Give cracked pots a second chance in life with a little glue

Lay out all the broken pieces in the order they should go in the gluing process.

Lay out all the broken pieces in the order they should go in the gluing process.

I was helping Auntie get settled in her new apartment when I discovered a broken plate in the box of china. “Shall we glue it back together?” I asked. “Then you’ll still have eight plates in the set.”

Although she probably shuddered at the thought of broken pottery in her new apartment, she answered graciously. “No, that’s all right. You can have it if you want.”

So I took it home and mended it. Now we Savage Sisters understand that not every shard of shattered dishware needs to be saved. But on occasion a mug from Grandpa George or a saucer belonging to an expensive set might come in handy at your next coffee social. So here are steps in being Fiercely Frugal with broken pottery:

  1. Determine if this is a repair you should undertake or if you would simply be better off throwing it out.
  2. Determine if this is a repair you can actually make. It will work only if you have all the pieces and they are large enough to jigsaw-puzzle back together.
  3. See if you have the proper glue on hand or if you can obtain it. (Extra points are awarded if you can get it on sale with a coupon or find usable glue for pennies at a yard sale.) Some folks use wood glue, although it’s not waterproof. Others prefer epoxy or Krazy Glue. Read the labels and choose a glue that lists “china” as an appropriate surface.

    I used a toothpick to mix the 2-part epoxy on a piece of cardboard.

    I used a toothpick to mix the 2-part epoxy on a piece of cardboard.

  4. If necessary, cover the work area with newspaper, an old shower curtain, or other protective material.
  5. Dry-fit the pieces and lay them out accordingly. Pay attention to the order in which the pieces should be attached before you begin the gluing process. You don’t want to end up with a hole in the middle and a tiny shard left over that you can’t shove into the hole.
  6. Open the glue, squeeze a bead of it onto the edges of the shard that will come in contact with the edges of the plate, and press the piece into place. Hold carefully until the glue begins to be absorbed and starts to “take” in its new position. Try not to put glue on an edge that won’t immediately come into contact with a surface. Not only will it come off on your fingers and be messy, but it may also dry fast enough to later interfere with your attempt to glue the piece that needs to go on that edge.
  7. Proceed slowly. You can even let the first pieces dry overnight and then return to the project the next day. You basically get only one chance to glue each piece into place, so don’t be hasty with this step. Once they’re set, it’s too late to adjust. If you used epoxy glue, of course the portion you mixed earlier will be as hard as a rock the next morning and you’ll have to mix a fresh batch.  
    Can you even see the repair?
    Can you even see the repair?
  8. Now you can use the mended item wherever you wish. Check to see if some of the pieces shifted slightly in the drying process and left sharp edges. You may want to file the edges down or fill the gaps with more glue for safety reasons. Also be aware that the repairs won’t be completely invisible, even if you didn’t have to file or fill them. But you can creatively disguise them.
  • Save the mended plate as a last resort for your next dinner party, and be sure you are the one who gets it. None of the guests will be the wiser.
  • Use it as a serving platter and hide the mend with parsley or other garnish.
  • Use it as an elegant protection under a plant, such as I did in my garden window. The third bobble-headed turtle from the front especially appreciates my penchant for repair because after I brought him home from a Mexican trip, my cat batted him to the floor where he was accidentally stepped on. A little glue let the turtle rejoin the parade.
The mended turtle cheerfully marches around the mended plate.

The mended turtle cheerfully marches around the mended plate.

Other ideas for broken pottery before it heads for the landfill:

~ Use the shards for drainage at the bottom of potted plants.

~ Incorporate them in a craft project such as my friend Dana does when creating stepping stones for the garden. Other possible projects include mirror frames, collages, tables, trays, counter tops, etc.

~ Even if a mended mug won’t hold coffee anymore, it might be just the thing for pencils in the office, especially if the mug has sentimental value.

~ Remember to wash your mended pieces by hand, not in the dishwasher where they may fall apart.


Far be it from the Savage Sisters to encourage you to fill up your homes with cracked crockery. You might not want to bother with a repair for several reasons. Perhaps you have no sentimental attachment to the broken piece, or it’s not salvageable, or you don’t have a safe place to store it until it can be mended. If you do throw it out, just be careful you don’t cut yourself or allow the shards to pose a danger to garbage collectors.

Written by Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana

© 2008-2009, The Savage Sisters

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