shaving 0 comments on Satin finish and glossy logo

Satin finish and glossy logo

Last July I bought old 7/8 Edaco razor on famous Jarmark Dominikański (flea market in Gdańsk). It costed less than 10 USD.

Here is how it looks today

It took me a while to get to this shape. Initially I tried to use it for my porcelain scales (read it here) but finally I switched to melamine scales done from scratch. The material is very nice, closer to natural materials than any plastic/acrylic like.

The width was much higher than needed

In fact, that was my first restoration. Cleaning and polishing was not a surprise – tedious and lengthy manual work. But there were some other fields of experimentation for me. See below.

First of all, I got bored with mirror glossy razors and inspired by one Cichy’s razors (see it here) I wanted to achieve similar satin or even black finish. The first attempt with use of hot vinegar was a definite failure – the surface was irregular and uneven. Following the guidance from Cichy, I washed the razor several times in 8% FeCl₃ iron chloride with brushing it carefully in between. It gave the very smooth nice satin finish. With except to the central place of the blade which I covered with adhesive tape for logo. There, the surface remained mirror glossy.

The other experiment was to use special paper to make etching stencil. I must admit, it is very convenient way to prepare logos which will be not reproduced many times (otherwise other more permanent methods will bring better effects at reasonable costs). This method for stencils makes sense even for a single instance. Etching itself is made with electricity.

Another experimentation was with the pins. I used nylon inner washers (I’m still not sure why they should be made from metal) and then used steel rod with brass washers. In my perception, this combination, fits better the scales.

This is the starting point.

Acrylic wedge does its job nicely.

 

pottery, shaving, shaving brush 0 comments on Rubberset brush

Rubberset brush

The history of the rubberset brushes starts in 1831 in New York and continues until now. There is an excellent website about its history, versions and related forum. I will be not repeating the story. You can see all the pictures of how the shape and material has been evolving along time. Nice source of inspiration.

The shape of this brush is well and widely recognized in the wet-shaving community. They are being produced out of wood or metal. I wondered if this can be followed but made of ceramics.

I tried to do it from stoneware clay. The handle fits for 28 diameter brush. I admit, I’m satisfied with the result.

rubberset brush

The other approach, from the same firing, is made from marbled porcelain. Here the attempt was a bit different – to follow the modern design of rubberset. The difference is visible at the top (smaller diameter of the top than the base) and in number of flutings in the handle. It fits to 26mm knot.

At the end I would redirect you to other attempts to follow the rubberset design. Here is nice design of charcoal. There are also other very nice sources of pictures and reviews.

honing stones, shaving 0 comments on Honing stones from Japan

Honing stones from Japan

Wet shaving is something more that just shaving. It is not comparable to anything like daily cosmetic routine e.g. teeth brushing. Similarly, honing might be a bit more than just sharpening razors. It becomes more appealig when honing on natural wetstones. Again, that is not comparable to honing on synthetic stones, which are fully predictable. There is a slogan which to some extent is true – “each natural wetstone has its own personality”. Good example to learn how far natural wetstones may attract people’s attention, affects interests and fascinations, please open the following links from Henk and Janneke Bos. This Netherland’s couple, who got fascinated by the art-craft of wet-stones across Europe, collected annourmous amout of information on digging, cutting, lapping and selling natural stones for sharpening. For me, the most fascinating facts is that they visited all the places themselves, talked to people, tried to discover the local knowledge about the queries and live arount it. Material presented in their reports/books part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 is amazing. In fact, this is the heritage of European craftship, which is largely forgotten. I use the reference to what they did, as a kind of excuse for my little fascination on wet-stones.

