How to Mend Broken Pottery or Ceramics

Table of Contents

It’s both an art and a craft. How to mend broken pottery involves careful cleaning, aligning the pieces, and using strong adhesives or specialized materials to bring it back to life. Patience and precision are key. Mending broken pottery can restore its beauty and functionality.

  1. Assess the damage and gather all broken pieces.
  2. Clean each piece thoroughly, ensuring no dirt or dust.
  3. Choose the right adhesive for the type of pottery.
  4. Carefully apply adhesive to the edges of the broken pieces.
  5. Align and press the pieces together.
  6. Wipe away any excess adhesive with a clean cloth or tissue.
  7. Allow the adhesive to dry for the time recommended.
  8. For extra strength, consider using a sealant over the mended area.
  9. Gently sand any rough edges if necessary.
  10. Store or display the pottery in a safe place to avoid future damage.

My Story: The Bird Bath that Defied Odds

I once poured my heart and soul into crafting a gorgeous ceramic bird bath. One afternoon, as I was tending to the garden, my heart sank when I spotted a prominent crack streaking across its bowl. By the next morning, my worst fears were confirmed when I found it split in two on the grass.

Rummaging through my garage, I found a tube of Gorilla glue. I’d previously had success with it, so I thought, “Why not?” Carefully, I applied the adhesive, and using my woodworking clamps, I held the two halves together, allowing the bond to strengthen. I gave it several days, ensuring the glue had set perfectly.

With a mix of hope and apprehension, I filled the mended bird bath with water and placed it back in its spot. Honestly, I half-expected to see it shattered or emptied by the next day. But, to my astonishment, it was intact. Fast forward to today, two years later, and it still stands strong, defying my initial expectations.

What I Used to Repair my Bird Bath

For this project I had a big repair so I needed more glue. I use a small tube of Gorilla Max Strength Clear Construction Adhesive. This would be good if you have larger projects. Here is what I used: Shop Artabys – Check Price.

For smaller finer repair projects I have used Gorilla Super Glue with great outcomes: Shop Artabys – Check Price.

And finally, in some cases, especially for outdoors, like my bird bath, I used a waterproof clear sealer – Gorilla Waterproof Patch & Seal Spray. I feel like this helped protect the glue and made it weather resistant. Shop Artabys – Check Price.

1 Assess the Damage and Gather All Broken Pieces

When a beloved pottery piece breaks, it can be heart-wrenching, but before you dive into fixing it, it’s essential to take a systematic approach.

Understanding the Damage

First things first, take a moment to really look at the damage. How many pieces are we talking about? Are there tiny shards, or is it a clean break? Sometimes, understanding the extent of the damage can help you decide whether it’s worth trying to fix on your own, or if you might need professional help. Also, it’s important to check if the broken edges are sharp. Safety should always be a priority.

Gathering the Pieces

Once you’ve assessed the situation, start gathering all the broken pieces. A clean workspace is key here. Lay out a soft cloth or towel, and place the pieces on it. This ensures you won’t miss any pieces, and it also helps protect the edges from further damage.

Checking for Missing Pieces

Even after you’ve collected the broken parts, it’s a good idea to double-check the area where the pottery broke. Small shards can easily go unnoticed and might be essential for a seamless repair.

Deciding on the Repair Approach

Now that you have a clear idea of the damage and all the pieces at hand, you can decide on your repair approach. If it’s a clean break, you might find it straightforward to mend. But if there are numerous pieces or if the pottery has intricate designs or patterns, you’ll need to strategize on how to put it back together in the right order.

2 Clean each piece thoroughly, ensuring no dirt or dust.

When it comes to mending broken pottery, the cleaning process is of paramount importance. If you think about it, trying to glue together dirty pieces is like trying to paint on a dusty canvas – it’s not going to end well.

Importance of a Clean Surface

A clean surface ensures that the adhesive or bonding agent you’re using can make direct contact with the pottery, without any barriers. Any dirt, dust, or grime acts as a barrier, preventing a strong bond. This can lead to the piece not holding together well, or even failing shortly after repair.

How to Clean Effectively

I start by gently brushing off any loose dirt or debris with a soft brush. Next, take a damp cloth and gently wipe each piece. Be very gentle to avoid causing any additional damage. Remember, wet pottery, especially if it’s a fresh break, can be very fragile.

