October 6, 2023

Revamping Your Pottery: How to Reglaze

Give tired or flawed pottery new life through reglazing. Discover processes for removing old glaze and preparing for fresh glazing.

Glazed pottery mugs

If your pottery is beginning to lose its luster, reglazing provides a fantastic way to refresh the glaze colors and effects. Whether you're looking to update your style or salvage a piece from a flawed firing, you can strip the old glaze and apply a fresh, vibrant look with careful preparation.

Can You Reglaze Pottery?

Yes, pottery can be successfully reglazed, provided the process is executed correctly. The key lies in fully removing the original glaze and adequately preparing the clay body to accept fresh glazing.

Reglazing is most effective on stoneware and porcelain bodies. However, avoid reglazing pit-fired or extremely porous clays, and limit reglazing on thin or delicate wares that may weaken with the process.

Why Reglaze Pottery?

There are several key reasons why artists choose to reglaze their pottery:

  • Refreshing old glazes to update styles
  • Correcting flaws like pinholes or crawling
  • Switching mismatched sets to coordinated colors
  • Adjusting poorly formulated glazes
  • Salvaging kiln accidents or explosions
  • Reworking failed tests and experiments

Reglazing essentially allows you to recycle ware that might otherwise be destined for the shard pile.

Steps for the Reglazing Process

For successful reglazing, follow this methodical process:

  • Inspect: Check for cracks or weaknesses. Reglazing can risk further damage
  • Remove glaze: Use a rotary tool, sandblasting, or a chemical bath to strip the glaze
  • Clean surface: Wash thoroughly with water and scrub off all glaze residue
  • Inspect again: Ensure bare clay body and proper absorption. Re-bisque if necessary
  • Tape/wax foot: Protect the bottom from new glaze
  • Reglaze: Apply new glazes following the standard process
  • Test fire: Test tiles first to confirm glaze compatibility before firing final pieces

Tips for Removing Old Glaze

Removing all traces of the old glaze is crucial. Here are a few options:

  • Grinding with a rotary tool: This method can be messy and risks damaging the clay body
  • Sandblasting: Requires equipment but effectively strips the glaze
  • Chemical bath: Extended immersion in acid safely dissolves the glaze
  • Hammer and chisel: Suitable for repairing damaged sections but not the entire piece

Work slowly and cautiously to avoid damaging the structural integrity of the clay body.

Recognizing Glaze Incompatibility

During the reglazing process, it's essential that the new glaze be compatible with the original clay body. During test firing, watch for these signs of incompatibility:

  • Crawling or pulling away from bare clay spots
  • Bubbling or pitting where the new glaze overlays the old one
  • Crazing due to excessive glaze mass overlaying
  • Shivering and cracking due to mismatched expansion

If you notice these signs, consider adjusting the glaze formula or switching to a more compatible glaze. The new glaze may require slight tweaking to work with that clay body.

Protecting During Reglazing

Take the following steps to prevent glaze drips and firescale during the reglazing process:

  • Tape wax foot ring before reglazing to keep it bare
  • Place kiln posts or stilts under wares to prevent sticking if the glaze drips
  • Lightly kiln wash areas prone to new glaze running during firing
  • Space pieces apart for good heat circulation
  • Program slow bisque and glaze firing cycles

With care, reglazing can effectively remake or improve pottery, transforming it into a refreshed and vibrant work.

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