In this post I present some of my stones (not really all). These come from Japan. Somehow it happened that in this single country (or region), they have as many stone mines, as many types and kinds of stones, as many customers and as much knowledge and expertise as all over the Europe and much more. This is fascinating! The stones are so different. Some are good just for knives, some just for carpentry tools, some for razors. Some work nice with specific steel, are more or less aggressive. Some work as usual abrasive stones, some brake into flakes.

naguras
jnats & naguras

I do not start showing individual photos of each piece with a label of its name and origin. Putting all of them in a single photo works better for this post. What’s more, often the name, mine, layer or seller do not mean much. Stones vary within the same type and mine so much, that what matters is your own test and conclusions – your own way. This is what I do with each of them. Sometimes it’s even better to know less about origin of individual piece, test, and then qualify if it works good for me or not. Testing is not a single hone, it is better to use it for some period of time with different razors. I can provide videos and comment on my conclusions from test, details on origin, even my costs – on request.

Coming from top left corner by layers from left to right (except these small naguras):

  1. Umegahata Yamamoto Nakagachi. Hard stone. I use it as nagura for making the slurry. Originally it is foreseeen for knives and chisels. I’ve hot been brave enought to use it for razor honing.
  2. Aiwadani 相岩谷産 komo nagura. Excellent match with no 7 for one-stone-honing.
  3. Mizu Asagi 水浅黄 (probably Motoyama from Kyoto region), medium hard 中硬, nice finisher.
  4. (not yet tested porous stone for carpentery tools).
  5. Usu Karasu 薄カラス (probably Motoyama from Kyoto region), hard 硬い石, nice finisher. Probably can be used for single-stone-honing as well. Came to me together with no. 3 from someone who bough it from street seller (flea market?) in Kyoto.
  6. Nitta 新田, yellow plate Kitta, medium hard polishing stone. Generates very milky smooth slurry which is surprisingly aggressive. I think it works best for around 7-8K what we do with synthetic stones. So, it still requires final polisher afterwards.
  7. Motoyama/Honyama 本山 old barber’s honing stone. My favorite. Very good quality 極上 and 最高級. It works very nice as single honing stone. I use it with Aiwadani nagura (no. 2) and at the final stage, just with water (仕上砥). It gives nicest feedback.
  8. Tsushima Ocean Black Kuronagura 対馬黒名倉 – medium hone quite soft stone (brick size) with the same tsushima nagura. Produces slurry very quickly, gives nice feedback. People use after botan nagura. For me it works as equivalent of 5-7K. I can just add that the extra super hard and fine Tsushima Ocean Blue is on the way to me – it will be used as post-finisher.
Mikawa Naguras

Mikawa naguras offer completely different style of honing, comparing to what we’ve learned with synthetics and European stones. One hard bench-stone and these 5 naguras are sufficient to set the bevel, sharpen, hone and polish to perfection. Some people claim that 3 are sufficient. I have not tried it sufficiently yet to say anything. My order of progression is:

  1. botan ボタン名倉 (bottom left),
  2. tenjyou 天上 (on the right in the second row from bottom),
  3. mejiro 目白 (left in the second row from bottom),
  4. koma コマ (right in the first row),
  5. toma 共名倉 or ともなぐら nagura from Aiwadani (it is obviously not Mikawa).

The below picture nicely compares the participles of synthetic and jnat stone in general. Picture is linked to other site run by widelly appreciated seller of stones from Denmark JNS:

The three great sources for information on japanese stones are:

failures, pottery, shaving 1 comment on Porcelain scales for razor

Porcelain scales for razor

In the beginning of December 2018 I published a short story about my attempts to make scales for razor from marbled porcelain. See the article here describing all the challenges and difficulties for making the scales plain and at the exact dimensions regardless the double firing and shrinking. Most likely, it is more fascinating for potters than razor makers. This part is more for the latter group.

Finaly, I have finished with that razor, so I can present complete set (there is another member – marbled mug but I do not use it for shaving).

porcelain set (shaving bowl, AS bottle, razor and brush)

I admit, there are thousands of nicer razors and more practical, and less expensive (if someone would try to estimate costs for commercial quotations). My motivation was different. First, I wanted to have nice private set for shaving. This is obvious. But the leading motif is about the challenge and experimentation. I consider traditional shaving as extravagance itself. So why not to get into development of something which is made against rules and gives fun.

