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How To Make Tiles

( Originally Published 1937 )

What could be more delightful than to have the sides of your fireplace, or the walls of your kitchen, bathroom or playroom decorated with bright tiles made by you or your children? Like ducks to water, children take to designing tiles, and produce lively and engaging decorations.

Where children are making individual tiles let them make balls of clay, and flatten them gently by pounding with the fleshy part of the palms. Each child should have a plaster bat or a dry pine board a little larger than the tile he is making. The tiles are trimmed to the correct shape and size with a knife. More uniform results may be obtained, if you nail to the pine board two parallel strips of wood as thick as the tile and separated by the width of the tile. The clay is pressed down between the strips and rolled with a dry rolling pin. A plaster roller is better, it can be used longer before getting too damp to leave the clay without sticking. The clay is left in the board until it is dry enough to be tipped out.

The designs are drawn on thin paper and traced on the clay. The figures may be left standing up and the background cut away, or they may be merely painted with colored slips or underglaze colors. Or the recessed part of the design may be filled with clay of another color (natural or tinted with oxides), scraped and burnished smooth. This is very suitable for tiles that are to be waxed after firing, instead of glazed. Where a large number of tiles are needed, as for a floor, a wooden mould is made. The mould is wet with water and a handful of fine grog thrown in and dumped out. The clay, being quite soft and having a good proportion of grog in it, is pressed vigorously into the mould and straightened off with a stick. There should be a supply of boards a little larger than the tiles. Place one of these over the mould with the clay in it, and invert the two, so that the tile falls onto the board. Lift the mould off, throw in fresh grog and repeat the operation.

Tiles may be decorated by pressing on them little dies carved out of wood, or made of plaster or terra cotta. Unless they are very dry it is best to lubricate them with oil, talc, or powdered mica. You can fill in the recessed part of the tile with colored or opaque white glazes, and leave the surface of the tile unglazed. Tiles finished in this way are easier to fire.

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