Can This Plate Be Saved?

So, you have a favorite plate or you are thrifting and you come across a plate that looks like this one. Can the crazing be removed? Is the piece useable? Well, it depends. In the case of this plate, the stain can not be removed because the damage is too deep. In fact, the crazing is evident on the underside of the plate.IMG_2820

Also, note the kiln marks – one of them was not glazed before it went into the kiln. Over time, the unglazed spots are infiltrated by all that was served on the piece. Here you can compare two kiln marks – the mark on the right was glazed.

Detail, Kiln Marks
Detail, Kiln Marks

But many times, if the problem is only surface deep then the Hydrogen Peroxide Bath usually will clean it up! It is really a miracle – of science.

So, toute de suite, are the detailed instructions from The White Ironstone China Association – and even though restaurant ware is glazed, fired and finished differently – this recipe works.

Cleaning Stains

Silverware can leave gray marks on china. Use a little toothpaste on a soft cloth to rub them away.

Some of the most common stains seen on white ironstone china are dark staining under the glaze. Sometimes the whole piece can look dirty, and often a buyer won’t think of purchasing it. Some stains have gone deeply into the clay itself, and won’t come out, but quite often they can be removed quite successfully.

Common cleaners that will remove some stains include naval jelly & ZUD (rust stains), denture tablets, calgon water softener with a Z code, and ammonia (sealed in plastic).

You don’t see professional cleaning instructions here because of the danger involved – chemicals can explode, and they can cause injury. There are people who do professional china cleaning, and it can be well worth it to engage them to clean valuable pieces for you.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean Stains

The only relatively safe chemical that we know of to clean white ironstone china is hydrogen peroxide, and it is used frequently. Its chemical formula (H2O2) is very similar to water (H2O), but it has an extra oxygen atom. This gives hydrogen peroxide the ability to oxidize organic and inorganic materials, producing water at a reaction byproduct. This makes it useful as an agent to both whiten the stain and make the stain easier to be flushed from the china.

If you want to try cleaning a piece with hydrogen peroxide, by the regular 3% hydrogen peroxide in the grocery or drug store. Buy enough to cover your piece as you soak it. Put the peroxide in a tightly lidded plastic container. After several days, take the piece out and put it in strong sunlight, so the hydrogen peroxide vaporizes from the heat. You can also try to bake the piece in an electric oven, at the lowest possible temperature, not to exceed 200 degrees. Using a gas oven could cause a fire or an explosion when the hydrogen peroxide is heated. Heating in an electric oven is safe to you, but your dishes could very well break. Heating in sunlight takes longer, but is safer for the dishes. You can repeat this process until the piece is clean.

WARNING!! Using a stronger solution of peroxide is extremely dangerous. It can burn the skin off your hands and cause permanent damage to mucous membranes, and unless you know chemistry very well you could have an explosion. Leave the work with stronger hydrogen peroxide to the professionals.

After you have cleaned your white ironstone piece, wash it thoroughly, as any cleaning chemicals that remain can migrate into your food.


One of the most common mistakes is to use Clorox or some other chlorine bleach to attempt to clean white ironstone. You may get rid of the stain, but you likely also will ruin your dish. Chlorine gets under the glaze and has a chemical reaction with the clay and glaze. Chlorine bleach has the ability to exist in several states, liquid, gas and crystal. The bleach penetrates the glaze and goes into the clay body. There, when it dries, it turns into crystals, which expand and will push the glaze right off the piece. The clay body of the piece is dissolved by the chemical, and the ironstone breaks back down to clay particles.

You will sometimes find a piece of white ironstone that is covered by a white powder. It may have been cleaned with bleach. Often these pieces will smell like chlorine bleach, and the surface is crumbling to the point where the glaze is coming off. Over time, the piece will continue to deteriorate, and eventually the clay body will begin to crumble. Soaking the piece in vinegar will stop the deterioration, but won’t repair the damage.

If you know of any tricks of the trade – like a process or recipe to clean wood with built up wax and dirt – let us know!

Guardian Angels

Icons. From the early days of organized religion in the western world, the subject of icons raised considerable debate. Nope, not going to go into the theological debate here. But, for some of us, the religious icon holds a place in our hearts. As any other work of art, icons evoke emotion but also, they serve to instruct. Times change though, so looking at icons today is different than, say, one hundred years ago because we look at the world a little differently.

Guardian Angel at Eclipse
Guardian Angel at Eclipse

Looking at this image of the guardian angel, for instance. When I was a kid, I believed that there was indeed a  guardian angel watching over me. Really believed. I even resisted doing things if I thought my guardian angel would not approve. I remember talking to her as well.  All in all, my guardian angel was a comfort to me, until I was in high school. This guardian angel is peaceful and the scene is bucolic. Until we look closer and see the children are very very close to the edge of the precipice.

Guardian Angel, Detail
Guardian Angel, Detail

Most parents in today’s world would not feel comforted knowing that a guardian angel stood between their children and the edge of and cliff. Most children today do not know about guardian angels. Well, the most that I can say is that my grandchildren do not know about guardian angels. I suppose it is pretty old school to believe that a spirit world is here on earth interceding for us and protecting us in our everyday life. Very old school . . .

In researching this image, I failed to find the artist (If you know let me know!). But I did find a website devoted to Holy Cards – and they are exquisite! Guardian Angel engraving npThe notion of guardian angels is an old one. As one example, in the seventeenth century, Francis de Sales addressed his followers, “Make yourself familiar with the Angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. without being seen, they are present with you.”  Thomas Aquinas who wrote the Summa Theologica, you might say, had two feet on the ground – he wrote philosophical tracts and if not for his timely death certainly would have been excommunicated because he followed Aristotle. But still, he believed that guardian angels served to instruct us on our journey through life.

