All About Single Fire Glazing Pottery

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When it comes to firing pottery, many times, people will single-fire it. This includes greenware and other types of pottery. But what’s so great about it? What is the best way to single-fire glaze pottery? Well, you’re about to find out. This post will go over all that you need to know about this, and why people may single-fire their pottery.

What is it?

Typically, when you’re firing pottery, you do it at least twice, in some cases three or more times if you want to be exact. Typically, you have two different firings, with each one doing the following:

This is typically how pottery is done, and it’s the way that you typically do this. But, sometimes you can fire this only once, and that’s what’s called single-fired pottery, or once-fired pottery. It means that you’re only doing this once.

People who single fire in many cases often work with a more traditional means of firing pottery. This is what was used for years. Bisque firing was not introduced until much later. The two-step firing process was assumed to have first been done in Europe when tin oxides were used as glazes. While typically people do the double fire, it’s quite helpful to know how to single fire.

Now, can you use tin oxide with this? Course now, and that’s because it damages the pieces in their original form. This is where the method of adding the second firing was assumed, and it’s why many who want to use certain glazes need to make sure that they can be fired with one fire, or if they need a bisque on top of it. It’s important to know this before you begin.

This was a popular method used in Chun pottery in fact and is quite an interesting one to try.

The methods of it

So, how do you do this? Well, there are two ways to do it, and they are as follows:

  • You glaze the inside of the greenware when it’s leather hard, and then you glaze it when it is bone dry
  • You can raw glaze, which is the more common version of this, which is where you glaze the whole piece when it’s leather hard.

This is typically something that you can decide for yourself, but for many people, the second is often the preferred moth, since it actually can prevent shock from happening with the pottery, and it also leaves way less room for error when you’re firing the pottery.

Now, when you are glazing this pottery, it does come with a lot of different challenges that can pose a few problems. We will go into further detail on the advantages and disadvantages as well, but there are a few things that you need to watch out for, and they are:

  • If the ware is thicker and heavier, it actually can be glazed much easier
  • However, it also does cause bubbles to escape, and it can cause decomposition and dehydration to happen when you single-fire
  • The parameters are much smaller in terms of how much shrinkage can happen
  • However, if you notice, you’ll see that the adherence is good, and the drying and bonding are efficient
  • You should watch out however for adjusting the glazing recipes, which often means that you need to increase the percentage of the clay while also keeping the chemistry of the piece

This type of pottery does involve a lot of different factors, and it does need to be handled with the utmost care, especially when you’re trying to do this. the thing with this type of pottery is that it is challenging, and there are many things you have to think about. For example, challenges are seen in every single part of this, including:

  • The application
  • The cleaning of this
  • The setting of this
  • The drying, especially since you do need the extra floor space

However, this is great for a lot of different pieces, and if you end up getting great at this, you’ll be able to use this to create some amazing pieces, and you’ll be able to create some amazing stuff.

This is pretty popular for those who are a bit more professional in the industry, and they’re especially used for the following:

  • Tile
  • Porcelain
  • Sanitary
  • Tableware

You can in essence use this for almost anything, and for a lot of people who are good with this. It’s an interesting method to use, and it’s certainly something worth trying out if you’re looking to create some great pieces of pottery.

What’s good about it

So, what’s good about it? Well, it has a lot of great advantages that you can try.

The biggest one is that it saves two things, two very important things that many of us like to have:

  • Time
  • Money

You’ve read before how long it takes to make pottery sometimes. If you’re going to be bisque firing, it takes at least 12 hours within the kiln just for the first firing. Not only that, it can take probably that same amount of time to fire it again once you glaze it. While you may be dedicated to that, remember that for kiln safety reasons, you do have to stay near the kiln itself while it fires. You never leave these unattended, or else they could cause fires, explosions, you name it. so, you’ll be spending a lot of time in your studio just for one piece.

Plus, let’s be real, you need a lot of patience to get pieces made with traditional bisque ware. Lots of times, when you’re beginning, it’s easier to put on a glaze and then fire. Sure, it does limit you, but if you’re someone who hates sitting around all the time, this may be the best answer for you, and what you should use.