So, what is so special about this razor? What is against the rules? “Normal” typical razor scales are flexible, they bend and lean while moving the blade in the pivot. It is a simple mechanism to centre the blade while putting it safely in between scales and also to block it “half-open” to not flap accidentally and unintentionally. Here, the porcelain scales are stiff and not flexible at all. This fact pushed me to the idea to transfer flexibility into other elements of the razor. I decided to make the wedge elastic and mount the pivot pin with spring washer (self made). That also resulted in lack of bottom pin, which would make the whole construction again not flexible at all. The result is very satisfying. The blade centres nicely, the wedge keeps both scales integrated, the balance between smooth movement of blade and resistance is “regular”, the blade can stop steady in half-way, the blade can be opened at any angle.

Another positive surprise is that, regardless the depth of the scales, it is not heavy. The sales do not overweight the blade when manoeuvring in open.
I must admit that in the beginning I was afraid of the risk of breaking the scales. So, I kept the depth dimension of the sales quite big. It is that smooth-thin as in many plastic scales. I watched carefully when hammering the pin (it is not any prefabricated pin but a regular steel rod with washers). But then later overlooked my son who wanted to follow me in pinning and was hammering the scales, not the pin. It survived with no damages. Now I can regret that I did not flatten the scales more. Maybe, some time later….in future.

starting point – old japanese frameback razor
old japanese frameback razor
old japanese frameback razor dismounted
razor dismounted
matching
cleaning and polishing
reading newspapers
assemplign toghether, glueing the silicon and transparent wedge to assure flexibility of the construction
using it on daily basis, shelf in the bathroom
Uncategorized 0 comments on Spring comes early for dogs, birds and flowers

Spring comes early for dogs, birds and flowers

Pottery is not limited to pots for humans. Although, as any other porter, I also started with mugs and simple bowls, then soon drifted toward experimenting with ceramics for whatever purpose come to my mind. Why not to develop something for animals.

Apparently, this year spring comes early. Currently we are in the middle of February but the tits can be heard already, especially around dawns. My wife asked me to prepare bird’s houses sufficiently early this year. Not like in the past when they appeared late and useless. That was my first time when I made it from clay. I believe that the design can be much better in terms of esthetics and functionality. Next time I will try different shape. Here I used red Sibelko K126 clay. The color comes very natural. I still plan to spray it with wood ash and use field earthware clay for glaze. This first model is quite heavy. I hope it will not break and fall down on somebodies head. Would be paitful if not harmful!

Here is the second attempt . Made from C245 and glazed with high temperature Wojtaszek’s yellow and spring green plus light blue on the top. Now we wait for the birds to accomodate these little houses. You can see a tiny whole below the entry – it waits for a stick to work as a the standing post.

Nuka is a traditional Japanese/Korean glaze based on wood and husk ashes. In our house Nuka is our beloved dog. Brought from countryside. No specific breed. Very fast and energetic. She deserves having her own eating bowl. Here is the first one which was fully made on the mechanical kick wheel last summer.

Dog’s bowl shall be a bit different that GP bowls (following Simon Leach nomenclature). It is heavier and with bigger bevel around. Dogs have tendency to push the bowl when eating, which easily may lead to scratches and breaks. My second dog’s bowl, although made with electric wheel is even more sturdy and harsh. Nuka is delighted.

It is also a great time to prepare pots for flowers. Here are just two examples.

shaving 0 comments on Saito Kikuboshi SK2 and family

Saito Kikuboshi SK2 and family

Finally I’ve got all of them. New SK2 arrived. Seems to be in very good condition. But before I can make nice photos, present them and then try in practice, it deserves some refreshing. I promise to do so and then comment. I hope that there will be no change in the overall conclusions comparing to what was reported in the other post on SK1. In fact, SK2 is close to SK1. A bit larger with more moderated curve. But the type is almost the same. It may be that this is a good compromise and balance between SK1 and SK3 which are on extreme sites.

