Polar Ice


Super white, super translucent, super plastic porcelain. A casting version is also available.

Plainsman Polar Ice, P300, M370 and M340 with G2926B Whiteware transparent glaze on the porcelain (G2916F Stoneware transparent on the M340).

On the left is Plainsman M370, right is Polar Ice.

This body employs New Zealand Halloysite, a super-white-burning kaolin from New Zealand. To that it adds the highest quality ceramic plasticizer available, making it the most plastic clay body you likely have ever used (of any kind)!

Disclaimer: Please match your expectations to the reality of what Polar Ice is. It is expensive compared to our other bodies because of the cost of materials and difficulty of production. But Polar Ice is not nearly as expensive as it would be if we were to purchase special filter-pressing, slurry-screening and pre-pugging equipment to guarantee top quality. We actually make it my mixing the powder and water right in the pugmill! Why? It is too plastic to be slurry-mixed (without huge quantities of water), too sticky to be filter pressed or extracted from a prepugger! Our production method is the only way it is possible. But that comes at a cost: Some fired specks and hard chunks. But if you are willing to make a commitment and adjust your expectations, you will be able to make ware that was once impossible for potters.

At times you may find surface discolouration on the slugs from bacteria growth (if the material is old).

Process Properties

Using Polar Ice is more of a commitment than other bodies. Compromises are required, expectations are different.

Plasticity: Polar Ice is extremely plastic. Others claim to be plastic, but they use the word in a relative sense (meaning "a little less short than other really flabby porcelains"). However Polar Ice is only plastic when stiff enough (do not attempt to use Polar Ice if it is too soft).

Stiffness: To properly pug it we must run it too soft (you will notice this if you buy a newer run). However, it will stiffen over time. Consider keeping a box of stiffer material around so you can wedge it together will softer to get the right consistency. Failing that, reduce water content on a very clean plaster surface or leave a lump under a cloth over night or longer. It is imperative to wedge different stiffnesses together well or throwing will be adversely affected.

Polar Ice is not ready-to-use out-of-the-box. It comes out like a rock and then softens to a sticky, unusable mass when wedged! Flatten pieces on clean plaster bats to dewater for a while, then wedge thoroughly (repeat until it is no longer sticky). When it is wedged really well and the stiffness is right it will want to go taller and thinner than any clay you have ever thrown!

Wedging: Thorough wedging is a must (to loosen it up, remove laminations, create homogeneity). If you are unable to wedge effectively it is better to use a different body.

Stickiness: This is the most prominent side effect of the plasticity. It will stick to your hands, to the table, to the cutting wire, anything that touches it. During trimming it will stick back to itself and tools. If you attach ware to the wheelhead with water to trim, it will stick fast. After trimming it balls up under your fingers if you attempt to round corners by pressing on them. However when stiffened to optimal throwing stiffness, it is much less sticky.The stickiness is an asset when joining, the slip glues it well (if adequate pressure is applied).

Drying: Porcelains do not dry as well as stonewares or bodies with particulates. You will get the best results if the clay is not too soft, ware is not too thick, contours are smooth, wall thicknesses are even, joins are few and done with thick slip, the degree-of-wetness in all parts of a piece is kept equal throughout all stages of drying. Large pieces are best made on plaster bats so the bottom can stiffen with the walls. The worst drying performance will occur when thick ware is made from very soft clay and non-absorbent bats, where vessel walls are thick at the bottom and thin at the lips or edges, walls are of uneven thickness with lots of joins or abrupt angles (giving cracks a place to start) and where drying is uneven (e.g. lips and edges are permitted to stiffen early on while lower sections remain soft). Large, flat plates are the most difficult shapes to dry, it may be necessary to stretch the time out to a month or more to achieve the even drying needed for success.

Even though it is very plastic, it dries well (if not too soft).

Polar Ice hand-built “Sunshine Mug”. Although not recommended for handbuilding, it can work if walls are evenly thin, joins are made using the sticky Polar Ice slip and lots of pressure and if pieces are dried very evenly.

3D Printing

The stickiness and plasticity of this body make it a favourite for this application. Layers adhere well and pieces hold up even though the clay is soft.

A 3D Print using Polar Ice (on Instagram).

A 3D Print using Polar Ice (on Instagram)

A 3D Print using Polar Ice (on Instagram)


We have had consistent results firing to cone 6 oxidation. We formulated it so that a thin-walled, vertical-sided mug with flared lip will not pull to an oval-shaped rim during firing (by the weight of the handle). Notwithstanding this, in our lab we can get translucency down to cone 4. We have fired it to cone 8 oxidation (with more warping) and cone 10 reduction (with surprisingly good results and little warping). Very durable and strong ware can be made using this body.

To get maximum translucency it is not necessary to fire over cone 6. The casting version is not quite as translucent as the throwing version (however the walls of cast piece are generally much thinner). You can enhance the translucency of the casting version by additions of Ferro Frit 3110 (e.g. 5%).

As with any body, bisque fire it to the highest practical temperature (high enough to burn out undesirables, but low enough to have the needed porosity for glazing). Cone 06 is a good starting point.

