By introducing serious uses for an inexpensive machine, I hope that more clayworkers
will explore computer use now.
Computers are well suited for doing technical calculations of all kinds; they do
not get bored, and they do not push the wrong keys on the calculator. Most of the
computer errors which we encounter are actually human errors in data entry or programming.
Any pottery calculations which involve a lot of complicated or repetitive math,
or the repeated looking up of data tables are the perfect candidates for computerization.
Molecular glaze calculations, kiln design, and refractory heat loss problems are
the obvious first choices.
Think back to Glaze Calc 101. There seemed to be lots of information available in
those molecular formulas if you could just wade through all the math steps. So you
worked at it, and got so you could do one series of calculations in about fifteen
minutes. Somehow it did not seem worth the effort to do enough of them to become
familiar enough with Seger formulas to use the data you generated. So once you got
out of the class, unless you were quite atypical, you never did another molecular
The use of the computer in both schools and private studios allows you to do these
calculations quickly, so you can spend your time doing the creative aspects of glaze
calc, that is, deciding how to best use the vast amount of information you have generated.
I have been using a computer in teaching glaze calculation for the last two years,
and have found it an invaluable tool in helping students develop a solid understanding
of ceramic chemistry. Students have repeatedly told me that they have learned more
about raw materials in an hour on the machine using molecular to batch software,
than in a week in the lab doing empirical testing. I have also found, over the years,
that people can generally deal more easily with the chemistry concepts that they
can the repetitive long division problems with many decimal places. The computer
removes this roadblock, and gives more clayworkers access to the wealth of published
information which is in molecular format.
There are two formats to computer assisted molecular to batch glaze calculation.
In the first, the computer works and an intelligent filing cabinet and pocket calculator,
and you make all the raw materials selection decisions. The computer maintains a
raw material data file and does the math steps. In the second, the computer makes
the choices based on programmed logic.
Computer assisted batch to molecular calculations are much more straight forward.
The computer just maintains a file for the raw materials compositions and does the
math. There are no complex decisions to be made. In my batch to molecular software
I have set it up to keep track of gasses such as H2O, SO2, and F, since my research
shows that they all have