This gives the possibility to compare all tree Saitos. See the below picture. There are photos of all 3 Saitos, in the same scale, put into the axis of the pivot whole. I hope to publish here the exact dimensions, including curvatures.

All 3 SKs overlayed in proportions

I decided to take some measurements of the geometries. In fact I have seen some custom-made razors, polish and japanese, which follow the original SKs but the difference is always appealing. So, what makes the difference?

Below, you can see SK1 and SK2 measurements. They might be not exact, as they have been taken from already used guys. Let’s also remember that SKs were made by different makers. I would point out that SK2 is more than 1 cm longer in blade itself. While the radius of the curve of the edge is more than 1.3 cm higher. This is a significant difference. But I believe that what is the most decisive is the dislocation of radius for internal and external (top and bottom) curves. In both SKs they are neither horizontally nor vertically aligned. It makes tremendous difference on the geometry of the hollow. Both are extra hollow with belly so the hollow belly line must be again dislocated (not symmetric) from upper and bottom edge. This must be hard for making!

saito SK1 from Pawelpksa
Saito SK2 by Pawelpksa

 

photography, shaving, shaving brush 0 comments on Travel set

Travel set

Recently I prepared the above shaving set for my travels. It is small, humble, not fragile for dropping, rust resistant and light.

It is based on common Polish made razor wapienica chirurgiczna. Certainly, it is not a cutting-edge product itself. Just common tool for daily shaving from the times when it was just an ordinary routing activity of any man, not limited to gentleman or extravagant dinos. Althought it is far from proper balance in the the weight (scales are too heavy), in my opinion is stil very nice and deserves appreciacion. I like its simplicity and aesthetic look. The ability to boil it in hot water might be also taken as an advantage. As you may see, I used archaic leather tight case. I bought it on street flea market with other German razor. But I suppose it is self-made, again, for daily use in the past.

Second is the brush. It is fully made by Stando Shaving Accessories, Polish maker of custom handles and brushes who is well known in the wet-shaving community. Generally I prefer to use natural knots, But for travelling this guy, which is fully synthetic (Silk Smoke from APShaveCo ), offers important advantages. I appreciate it for its look and softness. When working with Cella soap (block version) it comes very fast and efficient – as it should in travel where there might be not chance and time for soaking knots in warm water. For evidence – see the below clip.

The strap comes from my photo gear bag. It comes absolutely sufficient for in-travel stropping. 5cm wide and long enough. No need to carry anything else, unless I have my leather trousers’ belt.

What is missing on the photo is the AS and shaving soap. AS has been just delivered. For AS I use Stella Alpina from Saponificio Varesino in nice small 100 ml metal bottle. Similarly, soap comes into tiny metal snuff box as could be seen in the other picture.

That all is minimalistic but fully sufficient.

 

shaving 0 comments on Joint pass-through strop belt

Joint pass-through strop belt

I’m not keen of stropping on the typical set of belts which are connected together and each possesses its own handle. They are usually equipped with many hard parts (handle, pins and clips/carabiners). For some time I’ve been looking for something simple and multipurpose. Lack of progress lead me to some hesitation – why all go into the same design. We all may remember that old people often used their trousers’ belt for stropping.

Finnaly it led me to design my own strop suite and ask my son to make it. It is not yet that multipurpose as I intended – still cannot be used as regular belt. The belt which you can see below is not perfect from esthetics point of view but:

  • there are no metal elements, it can be used on the door handle or additional clip which I present below
  • the leather part and cotton strap are connected together on both ends so it stretches both simultaneously when pulling by handle
  • because of the above the stropping surface is more flat
  • the surface is even more flat and stable because the upper part is supported by the bottom part all the times
  • the handle is made from the same piece of leather than the strap itself, so it provides good balance of hardness and softness for practical use
  • there no metal pins or rings to harm the fragile edge of razor
  • it can be extremely wide with no need to look for extremely large clips
shaving 1 comment on Saito SK1 smiles to you

Saito SK1 smiles to you

Saito SK1 smiles to you. The smile is deep and extraordinary. Surprising, the shave itself is smooth, easy and “dully” normal. However, yet exciting and more precise in shaving than any other common straights.