For stubborn dirt or grime, you might consider using a mild detergent diluted in water. However, ensure you rinse off any soap residue completely, as this can interfere with the bonding process. After cleaning, let the pieces dry completely before attempting to bond them together.

The Role of Patience

I can’t stress enough how essential patience is during this process. Rushing through the cleaning stage or trying to mend the pieces when they’re still damp can compromise the entire repair job. It’s worth taking your time, ensuring each piece is spotless and completely dry, setting the stage for a successful repair.

The cleaning step in pottery repair is foundational. It’s more than just a preparatory step; it’s an integral part of ensuring the longevity of the mended pottery.

3 Choose the right adhesive for the type of pottery.

Pottery repair is a bit like putting together a puzzle. But instead of interlocking pieces, you’re relying heavily on an adhesive to do the magic. And trust me, not all adhesives are made equal, especially when it comes to pottery.

Understanding Pottery Types

First, let’s get something straight. Pottery varies in material and firing techniques. You might come across earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, or bone china, to name a few. Each type has its unique properties, and understanding these can guide you in choosing the right adhesive.

Why Adhesive Matters

Think of the adhesive as the unsung hero of pottery repair. It binds the broken pieces together, ensuring they stay that way. But here’s the catch – use the wrong type, and you might end up with a weak bond, or worse, a bond that doesn’t last. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; it just doesn’t work.

Navigating the Adhesive Aisle

So, you’re probably wondering, “How do I choose the right one?” Well, for starters, avoid general-purpose glues. While they might be great for other household repairs, pottery requires something more specific.

For ceramics and porcelain, you’ll want to lean towards epoxies. These adhesives are strong, durable, and can handle the nuances of pottery repair. Cyanoacrylate, often known as super glue, can also work for some repairs, but it might not always be the best for larger or more delicate pieces.

For more porous pottery like earthenware, you’d benefit from PVA glues. They penetrate the porous surface, ensuring a solid bond. But remember, always read the label and look for adhesives that specifically mention their suitability for pottery or ceramics.

Testing Before the Final Bond

If you’re ever in doubt, test a small amount on a non-visible part of the pottery. This gives you a feel for the adhesive’s strength and how it reacts with the pottery material. Plus, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

4 Carefully Apply Adhesive to the Edges of the Broken Pieces

When it comes to mending pottery, it’s all about precision and patience. One of the most crucial steps in the repair process is ensuring that the adhesive is applied just right.

Choosing the Right Tools

First things first, before diving into the repair, it’s vital to have the right tools on hand. A fine brush or a small spatula can be incredibly helpful in ensuring that the adhesive is spread evenly. You’ll want to avoid using anything too large or cumbersome; this isn’t a moment for heavy-handedness.

The Art of Application

When I’ve tackled pottery repairs in the past, I found that less is more. It’s easy to think that slathering on a lot of adhesive will give you a stronger bond, but that’s not the case. An excess of glue can seep out when you press the pieces together, leaving an unsightly residue. Instead, aim for a thin, even layer of adhesive on both edges of the broken pieces. This way, when they’re pressed together, the bond is strong, and the appearance is clean.

Waiting for the Right Moment

After applying the adhesive, it’s not about immediately pressing the pieces together. Give it a few moments. Some adhesives need a bit of time to become tacky, which can actually help in achieving a stronger bond.

Aligning with Precision

Once you’ve got that adhesive on, it’s game time. But, take a deep breath, because this part requires the utmost precision. You’ll want to ensure that every shard aligns perfectly with its counterpart. Any misalignment can be noticeable, and the last thing you want is a piece that looks disjointed.

In the end, the key to successfully mending pottery lies in the details. From the tools you use to the way you apply the adhesive, every step matters.

5 Align and Press the Pieces Together

There’s a kind of magic in the moment when two broken pieces of pottery come together. It’s the culmination of your efforts, but it also requires a delicate touch and a keen eye.

The Importance of Alignment

Getting the alignment right is crucial. If you’ve ever tried to fit two puzzle pieces together that don’t match, you’ll know the frustration. It’s the same with pottery. Ensuring the pieces line up just right will make the difference between a repair that’s noticeable and one that seamlessly blends in. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of misaligned pottery pieces, and while they hold a certain charm, there’s something satisfying about a repair that’s nearly invisible.

