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JeffK

Waxing/polishing pit fired pottery

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Hello all -

After pit firing and cleaning the pot with damp sponge to remove all debris, we were then shown how to apply butcher's wax and then polish with a towel.

Just curious - are there other ways to polish a pit fired piece.? I've read of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. All suggestions would be most welcome!

Thanks as always for your guidance.

- Jeff

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Thanks Dick. The more I dig in, the more options I see. What you mention - I wonder if it's an artist's medium that I read about. Comes in matte, lustre/satin, and gloss.

I did use butcher wax on two pieces yesterday but really unhappy about the outcome. The blacks from the pit firing appeared to have died back.  Now trying to figure out how to get it off the pieces. Possibly use hair dryer?

- Jeff

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34 minutes ago, douglas said:

Most waxes ignite around 200-250F. Using a heat gun might work better than a hair dryer.

Thanks Douglas. Did take a try with a hair dryer and managed to erase the accumulated white was in the small crevices. My bad for a not-so-great burnishing job. I then tried to polish it up a bit with a cotton cloth. So got a little bit of a shine and cleaned up the wax coating - but didn't obliterate the wax coating entirely. Might try to get my hands on heat gun and attempt a 2nd time.

- Jeff

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I've started using Annie Sloane finishing wax - a non-toxic product used for finishing chalk paint (tons of youtube info on this).  It goes on easily but does require some "elbow grease" in buffing it once cured. It gives a lovely, buttery "hand-rubbed" surface.  Another product I LOVE is "Rejuvenate" floor finish. I learned about it from watching Rocky Lewyky's workshop on Cold Finishes on Youtube. Really worth viewing. It is a water-based acrylic style finish but so dilute that it really sinks in rather than giving that "plasticky" look that other floor waxes or acrylic sealants can produce. I have used this on many clay surfaces, including ones with combined bare and glazed surfaces, or over glaze-fired oxide washes.  It also came in handy when I was finishing some pots from a naked raku workshop. I had not previously burnished or used terra sig on the pieces so they were very textured and porous and I knew waxing them could be difficult. I applied the Rejuvenate product instead and it was a breeze! And no follow-up polishing required.

 

Good luck!

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10 hours ago, Irene the Handbuilder said:

I've started using Annie Sloane finishing wax - a non-toxic product used for finishing chalk paint (tons of youtube info on this).  It goes on easily but does require some "elbow grease" in buffing it once cured. It gives a lovely, buttery "hand-rubbed" surface.  Another product I LOVE is "Rejuvenate" floor finish. I learned about it from watching Rocky Lewyky's workshop on Cold Finishes on Youtube. Really worth viewing. It is a water-based acrylic style finish but so dilute that it really sinks in rather than giving that "plasticky" look that other floor waxes or acrylic sealants can produce. I have used this on many clay surfaces, including ones with combined bare and glazed surfaces, or over glaze-fired oxide washes.  It also came in handy when I was finishing some pots from a naked raku workshop. I had not previously burnished or used terra sig on the pieces so they were very textured and porous and I knew waxing them could be difficult. I applied the Rejuvenate product instead and it was a breeze! And no follow-up polishing required. Good luck!

Great options, Irene - thanks for offering them! I'm not great at burnishing so the Rejuvenate sounds like it might work for me.

Thanks also for the lead-in to Rocky Lewycky - he has quite a few tutorials up on YouTube and I'm certainly looking forward to watching them.

Onward to the wheel!

- Jeff

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You can brush it, and I've done so on heavily textured pieces, but if you want a thin coat, then rub some on with a soft cloth. Rocky suggests mircofibre but I've used old t-shirts. Each coat adds more shine so go easy at first, and adjust as you go. It washes up just great afterward with soap and water and a little goes a long way. I haven't used it over anything I've terra sigged yet, as I used the wax instead but Rocky uses it on his primitive fired pieces. Show us a picture when you are done!