I got fascinated with SK1 Saito Kikuboshi razor since the very first time when I saw. It seemed so much not available to me because of the price and unavailability. Along learning about its origin – all that about Japanese barber master Kikuboshi and in general about mastership in crafting Japanese traditional razors – Kamisori, my fascination and believe in its quality was merely increasing.  As far as I know there not many of them in Poland – for sure 2 pieces. YouTube offers some clips made in Japan, Russia, Finland and US. Not many. Both Polish makers of custom razors have made single pieces following this specific design (see the one from Topek and the other from Cichy). Hence, the price reflects both – quality and small number of them offered on the market.

I will be not repeating its history and markings. What  is worth mentioning is that there are 3 profiles of SK : 1, 2 and 3. While SK1 is the extremely curved the SK3 is still smiling deep but not that shocking deep. SK2 is in between of them regarding the profile (read about it here). I hope to present all 3 types in some time. Change in the profile affects the height of the blade which subsequently is reflected in the change of the hollow (see the photo below). SK1 comes with its amazing hollow ground with belly. Additionally I can share that  It was discovered during the renovation that there are extra 1-2-3 markings hidden on the blade under the scales at the pivot. There is a nice website documenting that all.

In this way I was somehow inclined to seek them at origin, in Japan. Thanks to my colleague, whose wife is Japanese, it became much easier to me that thought before. SKs are available there more often than in other places but it is still very rare and limited. In 6 months I discovered 3 SK3, 2 SK1 and 2 SK2. Which does not mean that I wanted to buy all of them. While by rule they are less expensive there, there are still substantially costly. However, nice SK3 can be bought for $70. It happens that they sell whole gear sets from old barber shops and then the price can very attractive But you get it in bulk  with many items that might be out of your interest. The best is to be there on the spot and visit markets and antique boutiques.

Unpacked

All that means that renovation becomes a must. Although I admit that in essence Japanese take care about such things while using, packing standards and fidelity of the description when selling is higher than in Europe. Mine  was renovated by Lewy (drop by to knives.pl forum). As you could see in the other post he did excellent job with my F.Reynolds. No hesitation that he can do such a good job with this one.

In fact he renovated SK1 and SK3 in one shot, the latter was bought by me for the other college – MJW. During that renovations, Lewy discovered the extra hidden markings at pivots and also the fact that both had unsymmetrical pin wholes at the pivot. It was not visible, but as such normally, it is considered as a imprecision, if not a defect. Conclusion might be that we seek perfection in craftship of treser piecem while in essence they were manufactured for daily use. Nowadays traditional shaving comes as extravagance and this is why we look for features which are not essential for use. Saying so, in no means, I depreciate the attractiveness of SKs. The blade is made for “simple” beauty and extreme effectiveness in shaving.

Below SK1 with extra marking, above Cichy custom razor.

Here I can mention that scales of  my SK1 came with beautiful deep green (like bottle glass) cast. I felt lucky and start preparing a set of leathering scuttle and brush handle. Unfortunately, green turned to deep glossy black during the renovation. Most likely the scales are made of a material which ages (probably oxidizes in sun light) with changing its color. You can see other pieces on the market with brownish scales. Probably that is the same effect. My SK3 scales are of different ferry tail.

Lewy made an excellent job. No signs of use or post rust craters. It surface is smooth and elegant. See the photo below, it turns as a mirror.

Newspaper which came with the razor.

I cannot say much about the steel used for Kikuboshi razors. If you read it and you can contribute please post comments, maybe some links regarding the steel used. In the other pieces I can see the engraved note “Swedish steel”.

