What Are the Best Tips for Pottery Repair?

Marlene Garcia

Successful pottery repair hinges on proper surface preparation, using the right adhesive, and keeping the item stable while it dries. If pottery repair involves filling in worn areas with paint, matching the color and glaze should be precise. Repair of chipped pottery involves making putty tinted with artist pigment to attach small shards of colored pottery. If pottery repair involves multiple pieces, the order of each piece should be planned ahead of time.

A bleach and water solution can be used to remove stains from pottery.
A bleach and water solution can be used to remove stains from pottery.

Preparing the surface might be the most important step in pottery repair. Both sides of the break should be free from dirt or grease to ensure proper adhesion. Broken sections can be cleaned with dishwashing soap and a soft toothbrush to remove grime. A water and bleach solution might remove stains after soaking for a couple of days. In all cases, pottery should be allowed to thoroughly dry before attempting any repair.

White adhesive can be used to repair pottery.
White adhesive can be used to repair pottery.

A slow-drying epoxy typically works better than fast-setting glues. White adhesives become invisible when dry and are recommended. Any excess glue can be scraped off with a razor blade or sharp knife after the joint completely dries.

Chipped pottery can be repaired with putty.
Chipped pottery can be repaired with putty.

Adhesive should be applied to only one side of pieces being repaired, and a thin coat of glue usually works best. If broken pieces are small, tweezers might make the job easier. Carefully holding the pieces in place once they are joined, and applying just the right amount of pressure, prevents chipping.

One tip for pottery repair during the drying process involves making a box to keep the repair stable. The glued piece can be placed into a container of dry rice or beans for a minimum of one hour. This might prevent a joint from shifting as the adhesive hardens.

Putty to repair chips can be made from an industrial mineral known as kaolin powder, epoxy resin, and white titanium dioxide. A toothpick can be dipped in the putty and used to pick up tiny chips. When possible, gluing chips to the underside of the pottery makes the repair less noticeable. The area might require a light sanding after the putty dries. Artist pigment can be added to the filler if a color match is necessary.

For repairs in worn areas, experimenting with different shades of oil paint or artist pigment might produce a close match. A small brush can be used to fill in areas where color has faded away. If a mistake occurs, the paint can be removed with paint thinner. When applying more than one hue, paint should dry completely before using another shade.

A pair of tweezers may be used to piece smaller parts of pottery back together.
A pair of tweezers may be used to piece smaller parts of pottery back together.

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