A glaze after firing can be considered to be a glass. Therefore it is not surprising that traditional glass making materials such as quartz, limestone, and felspar are commonly used to make glazes. However glazes which are intended for firing below 1150C need other elements such as lead or boron and alkalis to create the right properties. To enable these elements to be included safely they are often pre-melted with other glass making materials to form a FRIT.
What is a frit?
A frit is a a pre-melted glass which is granular in nature. Once crushed and ground to a fine powder it provides the basis for all low firing glazes. Often a glaze contains merely one frit and clay. The clay is added as a suspending and binding agent to aid glaze storage, application and firing.
How many frits are there?There are literally thousands of frits. The compositions have been researched and developed over a long time period to provide the right technical properties such as fusibility, thermal expansion and durability. A wide range of properties are needed to meet the wide range of bodies and firing cycles used by manufacturers and craft potters.In general terms frits are normally classified as transparent or opaque and then lead containing or lead free.For environmental/safety reasons lead containing frits are gradually being phased out and replaced with lead free alkali borosilicates.
Can I make my own frits?It is possible but not recommended. Large scale frit manufacturers often make frit by a continuous method in a high temperature box type kiln using specialist refractory linings. These kilns produce tonnes of frit per day, meaning they can achieve consistent high quality output. For other than the most demanding glaze requirement, making your own frits is unlikely to be cost effective.
How many types of frit do I need?This depends on the number of clay bodies and firing cycles you employ. As a basic requirement you need a transparent frit, an opaque frit and an expansion modifier frit. These should allow you to make transparent, opaque and semi opaque glazes suitable for conversion to coloured glazes by adding colouring pigments.
Why not use frits in all glazes?
In theory this is possible but the costs would be excessive. For example high temperature stoneware and porcelain glazes can be manufactured with lower cost glass making materials such as felspars, quartz, limestone and clays.
Where can I buy frits
Most pottery material distributors sell small quantities of powdered frit suitable for the studio or craft potter. Industrial scale potters may buy the frit direct from manufacturers such as Endeka, Ferro or Esmalglas.
The Potters Friend