; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Ruyao Ru Kiln Teapot Repairs ;

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ruyao Ru Kiln Teapot Repairs

Oh dear, lately I’ve had terrible luck with ordering tea ware, which is really telling me I should stop buying. Since December 1, four different tea pots arrived broken in the mail. One was very expensive so I mailed it back for a refund. Another wasn’t so expensive, and the seller preferred to ship me a new one rather than refund my money. As for the two pots I’m repairing in this blog post, the sellers refunded my money but did not require a return. In all cases, the sellers did the right thing for the customer in making good on the broken purchase. But in all these cases, such accidents can be prevented in the first place by proper packaging.

 I’ve been selling online all kinds of vintage USA-made items for more than a decade, shipping to countries I can’t even spell. I can say I’ve shipped everywhere except Antarctica. My shipping mistakes taught me a lot over the years, and often buyers gave me excellent suggestions for various types of items, such as the best way to pack cast iron items. In general, 4 Rules of Shipping Fragile Items apply:

1.      WRAP copious amounts of bubble wrap and layers of tape around the item.
2.     Double box the wrapped item. If you don’t have a little box that fits, create one using strips of corrugated cardboard and tape the strips around the wrapped tea pot.
3.      Pack the boxed item in a larger box with at least 3 inches of foam peanuts. Don’t use newspaper, it adds extra weight which adds money, tends to compact down in shipping, and you are risking a break. The USPS mail service will not accept insurance claims with less than 3 inches of packing material around the item.
4.      Shake the finished package, and then drop it at least one meter to the floor. You should feel no shaking of the items inside, and a one meter drop should not hurt anything. This means the postal workers can toss the box and it will not break.

Broken beauties.
The two broken teapots here failed one or more of the above. For the green Ruyao pot, the seller shipped the teapot in an envelope. Seriously. Yes, it had bubble wrap taped around the pot, but traveling from China no way can a tea pot survive shipped in an envelope. I was furious when it arrived. The red teapot was wrapped and double boxed, but it was loose inside the first box, so this left the pot floating around and the heavy handle broke into three pieces, thus failing the shake test. I’m at the point now where I shake packages before I open them to see if the item is floating around. If it fails the shake test, only luck will mean an intact tea pot is inside.

But now both of these teapots are free for me, because I got a refund and the sellers didn’t want me to ship them back. These pots might not be worth the trouble to repair, and in fact the red one is fine the way it is to use. You might remember my repairs of “Chip,” a clay pot I repaired last year. Repairs buy me a little more time with pots I’m fond of. Doing repairs like this is relaxing, and a challenge, so I’m going to repair these just for fun and maybe you’ll find a tip or two for use in the future.

With cured weld compound, prior to painting.

The broken handle on the red pot is not a difficult fix, and the paint job even easier, because the teapot has a mottled paint with several colors. Here is the finished work, the painting took all of ten minutes. 
Finished repairs and painting, prior to clear acrylic coat on the spots.
Because the handle is heavy and so the pot is too, even before adding water and tea, I don’t expect the handle repairs to last forever. If it falls apart again, I will grind down the stubs of the handle and just cover the spots. 

Pot with weld, prior to sanding.
On the other hand, the green Ruyao piece is much more of a challenge, because the single glaze color means I have to match the color as closely as possible. This piece mainly has a big chip, but this is not what will cause the pot to fail. On the other side of the spout I have a hairline crack that actually runs through to the inside of the pot. This weak point will fail well before my chip repair.

After sanding. Also you can see the hairline crack and chipped spout.
For both pots, I use JB Weld which is welding compound that holds even metal. You must mix together equal amounts from the two tubes. The weld takes a full 24 hours to cure, but the result will hold up to water and is stronger than the clay of the pot. For a very thick chip, you may need to build up layers of compound, letting each layer dry for a day before adding the next layer. I needed two layers for both teapots. For the hairline crack on the green pot, I used my finger to push some compound into the crack on the outside of the pot only, wiping off the rest. The inside I left clean, except for another trick which I’ll use later to help that crack. If you need more information on JB Weld used in this fashion, see my post linked above for "Chip."

