How To Repair Chipped China

I love delicate porcelain. Plates, bowls, vases — I've even started collecting pieces from White Forest Pottery, much to my wallet's chagrin. What I don't love are the moments right after you accidentally chip one of your prized possessions. But before writing them off completely, I thought I'd see if there was anyway I could salvage my beauties. While I realize they will never be 100% perfect again, my attempt at salvaging them was quite worthwhile.

What You Need

2 part clear drying epoxy
clear glaze
fine sandpaper or fine glass paper
oil-based artist paint or chalk pastels/artists' powder pigments
masking tape
q-tips
alcohol
toothpicks
paintbrush

Instructions

1. Before beginning, I researched many different ways to repair broken or chipped porcelain (although, you should be able apply this to most ceramic pieces). I had a couple different chipped dishes, so I tried out a couple techniques that I thought seemed to make the most sense. I would like to note that this was a bit of trial and error, until I figured out what would work best for each application. Hopefully, you can use what I learned throughout the process to help guide you along. See "Additional Notes" below for a few pointers that I wished I had known before starting.

2. Clean the surface with rubbing alcohol to remove any residue. You may need to use bleach if there is any discoloration on the chip or repair piece to prevent a dark line from being noticeable after the repair. Determine whether the chip lines up (and practice matching it up). If you don't have the missing chip or you only have part of it, you may still be able to repair it using the epoxy as a filler if the chip isn't too big.

3. If you have the chip, or sections of the chip, I found it useful to mask the back of the dish with masking tape to provide support. It will also allow you to build up the layers on larger chips. Make sure your tape extends just slightly beyond the rim of your dish. If it's a clean, nice break you may be able to skip the tape. Mix your epoxy according to the directions and make sure to protect your work surface. Put a small bead of epoxy on your toothpick and coat the edge of the chip sparingly with the epoxy. Place the chip in its aligned position and press gently and hold for about 60 seconds. Carefully scrape away excess glue with a toothpick. If you don't need filler, you can skip to step 6.

4. If you need filler for areas around the chip, like I did, make up your tinted filler by mixing your oil-based paint or powder pigments/chalk pastels (scrape coordinating pastels with knife until fine), with your epoxy. Try not to add too much pigment as it prevents the filler from setting properly. Filler should have a yogurt-like consistency. Make sure you have masking tape behind the missing section for support. Put the filler onto the end of a toothpick and fill the area around the chip, extending slightly beyond the edge. Don't worry if you can't get enough built up to replace it properly, once it dries you can always repeat this step to gradually build up the layers.

5. Allow it to cure overnight before sanding it smooth, it should be hard to touch and not at all tacky. Remove the masking tape.

6. Once you are satisfied with the dried epoxy, use medium to fine glass paper or extra fine sandpaper to remove any excess filler, taking care not to scratch the glaze. During the sanding process, shape the filler to match the rest of the dish and rim. Continue the process until the filler is flush with the rest of the surface.

7. Once you have finished sanding and the surface is smooth, apply a thin layer of glaze. You'll need to gently feather it onto the undamaged sections so there is no visible join line. Allow the glaze to dry according to the directions.

8. One of my finished, newly repaired dishes. As you can see, I was able to repair a dish that was not only chipped, but I didn't have all of the missing pieces either. It's not perfect, but pretty close. Also to note, when I glued the missing piece onto this dish, I made the mistake of using an epoxy that dried yellow. The join line would have even been less visible if I had used a clear-drying epoxy. I did use clear epoxy when making up the filler. If this is a dish you intend to eat from, I would not recommend putting it in the oven or dishwasher.

Additional Notes:

1) When choosing an epoxy, make sure you use a clear-drying epoxy with a longer work time (I preferred Devcon High-strength epoxy with a 30 minute work time). This is important for 2 reasons. When trying to color match the epoxy/filler, you definitely will want the additional work time. Also, if you do not use clear-drying, it was nearly impossible to mix the appropriate color. If you only have one chip, with no need for filler, an epoxy with a 5 minute work time should be sufficient!

2) I preferred using the oil-based paint over the pastels. I found scraping the pastels into dust gave you uneven-sized particles. While they weren't noticeably to the naked eye, you could tell when you mixed them with the epoxy. This probably would not be the case if you used artists' powder pigments.

3) If you are using the epoxy more as a filler (because you are missing some of the chipped piece), mixing a little talcum powder will give it a thicker consistency.

4) Be patient! If you are using the epoxy as a filler, you might need to apply a few layers, allowing it to dry between applications.

5) Take proper precautions when working with epoxy. Use latex gloves (when applying it), and a dust mask (necessary when sanding), and protect your work surface.

Images: Kimberly Watson

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