Repairing Pottery – On the House

Repairing Pottery

By on July 20, 2015
build a potter's bench

The holidays. That special time of year when family and friends, young and old, gather together to give thanks for so many blessings and to wish for peace on earth and good will to all humankind. Holiday gatherings also mean dining on that special set of china that once belonged to great grandmother, sipping a tall, cool drink from mom’s best crystal and fresh treats being passed around in all of those special pottery serving pieces that have been in the family for so many generations.

Then why on holidays are we sometimes a little afraid that the china might not make it in one piece? Does the word drop' ring a bell? How aboutcrack’ or `chip’? Did you ever wonder why they call them breakables? Well, it’s because they are. The good news is that a break doesn’t necessarily have to mean “lost forever”.

Repairing pottery and china can be surprisingly easy once you know a simple trick or two. You will need a small brush, adhesive, some rice (or sand), a plastic food-storage container, and a razor blade or two.

The proper adhesive to use on pottery is white glue (PVA or polyvinyl acetate). Use a small throw-away brush to apply a thin even coat of glue to both of the cracked edges and quickly join the pieces together. Be careful not to shift the pieces as they are being joined. Doing so could easily chip fine edges and cause small particles to break loose. Excess glue should be removed later – but not during the first hour of the repair. Create a positioning box to balance the piece so that the piece’s own weight will help with the mending process. A positioning box can be made by placing dry rice, beans or sand into a container large enough to stabilize the object being repaired. After the glued joint dries for an hour use a razor blade to carefully scrape away the excess glue. Then, use a cotton swab dipped in hot water to eliminate the remaining glue. The piece being repaired should remain in the positioning box for at least 24 hours.

REMEMBER: too much glue will prevent a tight joint and not enough will result in a poor bond.

Crystal is repaired in the same was as pottery except that the adhesive should be a clear, slow drying, two-part epoxy. Lacquer thinner on a cotton swab is used to remove the excess epoxy from around the mended joint. Lacquer thinner is not the same as turpentine or paint thinner. And they are not interchangeable in use.

We have some good news, and we have some bad news. The good news is that by using our process a family heirloom can be saved. The bad news is that it will require special attention after the repair has been made. Temperatures above 200 degrees Fahrenheit will soften most glues. Therefore it is important not to place repaired pieces into the oven. And although a dishwasher does not get up to 200 degrees, repeated exposure to hot water and harsh detergents will soften the adhesive, and eventually the repair may fail. Hand washing is the smart thing to do. By the way, even though it may be safe to use repaired items with food, it is not recommended.

To repair shallow chips (a quarter-inch or less in depth), mix a small amount of clear, slow drying epoxy with an oil base hobby enamel to create a shade that closely matches the color of the area to be fixed. Use a toothpick or a small stick to blend the concoction. Again use a very small stick or a toothpick to dab the liquid into the chip. Smooth it out even with the surrounding surface and let dry for 48 hours.

If an object has broken into more than two pieces it will be necessary to first determine the order of assembly. Sort of like a puzzle. This should be done by gathering the pieces together to determine which two pieces should be assembled first – and so on — so that each piece will fit easily into place. Only two pieces should be repaired at a time. Make sure that glue is immediately removed from other break edges. Dried glue in these locations could prevent the remaining pieces from fitting tightly together.

WARNING: Wear thick, sturdy gloves when handling broken pieces of pottery, ironstone, porcelain, china or glass; their sharp edges can cause extremely serious cuts.

No kidding. When we were kids our dad was attempting to repair a window without gloves. He cut his wrist and after being rushed to the hospital had to have 6 stitches. Also, when using adhesives, lacquer thinner, paint thinner, enamel paints or any other compound that contains toxic chemicals it is a good idea to work outside where there is plenty of ventilation. And keep these products away from an open flame – and have a safe repair!

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.


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