Impeccable cleanliness is needed to minimize fired specking for transparent glazes. At the same time, we cannot guarantee a completely speck-free result. This body is not filter pressed. While this background mug is speck free, the other two are not. The blue speck on the mug rim (right) is likely contaminant picked up during the process. The small black ones on the left could have come in the material.

To get the best defect-free surface please consider using a drop-and-hold firing schedule, for example the PLC6DS schedule. If crystallization during cooling is not an issue, glazes will give optimum results if slow-cooled also (e.g. the C6DHSC schedule).

Polar Ice fired bars (cone 4-8 oxidation bottom to top). At cone 8 the body is very glassy and beginning to melt.

Polar Ice at cone 10R (left) and cone 6 oxidation (right)

Polar Ice fired at cone 10R (left), cone 6 oxidation (right)


Commercial brush-on glazes offer many colors and surfaces. For functional ware check for glaze fit (vital for quality functional ware). Do not assume food safety of brightly colored glazes in your kiln and with layering without a leach test (e.g. GLLE test). Consider using a transparent or white liner glaze for food surfaces.

Mixing your own glazes is practical (with our clear guidelines even beginners can make dipping glazes that go on silky smooth and evenly and dry in seconds). If you already do this using recipes from the web, be careful. High-feldspar glazes (having more than about 35%) often craze. Ones that rely on high melt fluidity to encourage crystallization and variegation (often because of excessive Gerstley Borate, lithium carbonate, zinc or Frit), view these with suspicion for leaching and cutlery marking; test them well (also test the additionless versions). Be suspicious of any glaze not having good documentation.

The best approach is to begin with a good transparent base you understand and that fits. We supply (as products and recipes) G2926B glossy whiteware and G2934 matte frit-fluxed bases. Their documentation describes how to mix, use, fire and adjust them and showcases stain, color and variegator additions to create an infinite number of effects. The former, G2926B, may not have a enough melt fluidity to create non-food-surface reactive visual effects with certain colors and variegators. G3806C fluid-melt recipe is an alternative (but check for crazing). These pages also reference other base glazes that might be of interest.

Consider also making glazes based on Alberta Slip (especially the GA6-B amber base) and Ravenscrag Slip. These materials have their own websites with lots of helpful information.

Crazing: Functional ware must remain craze-free (crazing is unsanitary and drastically reduces ware strength). Because ware is not crazed out of the kiln does not mean it will not do so with time. Do cycles of a boiling water:ice water immersions (BWIW test) on a piece to test glaze fit (by stressing it to bring out any crazing or shivering tendencies).

Thixotropy: Many people mix their glazes the traditional way, just adding water until the slurry appears to be the right viscosity for dipping. However, if you want better application properties for one-coat dipping, consider creating a thixotropic slurry. Thixotropic glazes are creamy because they have been thinned and then gelled by the addition of a flocculant. They go on evenly, hang on without dripping and dry quickly. Achieving (and maintaining) this state involves targeting a specific gravity (usually around 1.43) and adding epsom salts (1-2g/1000g of powdered glaze).

If you want to develop and mix your own glazes and engobes consider getting an account at You can organize a methodical development program and adopt better methods of testing (e.g. melt fluidity, thermal stress, slip-fit tests).

Casting Recipe

Polar Ice casting requires extra care, good mixing and some compromise to get a slurry of the right consistency (it is important to understand the principles of deflocculation, be able to measure specific gravity efficiently and have a good propeller mixer). This contains a plastizer to impart the plastic strength to better enable pieces to shrink and pull away from the mold (this requires double the normal amount of Darvan and lengthens casting time considerably, M370 is easier to cast and mix). Polar Ice pieces will warp on firing if they are thin or shapes are unstable.

Because of the magic of defloccualtion you can mix all this powder into that little bit of water! This 20 Kg bag of porcelain needs only 9 Kg of water in the bottom of that pail. The secret is that the water contains a small amount of Darvan, it makes the particles repel each other electrolytically enabling a fluid slurry with only a little more water than is in a throwing clay!

Casting properties depend on proper deflocculation. Assuming viscosity and specific gravity are good, and you have good molds, the slip will drain well and wall thicknesses will be even. Watch out for powdery or dry-feeling pour surfaces (shortly after pouring out the slip), these mean over deflocculation.

Recipe Used in the Plainsman Lab

67.3% Polar Ice Casting Mix Powder
32% Water (distilled recommended)
0.7% Darvan No. 7

This is a 100-total recipe, that means 67.3 parts-by-weight of powder and 32 parts-by-weight of water.

This should produce a specific gravity of around 1.7 with a Ford Cup viscosity of 40 seconds (Laguna Viscometer reading of 140 seconds). Polar Ice cannot tolerate over-deflocculation well, that is why we are using a conservative recipe with a lower-than-typical specific gravity (contact us if you have issues). If your slip is not flowing well enough consider adding more water rather than more Darvan.