Honned but not stropped yet

When it comes to shaving I have to say that I was ready to admit in advance that SK1 might be more museum  exhibit while  SK3 is designed for use. How the hell to shave with such a sickle! I was wrong, fortunately fully wrong! First of all it is much smaller than the impression learned from photos. In fact it is tiny piece. It became so appealing to me in context of different razor. I used to strop my Filarmonika 14 with no specific impressions. But then, just after stroping SK1, the usual Filarmonika turned to be giant. 

Surprisingly, shaving came “dully” normal. No need for any specific technique or directions. Not at all. 2 runs, as usual, where fully sufficient. The same routine. I expected SK1 to be typical loud razor. Surprisingly the echo given by it is not that loud as from other full hollow 8/8. I suppose that the blade profile itself and the belly stabilizes it very effectively.  

The deep curve, enables additional natural move of the wrist which is not possible in straights. It is subtle and tiny, but it helps. I can say that due to that additional gesture, shaving seems to be more precise.

Does shaving take more time? Compering to common system safety razors – no doubts – much more. I consider traditional shaving as extravagance by definition. So there is no surprise. So why to do so? Myself I can say that I gain a kind of allergia to many mainstream behaviors and daily routines. But that is different story, subject itself. When comparing shaving time of SK1 and Filarmonika – there is no obvious difference in favor of the first or the latter.

The only thing that I found cumbersome is the bloody scales, precisely its position when stropping. Stopping the smile is a bit different from other straights. An extra dimension in the move is needed. It is not difficult but requires a bit more attention. The protruding handles do not help in this operation.

I consider it still “new” and fresh. Currently it is being used for daily shaving.

Please share your opinions and resources.

failures, lessons learned, pottery 0 comments on Agateware lessons learned

Agateware lessons learned

After several trials with agateware I can share some lessons learned and sum up the experience until now. There are other sources from more experienced potters. Here is my way and what worked for beginner.

What is agateware? I just wanted to get an effect of colored body with traces of other color to match to other objects (in this case to handle scales). Other look for marbled effect.  But sometimes people want to have full spectrum of colors in a single piece. That all is about the same – mixing colors in the clay body. Trying the same with glazes does not give any decent results. Depending on the actual need, it may be agateware (when the colors are mixed in wedging) or nerikomi (when the colors are layered manually). All the terms  refer to natural objects – agate stone and marble stone.

+

Selection of colorants

First, I started experimenting with common metallic oxides: red iron for brown and cobalt oxides for blue. These are the most common components for any potter. Being pleased by results, especially with cobalt, I started looking for more specific colors, deep black and pure red. This led me to the selection of row pigments. They are widely available from ceremic suppliers. The results were nice but what turned my attention to the fact that red pigment was not really offered. When I found it at on the stock, I discovered a caveat lable “contains cadmium”. In meantime, I used chromium oxide to prepare green colored clay. But fortunately have never made use of it. Not because of the color but because of its poisonous characteristics. Not being sure how chromium behaves and why cadmium requires a warning message, I asked people in ceramic forums how this may affect firing atmosphere in the kiln or change colors of other pieces. I learned from forum colleagues a lot.

Yes, this is something for consideration. Cadmium is “bad” for people’s health and difficult to get rid from organism once contaminated. This turn my research, towards other pigments and study of their safety and technical specs. They also contain heavy metals and fractions of chemistry, which is poisonous. This was neglected by me at the beginning. My simple assumption was that my contact with them is very limited. Additionally I still had in mind how many traditional potters were making their own lead-based glazes. It took a bit of time to realize that the direct contact with them is not limited to some specific phases, but remains almost all the times in studio. Direct contact takes place while mixing and throwing, even when wedging, but also in trimming, drying, cleaning. In fact it spreads out as a dust all around. Watching carefully, after some weeks, I could see the dust everywhere. When cleaning shelves, floor and seats, everywhere. It is not merely the bad fraction. But if regular dust spread out so much, the bad components go togheter with the rest. Obviously it does not stay on the shelves only but comes into lungs when briefing. I haven’t noticed that before. In my case the enhanced due to circulation of air, I have main house heating installation in the studio.