Feeling the Connection

As you align the pieces, you’ll want to feel for that perfect fit. Sometimes, it’s less about what you see and more about what you feel. The edges should nestle against each other without any gaps. Once you feel that snug fit, it’s a sign that you’ve got the alignment just right.

Applying the Right Pressure

Now, pressing the pieces together isn’t about using brute force. It’s about applying even, consistent pressure. Too much, and you risk squeezing out all the adhesive or even causing more damage. Too little, and the bond might not hold. The goal here is to ensure that the adhesive spreads evenly between the pieces, creating a tight bond. I like to imagine I’m giving the pottery a gentle hug, firm but caring.

Patience is a Virtue

Once you’ve pressed the pieces together, it’s time for some patience. While you might be eager to see the results, it’s essential to give the adhesive time to set. Holding the pieces in place for a minute or two ensures they won’t shift as the adhesive starts to work its magic.

In the world of pottery repair, this step is like a dance. It’s about finding that balance between precision and care, ensuring each movement is deliberate.

6 Wipe Away Any Excess Adhesive with a Clean Cloth or Tissue

The journey of mending pottery is full of little nuances. One of the unsung heroes in this process, believe it or not, is that moment when you wipe away the excess adhesive. It’s like the finishing touch, the polish on a newly mended piece.

The Right Tool for the Job

When it comes to wiping away excess adhesive, the tool you use makes all the difference. While it might seem trivial, picking the right cloth or tissue can be a game-changer. Personally, I prefer using a soft, lint-free cloth or a tissue that doesn’t easily tear. It needs to be absorbent enough to pick up the excess glue and gentle enough not to harm the pottery’s surface.

The Art of the Wipe

Timing is everything. If you wait too long, the adhesive starts to set, making it difficult to wipe away. Jump in too soon, and you might disrupt the bond you’re trying to form. Over the years, I’ve found there’s a sweet spot, usually a few seconds after pressing the pieces together. That’s when the adhesive is still malleable but not too runny.

A Gentle Touch

Here’s where your inner artist needs to shine. Wipe away the adhesive with a gentle, outward motion, ensuring you don’t push any back into the crack or spread it onto areas of the pottery where it’s not needed. It’s a bit like painting, where every movement is deliberate, and every stroke counts.

The Final Result

Once you’ve wiped away the excess, you can really appreciate the transformation. It’s not just about fixing a broken piece; it’s about restoring its beauty. And though this step might seem minor in the grand scheme of things, it’s essential in ensuring the finished product looks its best.

7 Allow the Adhesive to Dry for the Time Recommended

We’ve all been there. After all the effort of aligning the pieces and getting them to stick, it’s tempting to rush the drying process. But, here’s where patience truly pays off.

The Science Behind Drying

When you think about it, every adhesive is a concoction of chemicals designed to bind things together. These chemicals need time to do their magic. During the drying process, the adhesive undergoes a series of chemical reactions. These reactions solidify the bond, ensuring that your pottery holds together in the long run. So, by respecting the drying time, you’re actually giving the adhesive its best shot at creating a solid bond.

The Risk of Rushing

I’ll admit, I’ve tried to rush things a couple of times. I once thought a hairdryer might speed things up. Bad idea. When you rush the drying process, the bond doesn’t form properly. That pottery you painstakingly pieced together? It might hold for a bit, but chances are, it’ll break again, and often at the same spot. And trust me, re-gluing is a lot more challenging than getting it right the first time.

Reading the Label is Key

Every adhesive is unique. Some might take hours, while others might take days. It’s crucial to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Those instructions are based on extensive testing, and they exist for a reason.

Playing the Waiting Game

It might feel like watching paint dry, but this is your pottery’s final stretch on its road to recovery. Find a safe spot for it, where it won’t be disturbed, and just let it be. I usually use this time to clean up or start on another project. Before you know it, the waiting period will be over, and your pottery will be ready for its grand reveal.

8 For Extra Strength, Consider Using a Sealant Over the Mended Area

Pottery holds a lot of emotional value. When I mend a piece, I’m not just restoring its physical form; I’m also preserving the memories it carries. So, it’s only natural to want that fix to last for a long time. This is where sealants come into play.