 

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On 12/1/2019 at 9:08 PM, Irene the Handbuilder said:

I've started using Annie Sloane finishing wax - a non-toxic product used for finishing chalk paint (tons of youtube info on this).  It goes on easily but does require some "elbow grease" in buffing it once cured. It gives a lovely, buttery "hand-rubbed" surface.  Another product I LOVE is "Rejuvenate" floor finish. I learned about it from watching Rocky Lewyky's workshop on Cold Finishes on Youtube. Really worth viewing. It is a water-based acrylic style finish but so dilute that it really sinks in rather than giving that "plasticky" look that other floor waxes or acrylic sealants can produce. I have used this on many clay surfaces, including ones with combined bare and glazed surfaces, or over glaze-fired oxide washes.  It also came in handy when I was finishing some pots from a naked raku workshop. I had not previously burnished or used terra sig on the pieces so they were very textured and porous and I knew waxing them could be difficult. I applied the Rejuvenate product instead and it was a breeze! And no follow-up polishing required.

 

Good luck!

Hi Irene, which Rejuvenate were you talking about?  There are a few different ones and I by your description, I think this would really work for me!  
Thanks, Joy

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83 minute video link, below - that looks like it?

I believe we used Minwax "Paste Finishing Wax" for our pit fired pieces in local JC class - it came out cool! I'd participate in a pit firing again, however, not looking; likely I'd go to raku, gas reduction and salt before pit...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWPSZc0-XKQ

"Cold Finishes with Rocky Lewycky" presented by Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts

Edited by Hulk
less unclear-ity

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I am really a beginner at this, though my husband built a barrel-firing kiln (Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques: Raku * Saggar * Pit * Barrel) exactly by the directions. We used, again by the directions in the book, the kiln a few days ago and everything came out beautifully. It took 24 hours for us to retreive the items. I tested one of the bowls with water and it did not obsorb. My question is if there is anything that can be put on barrel-fired (low/mid-fire cone 6) pottery to be food-safe. I heard of liquid Quartz...BTW, I waxed the fired items with bees wax. 

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1 hour ago, Bonnie Parks said:

I am really a beginner at this, though my husband built a barrel-firing kiln (Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques: Raku * Saggar * Pit * Barrel) exactly by the directions. We used, again by the directions in the book, the kiln a few days ago and everything came out beautifully. It took 24 hours for us to retreive the items. I tested one of the bowls with water and it did not obsorb. My question is if there is anything that can be put on barrel-fired (low/mid-fire cone 6) pottery to be food-safe. I heard of liquid Quartz...BTW, I waxed the fired items with bees wax. 

If you are making it to cone six then that would be midfire and most any cone six glaze will work. Since this is more of a pit fire , sort of Raku then this would be cone 04 or lowfire clay which presents a bit more trouble. Am I right to assume these things are only getting to cone 04?

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I did not check the temperature since this was my first fire.  I did use mid fire, which was wrong for a barrel fire, I guess. I have only been throwing for about six months.  I know the barrel-fired products are not food-safe, as such. How will I know if the clay bacame ceramic?

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13 hours ago, Bonnie Parks said:

I tested one of the bowls with water and it did not obsorb. My question is if there is anything that can be put on barrel-fired (low/mid-fire cone 6) pottery to be food-safe. I heard of liquid Quartz...BTW, I waxed the fired items with bees wax. 

Just to clarify, you used a cone 6 clay that was bisqued to cone 04 and then fired in a barrel with combustibles, is this correct?  May I ask how you tested the bowls with water? Reason I ask is that for the carbon etc to be absorbed into the bowls then they need to be non vitrified or they won't take the carbon readily. So if they did take the carbon then it stands to reason they will be porous and therefore prone to weep/leak. There is a thread here that discusses the use of the commercial product Liquid Quartz, general consensus here is it isn't likely to work for functional wares over a period of time. Other issue with using a cone 6 clay that is fired to 04 is the bowls themselves will be weak and prone to chipping etc as the body hasn't been fired to maturity, in essence you would be using bisque ware. Did you add copper carbonate or any other colouring oxide to the barrel? These would add another layer of concern regarding if they are "food safe".