Water and Darvan percentages are not cast-in-stone, adjust as needed. Add 90% of the Darvan to the water and mix it in. Then add the powdered body mix to the water under a propeller mixer. It might appear that it is impossible to get that much powder into the available water, but that is the magic of the Darvan. Mix at least 15 minutes. If you cannot get the last of the powder in, add the rest of the Darvan. Do a preliminary assessment:

  • Measure the specific gravity.
  • If it is high, add water (adding 50 grams of water to a 1 US gallon batch will drop the specific gravity by about 0.1 - e.g. from 1.79 to 1.78).
  • If it is too low, make a note for next time to use less water.
  • Check the viscosity. If the slip is still not fluid enough, mix it longer, another half hour if you can (or age overnight and power-mix more the next day). If it is still too viscous add a little water (you will have to tolerate a lower specific gravity).

If you are not doing alot of production and can tolerate your molds getting wetter (and longer mold extraction times), adding water to the slurry will not be a problem (although too much may cause settling issues). Remember also that warm slip will flow better than cold.

You can make about 1 US gallon from 5000 grams of powder. You can make about 1 Canadian gallon from 6300 grams.

You can mix your own translucent casting porcelain if you can get Grolleg kaolin, please check this page for information.

Thermal Expansion

We do not supply a thermal expansion value. The reason is that such numbers often mislead users. First, a body has different thermal expansion characteristics when fired at different temperatures, schedules and atmospheres. Dilatometers are only useful when manufacturers can measure bodies and glazes over time and in the same firing conditions. If a chart is supplied here, please view only as a way to compare one body with another.

Another significant issue is that many customers compare measured thermal expansion numbers with calculated values of glazes in efforts to fits those glazes to a body. This does not work. Calculated values are relative only and have limitations that must be understood. The best way to fit glazes to your clay bodies is by testing, evaluation, adjustment and retesting. For example, if a glaze crazes, adjust its recipe to bring the expansion down (using your account at insight-live), fire a glazed piece and thermal stress it (using an IWCT test, 300F into ice-water). If it still crazes, repeat the process.

If we recommend a base clear or glossy glaze, try calculating the expansion of that as a rough guide to know whether your glazes will fit.

Physical Properties

 Drying Shrinkage: 5.5-6.5%
 Dry Strength: n/a
 Water Content: 21.0-22.0 Drying Factor: C130

Sieve Analysis (Tyler mesh):

 100-150: 0.1-0.3
 150-200: 0.5-1.0

Fired Shrinkage:

 Cone 5: 8.0-9.0
 Cone 6: 8.5-9.5
 Cone 7: 8.5-9.5

Fired Absorption:

 Cone 5: 0%
 Cone 6: 0%
 Cone 7: 0%

Compared to Others

Competing NZ Porcelains from Other Manufacturers: Polar Ice is likely very different. We are pretty sure you have never used anything like this before!

  • Polar Ice is much, much more plastic that other competing products we are aware of. There is no need to age it to make it better.
  • It is likely more expensive (or much more expensive) than others you have tried. The white plasticizer used is twenty times more expensive than any other ingredient in the recipe. Other manufactures have chosen to minimize its percentage to keep costs and price down or because their equipment cannot handle the higher percentage.
  • Polar Ice is more likely to be too soft and need stiffening.
  • It likely has a lower firing shrinkage (a product of our use of less feldspar).
  • It has a higher drying shrinkage, up to 7% (other porcelains will likely be 5.5-6.0%). This is a product of the higher plasticity.
  • Drying performance may be worse or better. The higher shrinkage makes cracking more likely but the higher dry strength resists it and the higher plasticity enables making ware thinner and more even. With proper procedures and routine you will lose minimal ware.
  • It fires whiter. This is likely a product of our choice of feldspars and the high quality plasticizer.
  • It is more translucent (the reason for this is proprietary).
  • It is stickier. The stickiness less if the water content is reduced before use.
  • It dries slower (because of the high plasticity).
  • It sets in the box. When you first feel it you will swear it is too stiff. But it isn't, start moving it it softens dramatically.


  • Brochure for double-sided printing (uncheck the Fit to Page checkbox when printing or it will be too small)


Polar Ice with body stains. Surfaces are unpolished and unglazed.

Large Polar Ice bottle by Ciro Di Ruocco.

Handbuilt using Polar Ice. Fired at cone 6.

Polar Ice casting succulent plant pot and tray. The glaze is G2926B with 10% Mason 6304 and 2% Zircopax.

Polar ice luminary by Susan Ferbey

Polar Ice porcelain with G3806C Copper Green at cone 6. The liner glaze is G2926B.

Polar Ice with a G2926B clear glaze fired at cone 6. Notice the translucency.

Polar Ice and P300 with G2934Y Yellow glaze fired at cone 6. The liner glaze is G2926B.

Lucioles made with Polar Ice by Atelier Pluriel Singulier

Plainsman Polar Ice at cone 6. G2926B clear glaze with added stain.

21 mugs made from 1/2 box of clay, 10 kg ( (all scrap was reclaimed). Polar Ice is plastic and you can make more pieces because it can be thrown thinner than most other clays. These have a weight-to-capacity ratio of 1.09 (each 1 gram of fired porcelain can contain 1.09 grams of water). This is the highest of any of our products.

Safety Data Sheet

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702 Wood Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 1E9
Phone: 403-527-8535 FAX:403-527-7508