And finally, let’s talk about the green, the money. Firing does use up electricity. It might not seem like much when you break it down, but if you’re using it constantly, again and again, it’s going to eat up your money. If you’re looking to save some money on this, and actually have a pretty nice piece, sometimes it’s for the best that you don’t do a double fire, but instead, you single fire it. When you’re double or bisque firing this, it eats up not just funds for energy, but the following:

  • Money for clay
  • Money for glazes
  • Money for any other finishing

It does burn a bit of a hole in your pocket. So, if you’re looking to save a bit of green, then this is the way to do it.

Plus, to bring the time factors into this, think about after the bisque. You have to glaze them and then do this again. This takes about one to two days at least, and that’s just for one set. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the space to work on a lot at a time, you essentially will be eating up days and days at your kiln.

But, if you do it once, you’ll be able to just fire and go. It saves time and money, and it does create a lot of cool effects.

Plus, it is pretty interesting. Another huge advantage of this is the fact that it costs less power to fire this. you may think that it does more since you’re only doing this once, but in the end, with the numbers, it does cost a bit less.

Plus, the designs are a huge advantage. That’s because of the following:

  • It creates intricate designs
  • It creates patterns that will look great
  • It creates unusual effects that will make your pottery stand out

That’s what’s so great about this. It’s the fact that you’re able to create some whimsical designs in this, and that’s something pretty big that many people see as a huge advantage.

There are even other different benefits that come along with this. you definitely will want to consider the:

  • It creates a better clay-to-glaze interface, especially since it involves putting it all on at once and it helps to put the glazes on in an exact and decorative manner
  • You can use glazes that have a higher clay content
  • When it comes to a test fire, it takes less time to figure out what you’re going to make from this, and you won’t have to waste as much time and as much glaze.

These are the primary advantages to this, and it’s why people choose single-fired glazes as an option when it comes to making some amazing pieces of pottery that work for you, and work for others as well.

What’s not so good about it

But, with everything out there, there are disadvantages to this and there are a few reasons why you may stray away from bisque firing. This section will talk about the main disadvantages that you may run into.

First of all, there is way more room for error and screwing up. You can end up screwing up a lot more when you’re doing this. that’s because it’s subjected to the firing:

  • It may not be dry
  • It may explode in the kiln
  • It may crack
  • It may end up flaking while it’s in the kiln

These are all common problems that come about when you’re doing this. obviously for the explosions and fires and stuff, if you’re not letting it dry, it will end up exploding in the kiln.

It’s also important when you single fire that you don’t let the temperature rise too quickly. This is another common problem when you’re doing this. If you just throw it in there and fire it up to the cone, without a gradual increase, it actually can cause it to explode in the kiln, and crack as well.

When it comes to glazing, you always need to make sure that they’re applied evenly and also are given the right amount of care, because if you don’t give them time, they run the risk of the following happening:

  • Flaking off and ruining the image
  • Cracking
  • Bubbling

Yes, bubbles can happen when you’re doing this. this is partially what causes the unsettling look to it, but when the bubbles escape when the moisture leaves your clay, it will then make it not work right, and it can end up looking well, bad.

However, this is where the bisque firing does come in, and that’s why some people use bisque over a single-fired piece. If you fire a piece once, and then you glaze it, it will already be dried, so you won’t have to worry about it breaking.

It’s also important to remember that a piece that isn’t fired is more fragile than the fired piece, for obvious reasons. Clay tends to become stiff when it’s fired once. If you bisque it, you end up with a drier piece, so that when the glaze is put on, it doesn’t damage it.

In essence, you have to remember a couple of things when you’re looking to fire the piece, and they are as follows:

  • Unfired work is much more fragile than fired work
  • Unfired workers need more care
  • You need to make sure the glazes are applied evenly
  • If you’re going to fire it once, because of the sudden changes in temperature, make sure the heat-up of the pottery in the kiln is gradual
  • Take your time, and if you notice that you need to adjust things as needed, do this
  • Always keep an eye on this at all times

If you’re going to be firing pottery once, you should remember these.