3 hours ago, Bonnie Parks said:

How will I know if the clay bacame ceramic?

If you bisque fired to cone 04 the bowls can no longer be slaked down in water therefore you could call them ceramics but if it's a cone 6 claybody then they will still be underfired compared to if they are fired to cone 6.

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I only fired once with mid-fire clay (I looked at the package). I did add copper carbonate, which you made a good point about--one I had not realized about safety. I did not measure temp. for this first firing, but I will for the next.  I am still using the mid-fire clay for throwing, and will follow the same directions as before. I don't know if the barrel fire will produce heat high enough, but I want to find out. You asked about the water test--I just added about 2 teaspoons of water to a bowl and it did not seep into the bowl.  But, you explained that I may have fired to bisque.  How can I know if it was fired hot enough?  

I seriously don't know what I'm doing, I guess. I have been taking classes at a local Art studio, but of course it is suspended now.. I just thought I might embrace something new while I am homebound.

 

 

Edited by Bonnie Parks
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10 hours ago, Bonnie Parks said:

I just thought I might embrace something new while I am homebound.

Ceramics is a wonderful field in which to try new things with! It's great you got some good results with your first attempt!

Couple points, pit and barrel firing isn't going to get nearly hot enough to vitrify or mature a cone 6 clay. Given that you've added copper carbonate in addition to the fact that the pots are pit fired they are no way going to be "food safe".   Just stick with decorative items for the process you're using and they'll be fine.  Other point is about the porosity of the pieces, fill your bowls with water and leave them on some newspaper overnight, you are most likely going to see wrinkled / wet paper in the morning. (use unwaxed pieces for this test) There are more precise tests to measure actual absorption but I don't think they'll be necessary to determine the clay is still porous. I believe  @JohnnyK has used Liquid Quartz inside his horse hair raku vases to seal the pots, but as posted in the above linked thread on Liquid Quartz they won't be suitable for food use.

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As said above, plus this....

You might not use the non-food-safe bowl for food.  But ceramics last forever - it's how we know most of our history - and there is no telling what future generations might do with your bowl.  My first pottery teacher said: "if it looks like it could be used for food, make sure it is safe for food".  That doesn't necessary include leakage, but does include use of toxic chemicals. 

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So, am I to understand that low-fire clay (for example: Mica Red Low fire (018 to 04) will mature at low temp., alternative firing, and may be also food-safe?  I am studying and reading about cones and types of clay, and this is a facinating field to explore. I appreciate the experience of those who respond to newbies such as myself.

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Food safe in terms of chemical(s) leaching from pottery to food, perhaps - not seeing any notes about that here:

https://nmclay.com/micar-mica-red-clay

For cooking pots bisque to cone 010 to 017.

CONE: 04 SHRINKAGE: 6% ABSORPTION: 7.7% PENTROMETERS: 5.6

The absorption may be worth noting. Fired to cone 04, the clay will absorb significant moisture.

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17 hours ago, Bonnie Parks said:

So, am I to understand that low-fire clay (for example: Mica Red Low fire (018 to 04) will mature at low temp., alternative firing, and may be also food-safe?  I am studying and reading about cones and types of clay, and this is a facinating field to explore. I appreciate the experience of those who respond to newbies such as myself.

If the piece is still porous, as all low fire clays are, then they are not food safe unless they have been glazed with a glaze that is not crazed. Alternative firings- pit, barrel, raku, etc- are all decorative techniques, and should not be used for food. The clay itself is not necessarily toxic, but raku glazes and the metals/salts used in pit firing are toxic, and the porosity is a major hygiene issue.

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