So, that attracted my interests to modern pigment with the heavy metallic parts encapsulated in cirxonim cristals. Maissons Stains (well known on US market) defines it as more advanced product of synthetize e.g. for yellow “reaction product of high temperature calcination in which Zirconium (IV) Oxide, Silicon (IV) Oxide, and Praseodymium (III, IV) Oxide (Pr6O11) in varying amounts are homogeneously and ionically interdiffused to form a crystalline matrix of zircon”.

The most important is the fact that it it human safe. For more you can read safety sheets for each of colorants.

I decided to use Terra Color “farbens” which are well known locally. I had to order them for Germany, but it comes much cheaper than importing Masson Stains from UK or US. They are at the same level of technological excellence. See their catalog in Terra Color catalogue.

Mixing pigments

There are various methods of mixing pigments with the body. As can be discovered from youtube, some people add colorants as dry powder when wedging the clay. There are very educative and inspiring videos from Ceramic Jim. Others, like Karans, disolve stains in water with dry pieces of porcelain (my hint – add there a bit of vinegar), mix it with porcelain and then dry to get final moisture. There is very nice video from her on preparing the material for marble effect. See another approach to marbelize clay in this video.

I found other approach (named by me a “dumpling technique”) from Joey Agcopera as best for my purpose. Joey makes a dumpling of clay filled with dumped colorant powder and mix them at hand. You can see Joey doing that in his video. It worked for me because I wanted to make many small pieces of different colors, not just a single color in large volume. It is a quick and sufficiently effective method. I haven’t noticed any inconsistencies in saturation or moisture when following this approach.

In my experience, proportions of the pigment and clay is not that critical. Strange, but I tried with 1:13 and 1:8 with the same results. Many depends on the colorants itself. The above applies to red and black which are highly saturated by default. Maybe it matters more for more subtle colors. For yellow I applied Ochra pigment with 1:10 proportions. Experimentation is the key (I hate this slogan, but it is true).

Body material

No surprise and no doubts – white porcelain is the best material for coloring. Its white color is the starting point to get predictable colored bodies. I tried with some other clays, e.g. Witgert 011 Mont Blank. From the color perspective it was more than fine. But coloring is just  a part of the equation. Then, it comes to shrinking ratio and fire temperatures. The most important is to have the body and colored clay from the same material. Otherwise difference in shrinking and firing temperature destroys the form.  I decided to stay with just porcelain.

However, colorants themselves change the clay characteristics a bit. Here is an example of a colored piece made of the same porcelain used for all the colors, thrown and the nicely trimmed to get smooth surface. What happened in firing – the layers shrank differently changing the smooth surface into irregular. It cannot be seen easily from picture (unless zoomed in), but if you touch it you can feel every layer with distinctive borders in between.

Wedging and throwing

Wedging is needed as usual, but shall be rather conservative.  However, I try to roll the clay by hand to all of 2-4cm in diameterl and add colored clay as another thin spaghetti of the same length, then ball it back and start wedging.  Some 5 runs of wedging is sufficient for me.

There is nothing special regarding throwing. The only rule is to have both – main body clay and the colored clay in the same moisture. If not, that colored parts and core body run different which may lead to regular throwing failures (collapsing, thick walls, breaking or losing the form). How to make the same moisture – wedge the body and colored clay well in advance and leave for “synchronization”. A day was enough in my case, but 5 would be perfect.

The other lesson is that there is no need for conning clay too many times. It gets more flexible but it mixes too much. Especially when you apply many layers into a single piece, there is a risk of … getting a single color which often is not attractive at all. See the below example – compare the handle with the body – it was the same starting set of colors.

For my purposes, I tried to have a single leading color for the base and then add other colors in proportions 1,3:10. See the below examples for leading color black red traces.