Now, why would you choose a bisque firing? It takes a lot longer, and it may be a lot costlier. You also may have some issues with the way that it looks. The key benefit here is in the realm of glazes. We will discuss bisque firing later on in another piece, but for now, here are just a few of the advantages of bisque firing, and why it should be considered over a single fire if you’re having issues:

  • Glazes are easier to apply, so you don’t have to worry about it all coming off
  • You can redo your glaze if you do it wrong since you can wash it off. With a single fire, you can’t do this
  • You don’t have to worry about the piece absorbing it all
  • You can do more decorative techniques, where you wipe off a certain portion of it to add a different glaze
  • It won’t explode in the kiln
  • You won’t have to worry about it hurting the pieces
  • It also has less of a chance of sticking to the kiln
  • Organics are also better to be used in this, so they have a chance of being burnt off during bisque firing

Again, both of these are valid techniques, it’s just important to know the differences between them, and why one may use one over the other when it comes to actively trying to fire a piece of pottery. Single-fire does create a lot of unique structures, and it’s a great type of firing to try out, but it is important to remember that if you’re not comfortable with this or are not ready to work with someone who’s a bit more volatile, then it may be best to still work with bisque firing before you move on.

Tips and tricks

Here are a few of the great tips and tricks that you can use when you’re using a single fire to get the best results from it.

First, you need this to be as dry as possible. That’s because of the following:

  • It won’t hold the glaze
  • It’ll absorb it and make it look off
  • It will cause textural issues

With that in mind, you need to make sure that your clay is as dry as it can be before you put the glaze over this. you can either have it at a dry level or a bone-dry level. If you’re worried about it being too dry, if you have it around the level of leather-hard, you should be fine because those contain a high level of water within them.

Another big thing that you need to do, is know your glazes. Seriously, be an expert on these. The reason for that is that you need to know what works with what. Sometimes, some glazes work well when single-fired, but other ones end up not sticking. Knowing what works with what is a big part of single-firing with glazes.

Plus, it’s not just the firing itself, you need to know about a few things regarding glazes because of a few other things. they are:

  • You have to know if the temperature is possible to maintain with a single fire
  • You need to apply it so that it doesn’t bubble
  • You need to evenly apply this and work with clay so that it doesn’t end up cracking
  • You need to know what levels of clay content are in these, going for the higher amounts

Speaking of clay content, another very important tip to keep in mind when you are going to a single fire, is you need to have a glaze with high clay content. You can’t do anything with a low amount of clay for various reasons, and that’s because of the following:

  • The raw piece actually can get rehydrated and from there, it’ll swell
  • If you have a low clay amount, it will then flake it off
  • However, with high clay content, it will keep the glaze on there, allowing it to stick

That’s why it’s imperative to know your glazes. That’s because the glaze that you will use will determine the actual state of the piece. Those glazes with a lot of clay in them will work, and you’ll have a piece with an even texture. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a piece that has a lot of flakiness to it, and it’s just not going to look good. That’s where all of this ties in together, and it’s why it’s important.

Finally, if you’re going to be doing glazes, you should try to shy away from shiny glazes. That’s because of the amount of clay that isn’t present in it. these tend to lower, and they tend to not stick as well. however, if you’re thinking about using a shiny glaze, you can do a couple of things.

Probably the biggest thing is if you’re using this, you spray glaze. This means that you’re not fully applying it, but you’re spraying it on. Why would you spray it? Well, let’s consider the following:

  • It won’t be absorbed as much
  • It won’t flake off as much
  • It will create an even texture 

This is one of the best ways to do it, but you have to make sure that you handle it correctly. To do otherwise will make it worse, and if you’re thinking about doing this, do consider how you handle your ceramic ware, and make sure that you know how to move it about if you’re going to be using a shiny glaze, or spray glazing to glaze your stuff

With a single firing, it’s important to understand just what you need to do to handle it accordingly. Firing it once will create a new and intricate sort of piece. It’s a bit harder than your average firing, and it differs from bisque, but it’s the type of firing that if you want to create something new, intricate, and something that looks pretty cool, it’s an option that you can try out and a cool one for you to indulge in if you want to try something new.


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