There was a survey in Britain about guardian angels – the question posed, Do you believe in guardian angels? Not surprisingly, most of those who responded did not. I love the idea of a guardian angel but do I really believe there are guardian angels? Not in the same way as I did when I was a child. But I really like the idea . . . .

The print reminds me of this beautiful idea – true or not. The print is soft and lovely and comforting to think about . . . even in the midst of the craziness of the Flea Market where I found it!


Pottery made in the Ohio Valley

I like restaurant china because it is built to last and tough to break in everyday use. Hitting it with a hammer will break it. But it is tough and durable. But I did not know anything about the history much less the economy of the along the broad swath of the Ohio River. For example, East Liverpool, Ohio was crowned as the Center of Pottery. I did not even know there was a place called East Liverpool!

The first pottery in Ohio was established in the mid-eighteenth century according to The Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, Ohio. Fifty years later there were thousands of potteries – large and small supplying the country with wares for their homes. You have certainly used Ohio River Pottery in a restaurant – eg. Hall, Laughlin, Syracuse – many believe that the best restaurant dinnerware is still made along the Ohio River!

Locally, it was bricks. In 1920, the Brick and Clay Record informed their readers that production at the two plants in Nelsonville and the one plant in Logan were busy fulfilling orders placed from the previous year. Bricks made in Nelsonville won accolades at the World’s Fair and what is more, are highly regarded to this day.  But still   many believed that the best ceramics were produced in Europe.

Local potteries fought to win the American market. This backstamp from Homer Laughlin illustrated their business plan – the American Eagle has launched an attack on the English Lion.

Homer Laughlin Backstamp
Homer Laughlin Backstamp

Patterns from all of these potteries abound. The colors and images reflect the taste and style of previous generations – and sometimes politics. The durability of “restaurant china” is truly amazing – you can almost throw it. And it all looks great no matter the pattern or the mix.


The Rumble of Bikes

Tonight, our good neighbor here at Eclipse Company Town, Kiser’s Barbecue will not only have a band, Time Machine, but is holding its first Bike Night! Sounds like fun – even if you prefer a bike without a motor – if not too cold, you can eat, drink and listen under the stars! If it is not too cold, we will be sitting on our front porch next door! Kisers


I grew up in a city but we had a garden. Next to our garage, there was a five foot wide strip of land. My father planted tomatoes and lettuce – maybe there were other things like peppers. But tomatoes grew there abundantly. The very best tomatoes cannot be had at a grocery store – at least not the grocery stores that I remember. My Dad was the original Yoda but, rather than riddles he offered guidance in the form of brief statements that had the force of incontrovertible truths. And this was one of those truths: You can’t buy good tomatoes in a grocery store.

The other great small garden that I knew well belonged to my grandmother. She grew tomatoes and strawberries. As if it were yesterday, I remember hulling the berries at the kitchen sink. Of course, as in any really good memory, there was sun streaming in the window. She never really talked a lot so we worked in silence until the bowl was full.

In those small garden plots, gardening became a part of the life. You might even say that gardening was woven into the everyday of living as a warp thread. No matter how small that spot, something good will grow.

How I Became a Compulsive Gardener

I was a small time gardener until I started writing a dissertation and finally had a large spot to grow things. The garden spot was on a steep slope in the hills. Rocky. Steep. Impossible clay soil. It was a slow going. I started with a compost bin which was absolutely necessary to enrich the spoil. The compost bin was located on that steep slope. The second time that I slipped and fell on my way to that bin, I decided I needed to make some steps. It took awhile but I finally figured out how to build steps – one step at a time!

The first steps were the hardest!
The first steps were the hardest!

Ultimately, the building of the steps taught me how to write a dissertation – As I would take my shovel and dig into that hard clay, I understood that as in everything we do in life, it is one shovelful of clay, one step or one paragraph. By the time the dissertation was complete, the steps were complete and the garden was well on its way!


As the garden grew, I found that I had more and more ideas that required a much larger knowledge base than I learned in the city. Seed catalogs and gardening books provided inspiration for me – as they have since the very first printing of drawing of a garden. Medieval Health Guides included illustrations of plants in gardens – many of these are now online like this illustration of sage.

Hyssop from Acuinum Sanitatis
Hyssop from Acuinum Sanitatis

This week we added many new titles to our ever increasing collection of gardening books with books from a garden club in Worthington! They are readily identified by the bookplate – flowers of course! The best news is that our price for most of our books is well below the cost of a new paperback.  One of our new finds is very hard to put down because of the format – questions and answers that are organized so well that the book flows.  . .

F. F. Rockwell, 10,000 Garden Questions. Answered by Experts. (Doubleday, 1944, revised 1959).  I appreciate the title – it is accurately descriptive! Weighing in at a hefty 1390 pages, the coverage is encyclopedic. Even though there is only a brief article on organic gardening, there is a wealth of information,  so it is a good place to look when you have a question.

Speaking of organic, we have many books, both vintage and recent about organic gardening published by Rodale Press.

One of my favorite gardening books is The Landscape Gardening Book by Grace Tabor (1911). She begins this beautiful book with “Gardens do not happen. A Garden is as much the expression of an idea as a poem, or a symphony . . . But ordinarily we fail to recognize this until the actual work of evolving a garden lies before us.”  Soon after I built my first few steps, I realized that the most important element in the garden is structure that is guided by our plot of earth. The biggest strength of this book comes from her idea that every garden, no matter how small, needs a place for us to rest, to sit, to meditate . . . as she writes, there is a spirit in the garden. This is truly a lovely book!

The Landscape Gardening Book
The Landscape Gardening Book

More later . . . I can no longer ignore the laundry. It evolves.