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Firing Log

ancient kiln | 21st century logbook

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April 4, 2006

Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Filed under: Firing,Kiln,non-anagama,non-anagama — odin @ 7:13 pm

I managed to get through Monday without any peeking. Really, the kiln is much too hot but the temptation is strong. To take my mind off things, I decided to build a paper kiln. I’ve been reading about these since college (15 years now) and I’ve always wanted to try one. Sunday night when I got home, there was a Sunday paper on my doorstep. It was a sign. I don’t subscribe.

Now, I also had a hole from getting dirt for the top of the kiln. Given a hole, a free paper, and a spike-pod piece that had been sitting around for a couple years because the tip of the spike got broken somehow, I decided Monday was the perfect day and this was the perfect project. It would give me something to open today and thus help me get through two days of the cool down period (ideally, at least ten days).

Let’s start with the hole:

I threw in some damp wood. This turned out to be a mistake because I couldn’t get it to light. What I needed was some thin kindling underneath the bricks that make up the floor — there is an air inlet underneath the top layer. I should have filled that with easily burned wood. As it is, I had to resort to the raku burner to get the thing going.

Then I filled it in with some millends. The millends are fairly damp too — they aren’t kiln dried, but being cedar, once they get going they burn like the devil:

Then I piled up more wood over top. They say that early kilns were simple pits with shards placed over top to help hold in heat. I don’t have any appropriate shards (I have lots of shards, but when I smash up stuff, I smash it into little bits), but I hoped the paper/slip wrap would function similarly. As it turns out, one Sunday paper isn’t quite enough to make a nice thick shell — it was only a double layer at the bottom and when things got going, it ripped:

Mixed up some slip (twice, needed 3x this amount):

Grabbed the paper:

And pasted it up, threw dirt on for good measure. Dirt is the cheapest most abundant refractory around. Great stuff:

I threw some hot coals down there and started waiting. Although it looks like they caught, when I’d pull them out the smoke would go away, so the smoke was from the wood I threw into the air inlet, not from the kiln wood:

To make a long and rain soaked story short, I eventually got it lit. But then it smoked like crazy — thick green smoke — the kind that looks like a liquid. The smoke was was bothering me a lot and although I knew speeding things along would damage the unbisqed pot, I was mostly interested in seeing some fire so I forged ahead anyway. I fanned the flames and indeed, heard some ominous pops from the kiln. At last it really took off and boy, what a sight:

Notice the cat in the middle to lower left. The kiln’s cats LOVE fire! Click the pic for large version:

Today, I retreived the pot. When I got to the pit kiln, I saw shimmering heat from the sides of the dirt walls. That surprised me … till I realized it was a shimmer shadow from the anagama chimney. I’ve never been much for pit fire and this piece hasn’t convinced me there’s anything there for me to do. Here’s the rather bland piece:

But then I turned it over. There’s glaze on the foot! Honest to goodness glass! I cursed a bit in a surprised and happy fashion. As arrogant as it sounds, I thought to myself, “if I can fire a hole in the ground to a glass finish, I can fire anything.”

Clicking on the following pictures opens a large view:

You can see the damage from pushing the fire, but so what? Glaze!

Here’s the worst hole:

The best was yet to come — something even more interesting than the pottery itself. When I dove into the pit to retreive my bricks before filling in the hole, I discovered the dirt had melted — really melted! I was simply amazed — it’s very brittle, but very cool. I’m thinking about incorporating dirt with firebox pieces in the anagama itself:

So there it is. I can melt dirt. What a great day and better yet, one more down in which I did nothing with the anagama. I have to work the next three days so that will help too.

April 2, 2006

Snapshots (6th Firing)

Filed under: anagama, 6th,Firing — odin @ 11:34 pm

I spent the day doing cleanup before leaving the kiln. I’m pretty beat, but I thought I’d post a few pics. Each of these has a 1024×768 version — just click on the smaller images below.

I like this picture of the “cat warmer”, AKA: anagama kiln, better than the one I posted earlier. This is from early in the firing. Late in the firing, the cats moved mostly to the chimney area. If crossing the kiln, they did it at a fast trot by the time the kiln was at temperature.

kiln's cats love a warm anagama

It barely rained during the firing so the cats spent a lot of time sprawled out on the platform behind the chimney. It’s there so I can mess with the chimney during firing or place/remove the cap tile brick. I tried to catch them not looking at the camera to avoid the demon eyes issue … I wonder why I failed to think about turning off the sound in the camera — they always look when the focus chime goes off. Sleepiness impairs brain function!

cats protect anagama chimney

OK, enough about the cats, that isn’t what people look at anagama sites for. Here’s the pull from about 67 hours into the wood firing portion (note: this time frame includes the day it takes to get to temperature). The firing continued for an additional 30 hours but I had run out of pulls (I broke one accidentally). I should note that these are made of three clays — porcelain and two stonwares. I didn’t slip and score, just pounded them into a loaf and cut slabs — the crack separates along a porcelain/stoneware seam.

last pull from anagama 6th firing

last pull from anagama 6th firing
And last for now, here is a peek at the damage done:

disaster in the anagama

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