A Beginners Guide to Using a Ceramic Mould

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A Beginner's Guide to Using a Ceramic Mould

Moulds are used to help ceramic producers and manufacturers produce multiple casts of a single item as identically as possible. Because ceramics are cast at such high temperatures, most moulds used for them are specially developed. The vast majority of ceramic moulds are fashioned with reinforced plaster, though other materials are also sometimes used, and must both be delicate enough to preserve the finer details of the mould while being strong enough to be quickly and sometimes roughly handled. Ceramic moulds are well known for their top-tier surface finish and the ease with which intricate shapes can be cast.

Those beginners looking to purchase ceramic moulds on the cheap are likely to find that shopping online at websites such as eBay may be the best route to saving money, as new ceramic moulds are often prohibitively expensive. When shopping for ceramic moulds, buyers should familiarise themselves with the various sizes and types of moulds available to them, as well as the potential limitations of ceramic moulds, and the tools required for their use.

Sizes of Ceramic Moulds

The first and most important differentiator between types of ceramic moulds is their size. Since potters are limited in the scale of moulds which can be used based on the size and capabilities of their kilns, most moulds are organised into small, medium, and large varieties designed to fit in the different sizes of kilns.

Small Ceramic Moulds

Small ceramic moulds make up the vast majority of ceramic moulds, as they are light and comparatively inexpensive. These moulds are also manufactured to be able to fit the average size of most kilns, especially home or boutique kilns, which are very small. Small ceramic moulds are typically used to manufacture items which take a very short firing time, and often comprise items like small tabletop ornaments, tiles, and dinnerware. Small ceramic moulds rarely take more than approximately 900 grams of ceramic slip to cast.

Medium Ceramic Moulds

Medium ceramic moulds generally require taller kilns than smaller options, and usually require that the moulds be made with reinforced or harder plasters than smaller, lighter moulds. Most medium ceramic moulds are made to carry approximately between 900 and 3,500 grams of ceramic slip. Moulds of this size are generally used to fashion vases and large bowls, fine ceramic platters, and medium-sized statuary or ornaments.

Large Ceramic Moulds

There are relatively few large ceramics which are not one-off artistic pieces, and most of these are confined to very large vases and statues. The vast majority of large ceramic moulds require the use of massive industrial kilns and super-refined slip formulas for best results.

Mould Assembly Types

Ceramic moulds are available in a variety of assembly types. Different assembly types mean that they are put together and taken apart for reuse with different methods. The different assembly types include shell moulds, poured press ceramic moulds, and hump and slump ceramic moulds.

Shell Ceramic Moulds

These moulds are the most common variety, and feature a plaster shell split into two halves which form the negative of the ceramic piece. The ceramic slip is generally poured into the shell, which is held together with elastic bands until the firing is complete. Then, the two halves are separated to release the completed ceramic piece within. Shell ceramic moulds are the toughest and longest lasting of the various mould types, and they often ensure high-quality casts. They also make retrieving the cast particularly easy, unlike less expensive, poured press moulds.

Poured Press Ceramic Moulds

Poured press moulds are single-sided moulds which contain a relief of the object meant to be cast. This means that one side of the cast object has the details and shape desired, while the other is flat. This type of mould is more inexpensive than shell moulds, and generally makes firing a quicker process because a large surface area of the ceramic is exposed. That said, these types of moulds are typically only used when the bottom of the objects being cast are also the largest and widest part, or else it does not release easily.

Hump and Slump Ceramic Moulds

Hump and slump ceramic moulds are unique in that they use ceramic clay, rather than ceramic slip. Slabs of this clay are forced through the wide mould opening until it is filled, with a small hump of clay left to protrude from the bottom of the mould. These are generally cheaper and rougher than moulds of other varieties, and are preferred for their use in making various types of tableware and dishes.

Ceramic Mould Temperature Limits

Individuals looking for ceramic moulds should critically consider temperature limits before making a purchase. At the very minimum, a true ceramic mould should be capable of handling a temperature of 538 degrees Celsius, as this temperature ensures proper hardening of the ceramic slip or clay. However, it is far more ideal, and generally an indicator of a higher-quality plaster mould if the mould can withstand higher temperatures. This is especially important for those intending to fire more costly, large ceramics. If a product does not disclose its temperature limits, buyers should consider consulting the seller or manufacturer for this information.

Disposable Ceramic Moulds

For individuals who want moulds that may be reused a few times, but which are cheaper than more traditional moulds, disposable moulds may be an idea. These options are also ideal for inexperienced potters who want to experiment with the use of moulds for various purposes. These moulds are generally fashioned of low-quality plaster or heat-resistant rubbers, and may be used for a few casts, but are likely to begin breaking down or losing their finer details after a certain period. Other types of disposable ceramic moulds include some plastic hump and slump moulds, which can easily be cheap, but may be prone to cracking after extended use.

Tools Required for Using a Ceramic Mould

Those interested in using ceramic moulds, whether beginners or not, are likely to need a battery of tools at their disposal to get the best looking cast from their moulds. To view a list of the most commonly used ceramic moulding tools, consider the chart below.

Tool

Description

Mould Boards

Used to support the exposed foot of some types of moulds to ensure an even surface

Cottle

Boards placed around large moulds and held in a vice to keep the mould still and secure during pouring

Slip

The slurried liquid mixture most commonly used to pour into ceramic moulds to fashion a cast

Mould Release

Typically a gel or oil meant to be placed on the inside of moulds to help the casts slip free

Elastic Bands

Used with small shell style moulds to keep the two halves together during pouring and firing

Screws or Clamps

Used with medium or large shell style moulds to keep the two halves together during pouring and firing

Though there are many other tools available which may make the use of a ceramic mould easier or more efficient, the tools listed above should be considered essential. When using slips for ceramic moulds, potters should ensure that the ingredients for the slip are as fresh and have as little exposure to air as possible prior to casting.

Buying a Ceramic Mould on eBay

Buying a ceramic mould on eBay is hassle-free, and requires only a few clicks to complete a transaction. To begin, head to either the eBay home page or any of eBay's internal pages, and locate the search bar. Click the search bar and then begin typing the words or phrase which collectively describe the type of ceramic mould you would like to purchase. An example of this is "new small ceramic mould". After you have completed typing, press "enter" to view the roster of items which match your search description. These items can be organised or refined by using several variables, including price and location.

Asking Questions About an Item

There are some cases in which you might have questions about an item or would like to request additional photos. The eBay software makes asking questions and communicating with sellers quick and easy. Just look for the "Ask a Question" link on the item's listing page and click it.

Conclusion

Using a ceramic mould often necessitates learning about and purchasing the right type of mould for experience and needs. Small poured press or hump and slump moulds are generally the cheapest and easiest to use for beginners, but may not feature the complexity of design available to those using leaf moulds. For the vast majority of personal or craft projects, small moulds may be the only type to use due to kiln size limitations. That said, those with larger kilns may enjoy experimenting with medium or large ceramic moulds. Potters should also take care to ensure that they have the proper tools to successfully use their ceramic moulds. In most cases, these can be purchased relatively inexpensively.

Shoppers are encouraged to look online for whatever variety of moulds they intend to use. Websites such as eBay are likely to offer moulds at cheaper prices than craft stores or other retail locations, and may even be able to offer a wider variety of mould selection.

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