Repairing a Ceramics Project After Breaking in a Kiln

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Hello, my name is Alex Lozano. I want to show the steps that I took to repair a ceramics project that I was working on after it broke in the kiln.

Some background on the pictures above- The picture on the left is what my elephant sculpture looked like before it went into the kiln to get fired. The picture on the right is what it looked like when I opened up the kiln. What I saw was all my hard work ruined. Several reasons for why this might have happened. Firstly, I might not have dried out the elephant before it went into the kiln. Another reason is that I left of the inside of the elephant too thick and the air pockets expanded and broke the whole sculpture.

Ok, now to show you what supplies you need in order to repair something like this.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

The tools that we are going to be working with are very straightforward. I included a picture of a block of clay and ceramic tools that will help you form your new replacement pieces.

Materials

  1. Block of clay
  2. General sculpting tools
  3. Plaster (covers up cracks later in the repair)
  4. Clear Gorilla Glue
  5. 120 grit sand paper

Step 2: Glue the Pieces That You Can Salvage Back Together

I was fortunate that when the elephant broke, most of the head was still intact. So, I spent time gluing each part back together, carefully, to make sure nothing was out of alignment. I was able to salvage some of the ears, but there were 2 specific sections that were not able to be saved due to how small the pieces left were.

The elephant came together more than expected. It looks a lot more savable with all those pieces back together!

Step 3: Making New Ears

The parts of the ears that were not savable, I decided to remake out of new clay and re-fire it in the kiln. This was a hard process to try and get right because as the clay dries it shrinks about 10ish%. This means that I had to take into account the fact that the ear was going to shrink and probably not fit correctly. Plaster will help later on with the difference.

To remake the new pieces of the ear, I used the elephant as a template to make the ear the same shape that I had made before using all the ceramic tools that you have available to yourself. I knew that it was going to shrink and be undersized, but I thought that it would be easy to fix it with plaster. Overall, I was happy with how they turned out, so lets see what they look like after the firing in the kiln.

Step 4: Glue the Newly Fired Parts On

The parts that were made after the fact had no problem in the kiln and they came out great. The shrinking difference was not something that was as bad as expected and a little extra glue made sure that nothing moved around.

Now we have a elephant that is all back together, but it has a lot of spider cracks and other imperfections.... Let's fix that now.

Step 5: Plaster the Cracks and Smooth It Out

Mix up the plaster that you have set up for this project. Start spreading it over the cracks and different height levels around new ear parts. You do not have to be super precise with placing the plaster on the project. We will sand out the imperfections.

Once you are satisfied with all of the coverage of the plaster, give it some time to dry. We will come back in and sand all the plaster to be smooth and even with the actual ceramic. The picture on the right shows what it looks like after you sand everything smooth... Not bad at all.

Step 6: PAINT IT

Now that you did all the hard work repairing your project, give it a nice paint job. When its all painted, you can see that all the plaster was blended nicely. The sculpture does not look anything like the mess of pieces in the kiln.

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