Why Use a Sealant?

When we talk about sealants, we’re referring to an additional layer that covers the mended area to provide an extra layer of protection. Sealants act as a protective shield, guarding against moisture, dirt, and general wear and tear. It’s kind of like putting a protective case on your phone. You’ve already got the screen protector (the adhesive), but the case (the sealant) ensures that it’s safe from all kinds of accidental mishaps.

Picking the Right Sealant

There’s a whole world of sealants out there, and each has its own strengths. Some are waterproof, while others are resistant to UV rays or chemicals. Depending on where you plan to keep your mended pottery, you’ll need to choose accordingly. If it’s an outdoor piece, like a birdbath, a waterproof and UV-resistant sealant might be ideal. For indoor items, a basic sealant should suffice.

How to Apply

Application is pretty straightforward. Once the adhesive has dried fully, I use a small brush to apply the sealant over the mended area. It’s essential to be gentle, ensuring a smooth layer that doesn’t leave brush marks. Allow the sealant to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Seal or Not to Seal

While sealants offer extra protection, they might not always be necessary. If your mended pottery is purely decorative and won’t be exposed to the elements, you might choose to skip this step. However, for those pieces that still have a functional role or are often handled, a sealant can be a real game-changer.

9 Gently Sand Any Rough Edges if Necessary

When it comes to mending pottery, the goal is not just to make it whole again, but to make it as close to its original state as possible. Sometimes, after the adhesive dries and everything’s set, you might notice some rough edges that need a bit of refining. That’s where sanding comes into the picture.

The Purpose of Sanding

Even when you do everything right, the process of fixing broken pottery can leave behind some uneven or sharp areas. These can be a hazard, especially if the pottery is something you handle regularly. Plus, aesthetically, it’s just more pleasing to have a smooth, seamless finish. Sanding helps achieve that perfection by leveling out those imperfections.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper

Sanding pottery is a delicate task, and using the right sandpaper is crucial. I typically start with a finer grit, like 600, to ensure I don’t remove too much material or cause further damage. If needed, I might move to a slightly coarser grit, but it’s always best to start fine and work your way up.

The Sanding Process

Hold the pottery firmly, but without applying too much pressure. Using your chosen sandpaper, begin to gently sand the rough area in a circular motion. The key here is patience. It’s better to take your time and achieve a smooth finish than to rush and risk damaging the piece further.

Safety First

Remember, when sanding, tiny particles can be released into the air. It’s a good idea to wear a mask or, at the very least, ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. And always wash your hands after finishing.

10 Store or Display the Pottery in a Safe Place to Avoid Future Damage

Once you’ve put in the effort to mend a cherished piece of pottery, the last thing you want is for it to meet another unfortunate fate. Finding the right spot to store or display it is more than just about aesthetics; it’s about preserving the hard work and memories attached to that piece.

Considering the Item’s Function

First, think about what the pottery is used for. If it’s a functional piece like a mug or a bowl, consider if you still want to use it or if it’d be better as a decorative item. Sometimes, even if a piece is mended perfectly, I’d choose to retire it from daily use just to be on the safe side.

Choosing the Right Location

If you’re looking to display your pottery, pick a spot where it’s less likely to be knocked over or bumped into. Higher shelves or inside a glass-fronted cabinet can be ideal. And trust me, having experienced a few heartbreaks, I’ve learned to keep my treasured pieces away from high-traffic areas and precarious edges.

Preventing Future Accidents

Consider using museum putty or non-slip mats under your pottery, especially if you’re placing them on smooth surfaces. This can prevent them from sliding around. It’s a small step, but it provides an added layer of security for your pottery.

Think About Environmental Factors

Lastly, think about the environment. Direct sunlight can fade colors over time, and areas with fluctuating temperatures might not be the best for pottery, especially if it’s been mended. A stable environment will ensure your piece remains intact and vibrant for years to come.


China-Mending Secrets: Save Money, Earn Money by Following these Tips. Gaudens, Paul St, and Arthur R. Jackson. “China-Mending Secrets: Save Money, Earn Money by Following these Tips.” Design 54, no. 9 (1953): 218-229.

Old repairs of china and glass. Garachon, Isabelle. “Old repairs of china and glass.” The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 58, no. 1 (2010): 34-55.

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