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How To Clean Porcelain Greenware: Article or Project

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When handling porcelain, one must follow an entirely different set of rules compared to cast earthenware. It is much softer and much more fragile. It requires a lighter, more delicate touch. Once you get the hang of it though, working with porcelain is a real delight.

Cleaning Porcelain greenware doesn’t require any tools if you have fingernails and dry skin. Not to worry though, there are a lot of tools available on the market and some are designed for specific purposes such as a wooden ball to size and shape eyes in dolls, or a finger tool to help clean between doll fingers, etc. But generally, all you need is a clean-up tool (knife) and a piece of ladies nylons. It is useful to have a soft bristled brush available also. Kemper and other companies as well, have a double ended tool that has a spoon shaped knife on one end and a triangle shaped knife on the other. This is a versatile and necessary tool to have in your arsenal.

The first thing you need to know about porcelain is: DO NOT use water. With rare exception, it will ruin the piece. Please note: There is a method of cleaning porcelain IN water; but that requires a pre-fire at a low cone setting. This will not be discussed in this article.

Second, repairs are often difficult to execute – Once dry, it is usually easier to just re-cast the piece. However, slip being so costly, some people will want to make repairs and it can be done. This will be covered in other articles.

Third, porcelain is very soft – it gouges and scratches extremely easily. So work slowly and carefully and exercise care in how you handle it, especially if you have fingernails with any length.

Fourth, mistakes can be costly – porcelain slip is considerably more expensive than ceramic.

To begin, select the item you wish to clean. Your ware should be thoroughly dry before removing seams. Hold your item firmly, but as gently as if you were holding a half of an eggshell. ALWAYS support the weight and try not to squeeze the piece.

Step one: Using the tip of the spoon end of the clean-up tool, make cuts along the seam where ever it crosses any detail. Cuts should be made following the shape and path of the detail. Make cuts, not scratches. Cuts should be as deep as the detail line. Adjust the cut to match the details. Often, a mold will leave plain spots where detail or pattern should be. Incise details in those areas as needed.

Step two: Using the knife end or the side of the spoon end of the clean up tool, gently scrape the seams away. Use a very light touch and keep scraping until the area is as smooth as you can make it.

Step three: Wrap the piece of nylon around your fore finger and using a circular motion and a light touch, rub away all traces of seam. You can use the tip of the fingernail (covered in the nylon) to open and smooth away the detail cuts. You can stretch the nylon around the finger by pulling one side with your thumb and other fingers to make a long strip that you can fit in small angles and recesses such as under arms, between legs, in handles, etc. If this does not remove all traces of seam, you may need to use the knife and do some more scraping.

Step four: Use a soft bristled brush to brush away all dust from the item. Fire to appropriate cone according to firing procedures for porcelain.

Step five. After firing, you will need to prep your bisque before painting it by sanding it with a sanding cloth. See further instructions dealing with working with porcelain.

NOTE: if you hear a ‘squeak’ come from the piece while you are cleaning it, chances are you caused a stress crack. This can be a fine, hairline crack that you most likely won’t see, but it will show up during the firing process. SO it is imperative that you do not apply too much pressure or squeeze your ware.

 

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