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Firing Log

ancient kiln | 21st century logbook

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March 27, 2006

Loaded and Lit

Filed under: anagama, 6th,Firing — odin @ 12:45 pm

A week ago I wrote about how I planned to finish the kiln loading at midnight on Sunday, chat with the kiln god, light the gas burner, and sip hot cocoa through the night. Things didn’t quite go according to plan.

It seem to be taking me longer and longer and longer to load the kiln. I didn’t get the burner lit till 5:30 am Monday morning and then I went straight to bed on the floor of the studio lounge. I’d post a picture of my “lounge” (a capacious 5×8′ room), but everything is in disarray at the moment, and frankly, I’m too tired to even bother with the picture or the cleaning.

I started working yesterday about 9:00 am. Granted, not all that time was loading — there were some other small things I had to take care of around the kiln, but loading commenced at 1:00 pm and finished about 3:30 am (14.5 hours). I was kind of grumpy so I decided to go home and shower before having my chat with the kiln. I didn’t want to say anything mean.

I hurt everywhere. Laying on my side in a narrow cave, poked by bricks, and reaching in only the most unnatural ways possible — for that long — takes a toll on the body and the spirit. I’ve decided that from now on, I’ll set aside two days for loading, or only make really big stuff. With cups and bowls and such, it really is too much to do in one day.

I have so many things I want to mention about firing an anagama, but right now, even typing hurts. Instead, I’m going to nurse my cuts, scrapes, and pulled muscles while considering the sacrifices it seems that anagamas require. Some of that sacrifice must be made in blood. I bled, pounded, and pulled my body a lot yesterday — I sure hope the kiln thinks it is enough.

March 26, 2006

The Day Before

Filed under: anagama,anagama, 6th,Firing,Kiln — odin @ 12:08 am

This isn’t going to be a themed entry, just an outline of the day before loading. I’m also not spell-checking it. Too tired.

Woke up, went out to the kiln and loaded my Jetta Truck (FN 1) with propane tanks: one 20 pounder, a 30, and two 40s. Drove into town to get gas — the feed store was busy like I’ve never seen it. I had to go in twice to ask for someone to pump gas. Of course, he sees all the tanks and asks what I need all the gas for. I know he’s just fishing for whether I’m running a meth lab. I should have said “I’m making a batch of crank” just to see what happened. Silly really, as if a cooker is going to tell the truth. So I explained about the kiln, pre-heating, blah blah blah. I just wanted to get gone.

Arriving back at the kiln, I moved a three wheelbarrow loads of dirt to fill a hole I shouldn’t have dug. It was good — after building the kiln, I kind of like digging.

Next I pulled out the thermocouples, turned on the digital multimeters and the computer, fired up a torch, and made sure the kiln monitor was working. It was. So I replaced them, restrung the wires from the probes to the computer, and moved another three wheelbarrow loads of dirt onto the kiln. The dirt on the top had worn away. Once all the organics in the dirt have burned off, it turns “Mars Dust Red” and is easily blown off. The layer on top of the kiln was down to the outer crust of the kiln so I spread about three inches of fresh soil over it. The digging was fun.

After that, I pulled out the bricks blocking the entrance … with some trepidation I might add. I knew the cats had been going in and out of the sutema for some time (until I recently closed it off) and I was worried there might be some major stink. I had nothing to fear as it turns out. They were living in the sutema and cats don’t “do their business” where they live. So I crawled in and inspected the ceiling. It looks OK but there are some gaps that concern me. I might rebuild it this summer. Some of the bricks are building up some pretty blobs of glass.

So, ceiling inspection done, I turned my attention to the floor. Some of the bricks I use as post piers were sloping downward. I want them to slope more toward the back of the kiln so that the kiln shelves won’t fall forward into the firebox. It’s OK if they lean to the back a little because the back of the kiln and intervening shelves will support them. Leaning forward is a disaster. So I started sweeping out sand and moving bricks and leveling them off with fired bits of wadding and sometimes new wadding with old bits shoved into the new stuff. I poured new sand and generally got it ready for tomorrow’s loading. That took most of the day. The cats came in and checked it out. They approve I think.

anagama kiln cats
Then I arranged the door bricks. Sometime last summer, I had broken my special brick (2.5″ thick, 9″ wide, 23″ long), so I had to cut a new tile brick to fit from the stock size (2.5 x 12 x 24). Got that done and finished arranging the door. I’ll pull those out tomorrow and set them aside to make closing the doorway easy (won’t have to sort through random bricks).

Sometime during the day, I got my gas burner back. Some years ago I built a raku kiln and it gets used by a group that does pottery through the local community college. Anyway, I think I’m going to stop lending it because they like it configured without a regulator. I want the regulator because it helps keep the tanks from freezing as soon, and redoing the hosing is always a hassle. Realizing I was missing a fitting I needed, I had to run back into town, get the fitting, some McDonalds, and came back to the kiln. So two hours I could have used for something else: wasted. I finished the hose and put on a new regulator that accepts two bottles. That way I won’t have to turn off the burner when switching tanks.

OK, next, I did some general cleanup and organizing. Short sentence, long time. I got home at 11:30 pm.


1. I treat that car like a 1/3 ton truck. I have no qualms about stashing 200 lbs of material in each passenger seat … well, not the middle, but still, that’s 600 pounds of cargo capacity.

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