What does cone mean in pottery?

Understanding Cones in Pottery: A Comprehensive Guide

As a pottery expert, I am excited to delve into the fascinating world of cones in pottery. Cones play a crucial role in the firing process and are an essential tool for potters to achieve desired results. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what cones are, how they are used, and their importance in pottery. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced potter, this article will give you valuable insight into the world of cones.

1. What are cones in pottery?

In pottery, cones refer to small pyramidal or triangular objects made from a mixture of clay and glaze materials. These cones are specially formulated to bend or melt at certain temperatures when exposed to heat in the kiln. They act as indicators to help potters monitor and control the firing process.

Cones are often made in different numbered series, such as Cone 04, Cone 6, or Cone 10. The number assigned to a cone indicates its melting or bending temperature. For example, Cone 04 bends or melts at a lower temperature than Cone 10. Potters choose the appropriate cone based on the desired firing temperature for their clay body and glazes.

2. How are cones used in pottery?

Cones are primarily used to determine when a kiln firing is complete or to measure the temperature inside the kiln at any given time. They are placed in the kiln with the pottery pieces and serve as a visual and tactile reference for the progress of the firing. As the kiln temperature rises, the cones begin to deform or bend, indicating that a certain temperature range has been reached.

When the desired temperature range is reached, potters can make adjustments to the kiln settings or proceed to the next step in the firing process, such as cooling or introducing specific glazes. The cones provide a more reliable and accurate measurement of temperature than relying solely on the kiln’s built-in temperature gauge.

3. The Importance of Cones in Firing

There are several advantages to using cones when firing ceramics. First, cones provide a visual representation of the kiln temperature throughout the firing process. By observing the cones, potters can detect any temperature irregularities or variations within the kiln, allowing adjustments to be made to ensure consistent results.
Second, cones act as a fail-safe mechanism. In the event of a kiln temperature sensor malfunction, cones provide an independent and accurate measurement of temperature, reducing the risk of under or over firing.

4. Choosing the Right Cone

Choosing the right cone is critical to achieving the desired results in your pottery. The appropriate cone depends on several factors, including the type of clay body and glazes being used, as well as the desired firing temperature. Different clays and glazes have specific temperature ranges at which they mature and achieve their intended visual and structural characteristics.

Consulting clay and glaze manufacturers’ specifications and conducting test firings can help potters determine the most appropriate cone for their specific needs. It is important to note that using the wrong cone can cause the pottery to underfire or overfire, resulting in undesirable outcomes such as weak textures, color variations, or glaze defects.

5. Safety Precautions and Cone Handling

When working with cones, it is important to keep safety in mind. Cones are made of materials that can release harmful fumes when they melt or bend. Therefore, it is important to fire pottery in a well-ventilated kiln or studio environment to prevent the inhalation of toxic gases.

When handling cones, it is recommended that protective gloves be worn to avoid skin contact with potentially hot or harmful materials. In addition, potters should follow proper kiln operating procedures and the safety guidelines provided by kiln manufacturers.

In conclusion, cones are indispensable tools in the pottery industry that help potters achieve consistent and desired firing results. Understanding the purpose, use, and importance of cones allows potters to effectively monitor and control the firing process. By selecting the appropriate cone and following safety precautions, potters can improve their craft and create pottery of exceptional quality.

Remember, mastering the art of pottery takes time and practice, but with an understanding of cones and their role in firing, you are now equipped to take your pottery skills to new heights.


What does cone mean in pottery?

In pottery, a cone refers to a type of pyrometric device used to measure temperature in kilns. It is usually made of a ceramic material that undergoes physical and chemical changes at specific temperature ranges. By placing cones inside a kiln, potters can determine the temperature reached during firing.

How do pottery cones work?

Pottery cones are designed to bend or deform at specific temperature thresholds. Each cone is marked with a number, such as cone 04 or cone 10, which corresponds to a specific temperature range. When the kiln reaches the temperature associated with a particular cone, that cone will soften and bend, indicating that the desired temperature has been reached.

What are the different types of pottery cones?

There are several types of pottery cones, including small self-supporting cones and larger witness cones. Self-supporting cones are typically used in the kiln’s firing chamber, while witness cones are placed in different locations throughout the kiln to monitor temperature variations. Common types of pottery cones include cones made of clay, bisque, and self-supporting cones made of a mixture of clay and fluxing agents.

Why are pottery cones important?

Pottery cones play a crucial role in achieving desired firing results. They provide potters with accurate temperature readings, ensuring that the clay and glazes reach the appropriate maturity and desired effects. Cones help potters achieve consistent results from firing to firing and allow them to replicate successful outcomes.

How are pottery cones selected?

The selection of pottery cones depends on the specific requirements of the clay body and glazes being used. Potters consider factors such as the desired temperature range, the type of clay or glaze, and the atmospheric conditions within the kiln. Cone charts, which provide information about the temperature ranges of different cones, are often consulted to determine the appropriate cone for a particular firing.

Can pottery cones be reused?

Pottery cones can be reused if they have not undergone significant deformation during firing. If a cone has only slightly bent or softened, it can be carefully straightened and used again. However, cones that have completely melted or deformed beyond recognition should be replaced with new ones to ensure accurate temperature measurements in future firings.