Clay pots are made from an endless variety of clays and their uses depend on the type of clay used. The most common way of classifying clay pots is according to the temperature they were fired in. Clay pots also may be categorized according to the type of clay they are made from, whether they have been glazed, how they were made and also by their uses. With all these distinguishing features, some clay pots will fall into more than one type.
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Clay pots fired at low temperatures produce earthenware pots that are porous and require thick layers of glazing in order to be used for containing water. Earthenware clay pots are often made from impure clays that contain particles of rocks and sand. Clay for earthenware pots is often gathered from streams where the clay has settled and formed clay deposits. Earthenware clay pots are fired at temperatures ranging from 1700 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stoneware is a type of clay that is fired at a medium firing temperature between 2100 and 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. Stoneware is the type of clay used most often in producing dinnerware and cookware. Stoneware is made from durable and hard clay with few impurities which makes this type of clay pot less porous than earthenware, ideal for containing liquids without leaking.
Porcelain is another type of clay pot that is made primarily from pure kaolin or China clay. Clay used to make porcelain has very few impurities and requires very high temperatures to harden. Porcelain must be fired at a temperature between 2335 and 2550 degrees Fahrenheit in order to harden from clay into porcelain. Porcelain is a very hard clay but it is very easily broken. When porcelain has completed firing, the surface becomes smooth and shiny without the need for glazing.
Clay pots may be typed according to how they are made. Clay pots may be made by hand by either pinching into shape or using coils or flat slabs to build the walls of the clay pot. Clay pots also may be made using a pottery wheel for circular symmetry. Clay pots can be wheel-thrown pots or handmade pots if classification is made by method of assembly.
The kind of clay used to make clay pots also helps categorize them. Purity and color are a simple classification. Porcelain is a type of clay that is nearly 100 percent pure and makes china and pots that are highly sought after. Pots also can be made from red, white, yellow, gray or black clays.