry clay is worthless for just about anything, and certainly wouldn't hold up in any situation where it will be touched. I think the big question here is the terminology. What is ultramarine ceramic?

I think you could definitely make ceramic tubes that encase the steel legs. The ceramic legs would be made separately, then slid over the steel. As long as the ceramic legs are thick enough, and you dry and fire them properly, they shouldn't warp. I would put a flange on the bottom of the steel legs to keep the ceramic off the floor, with a thin rubber or vinyl gasket to cushion the ceramic from the steel flange, and put an adhesive inside to keep the ceramic from knocking against the steel. I think that an expanding foam like Great Stuff would do the job to fill the void and secure the ceramic. The top of the steel leg would have to have a wide enough flange that you could screw it to the table top, which means you'd need to attached the bottom steel flange after sliding on the ceramic. It could be epoxied on or threaded on, with a flange that goes inside the leg. It would all take some engineering, but it could work, and it could be pretty cool. It would be quite heavy, though.

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Concrete can be cast nicely slick and shiny around steel legs if you use Formica forms.

Not really suitable between cracks in wood because they don't expand and contract equally, which is also true for all ceramics. Doesn't seem like the same material should be used in both applications. Is there some "plasticizer" or resin-y additive for concrete, or a grout that would stick and flex? Cleanup, or boo boo prevention, could be a problem when filling cracks between rustic boards. Maybe tinted Bondo - butter the edges like brick before joining, plane/sand when cured.

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All the ideas seem great, I just don’t understand the look and quality you re seeking. Covers for the legs could be cast and glazed in sections, half section full hollow with any shape interior you would like. The covers could be slid over from the bottom up, retaining is easy enough to work out as filler (foam) and mechanical can be easily created. Concrete is not a great choice for wood infill since it’s expantion and contraction will not be the same as the wood and it’s tensile strength is poor without reinforcement so under support and reveals could be used. Concrete can be polished, stained, you name it.

I guess it’s hard to suggest workable methods without knowing what the overall look and flavor of this is going to be.

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