Once the weld is cured, I sand until it is smooth against the pot using a 150 grit foam sanding block. Use 150 or higher grit; the finer grits won’t scratch glaze. Sand until your finger rubbed against the repair feels smooth and you can’t feel the repaired area. I didn’t bother sanding the red pot much because the handle is rough anyway and the welds won’t show.

The real challenge on the green pot is the paint, matching the colors and also trying to keep something of the translucent look. I don’t expect I will be perfect, but trying to duplicate the color is interesting because of the colors it takes to do so.

Color palate. Natural pigments well worth the money.
As I noted in my repairs on Chip, the teapot I repaired last year (still holding), glazes are generally made from natural mineral sources, and so you want natural mineral pigment acrylic paints. You can make nearly every natural color under the sun if you invest in the proper pigments. Don’t try and buy a paint color that matches because it won’t be as good as what you can mix.

Pigments, and a bracing cup of 2015 Tuhao as Fk by white2tea.
Here, I am using Titanium White, Phythalocyanine Green, Raw Sienna, and Raw Umber. I added a tube of Cadmium Red to this palette when painting the red Ruyao pot.

First layer, a dark under-painting to cover the gray.
I start by covering the gray weld with a mix of Sienna, Umber and a bit of white. I want to create an illusion of depth by layering the colors. Nothing on this green pot is gray on the clay so I use the dark under-painting simply to cover that gray and add visual depth.

First layer of light, the paint mix is at the top, to the right of the dark umber.
Next, I need to lighten the chip slowly. The clay on this teapot is actually best matched by a mix of the White, Sienna, and Umber. I water down the colors by dipping my brush into a bowl of water. Thus we have thin layers of color wash. These will look more like clay than one matte color.

A few layers in...

Light enough now, so I add in the brownish- ring along the rim.
I use a bit more Raw Umber and Raw Sienna into white paint with water to make the ring along the rim. It’s tempting to think the ring is pink, but it isn’t, these colors are really what makes that color.

For the green, interestingly enough I need to mix all four colors! Not just green and white. The Raw Sienna added a bit of yellowing, tempered with Raw Umber, in tiny amounts adjusts the green perfectly.

Green added, paint is damp. You want a slighly lighter hue, darkens as it dries.
Don’t worry if you mess up with the paint, you can wipe it all off with a damp paper towel before it dries and start again.

To finish the piece, I need to buff the paint with a paper towel once it dries, and then add a layer of clear acrylic to keep it from washing off. But before I do that, I want to try and buy myself some time with that hairline crack. I pushed a little weld into it, but didn’t bother with the paint. I’m not bothered by the looks of the crack, just as I’m not bothered by the “flea bite” chip on the spout. The real problem is the crack goes through the pot, eventually this will leak, if not break.

To get a little more time, I need to seal the inside with something food-safe. Obviously I don’t want to use glue on the interior where my tea will brew. So, I’m creating a sort of glue using a potato.

Microwave-cooked potato.
My son can eat the other half.

The idea is to mash cooked potato into hot water which will soak into the crack. Left to dry, this will fill in the crack, at least for a little while.

Mashing the hot potato water.
This works with rice too, just use some rice water taken from the pot while the rice is cooking. But the weather here is too cold for eating rice, so potatoes are what we eat here in winter and tubers keep the body much warmer.

Soaking potato water to fill in crack. Paint is done minus the
finishing clear acrylic I'll add once the pot dries out. 
I let the potato water sit in the teapot until it cools, and then dump it out. I need to let the pot dry now for a few days so the potato seals up the crack. I use the water also on a Ruyao cup I own that has a massive crack in the glaze and now leaks when I use it. Again, this measure will not last forever, and I might taste the potato a little at first. But it buys me some more time with a cracked piece of tea ware.

Now that my green pot is drying out from the potato water, I must wait several days to finish up the final paint and acrylic. I will be sure and use it in a future blog post so you can see it in action. Hopefully my repairs will give me a year or so with this teapot before it finally breaks and I am forced to toss it. 

1 comment:

  1. You made a great restoration of your tea wares. Gratz!