 

However, proportion of colored clay depends much on the desired end-effect. Here is an example of marble effect. The proportions are almost equal. It might be prefered for some objects.

 

Trimming and fluting

I do not trim always. In many cases the foot is not needed neither estatically nor practically. But in this technique, trimming is warmly welcome. It exposes and cleans up the colors. It  might be that the layers are not really visible at all at the last phase of throwing. The colorants may get into slip and run around the piece making it grey or pink instead of black or red accordingly. First of all clean the slurry with sharp edge (sponge is not sufficient) but metal or plastic ribs make the work properly. Then, you will be able to see the actual colors and patters. But trimming reveals the layers even much nicer. It makes the borders between layers sharp and much more irregular.

The next step in sharping the layer borders for more contrast and making it much more irregular is – fluting. It makes the color pattern unpredictable. It may turn from spiral form (as and effect of wheel throwing) into vertical lines in an extreme case. This is because the colored layers are distributed in the walls not only horizontally but also vertically. So, what is white outside may be colored inside or even with different color a bit deeper in the wall if you decide to use more than 2 colors. I cut the edges or make fluted patters with cheese strings and wire-end tools. The best is to do it at the leather-hard state of the clay. However, it can be done even a bit later but then with different tools. See Simon Leach while fluting his pieces.

Saturation

We do agateware to get nice spectrum of colors. But the colors change in the making process. This changes might be disappointing and a stress factor to the maker. They start with strong saturation when dumping the colorants. Then move to relatively pale color when wedging. But one can be very surprised when the piece gets dry. The colors switch to very light shades at that stage. All changes back to saturated shades at firing. At the bisque stage it is still not impressing (unless you look for pastels). But later, in the stoneware firing the colors blow up again in their actual vibrance. I ‘ve been not disappointed until now. I was even surprised how bright they can be at the end. See the below piece.

Another method to make the colors more saturated and appealing is to cover them with glossy transparent glaze. Myself, I prefer rather sating non-glazed surface of porcelain. But I have to admit, that glossy glaze makes the difference. See below the above handle before glazing.

Sealing

In my specific case I wanted to put clear and visible seal on my pieces. There was a purpose for it. The seal does not advertize myself but a national programme for celebration of Independence of Poland. This kind of occasional seals come not that remarkably visible in marbled bodies. Especially  after firing (when edges shrink and fill the thin inprints) and after glazing (which fills the seal). Hence, the seal must be sharp and deep. To do so, you need to press out the seal in leather-hard state of the walls. Don’t bother too much about deformation, you may still still correct afterwards. Obviously, a firm support on the reverse site of the wall when sealing is mandatory!

The results were still not satisfying to me. Hence, I tried to glaze the seal with additional color. It is almost impossible to glaze it precisely with a brush, just in the seal. Don’t care, go clumsy, all around. After drying I simply rubbed out the other parts with any tool or fine-grade (>1K) sand paper, so the glaze remains only inside. The results are nice, especially for my type of seal which emulate hand-writing.

Firing

The same considerations regarding maximum firing temperatures applies to agateware as to any other materials. However, marbled pieces come a bit more complicated and prone for errors. Body clay firing temperature is one and the colorants firing temperature needs to be respected as well. Even if the volume of colorants is low. Here is an example when in theory all should be fine but there are evidences of passing the limits.  Good practice is to  not reach the limits of materials and keep some safety margin. So, although both – pigments and body can be fired at 1250°C, I go for 1245°C max and it works. See the below bubles in red layer.

Other building techniques

Is throwing the only way – no. Nerikomi is about layering differnet colors in beautifil patters. I do not have experience in it. However, on of the abovepresented handles and the below shaving razor scales are made manually in a similiar way. I tried to cut the shape from plate thrown on the weel. But after some attempts I found it more consisted to cut hem from a rolled sheet of mixed clay. The effect is nice and fits to scuttles and bottles thrown on the wheel.