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Underglaze Pencil

Underglaze Pencil

Postby Sonja » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:32 pm

Hi nice people
I bought an underglaze pencil the other day at great expense. Then a potter friend told me today I could make my own by adding stain to a very thin slip, letting it dry out and moulding it into a pencil shape as it dries.

Have any of you tried this and can I use dry china paint as a stain? Stay safe, happy painting.
Pam in Bussselton


Hi Pam...
Hmmmmm... seems like that would break pretty easily unless you added gum arabic or gum tragacanth as a binder.

As to whether chinapaint would work , it would depend on how hot you were firing and what color of china paint you used. Not all chinapaints can be fired hot enough to use under a glaze. Also , mason stains are intense. It would take much more china paint to produce the color youd get from a little mason stain.

Chinapaints could be molded into pastels using the recipe for making regular pastels . This lets you draw with the pigments instead of paint with them ... but the surface has to either be bisque or fired with a coat of cellum , matt paint, white velvet or something like that first because the ' pastel' will skate over a slick glazed surface. It needs tooth to grab the pigment.. ( just like pastel painters use paper with tooth ) ..


The potter is correct. Robin Hopper gives the recipe for an underglaze pencil as 50% kaolin or white ball clay, 25% each feldspar and silica. Add about 5% bentonite for dry strength, and up to 15% colorant, which could be china paint. Most potters use an oxide or a stain for the colorant, but they're not trying to make a glossy mark, add enough water to be able to form this into a stick, let it dry and fire it to china paint temperature. This will, however not make a mark on glossy glaze. It will be too hard.

The traditional thing to make pastels out of is gum tragacanth and color, which can be china paint. I have made some of these. The proportions are not critical. The more gum you add the harder they will be. I have not been able to make one yet that will mark on a glossy surface, however. But they will make a mark on a matte glaze.

Potters use underglaze pencils to draw or write on unglazed bisqued clay. While they're too hard to mark on a glossy glaze, they're also too hard to make a mark on an unfired glaze. I use them to label my glaze tests, and to number the backs of tiles in a mural.
I've been sporadically trying to make a crayon that will mark on a gloss glaze for years, with limited success. What I want is basically a china marker/grease pencil thing that will fire on. Still looking for the right combination of wax or gum or something.
Paul Lewing


It really isnt useful to chinapainters since we fire at lower temps . Underglaze need firing to at least 05. It is useful to potters to draw on pots or to mark test tiles ..

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