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Firing Log

ancient kiln | 21st century logbook

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April 1, 2006

Firing Update, #4

Filed under: anagama, 6th,Firing — odin @ 8:51 am

It’s 8:00 am. I’ve been up since 2:00 pm yesterday. I guess that isn’t so long but the sleep issue is catching up with me. Tony (a regular) is coming this morning — I can hardly wait. If one can see a mirage of sleep, I’m about to.

I’m trying to think of ways to stay awake, except I keep daydreaming about sleeping. One way is to get one armload of wood at a time from the shed instead of a wheelbarrow load. It’s much easier to stay awake when standing. I made some tea earlier because I knew the whistle would wake me if I dozed. I didn’t really want the tea.

I’ve been listening to This American Life, the Habeas Schmabeas episode is quite the listen. But now the stories aren’t keeping me awake — they are weaving themselves into dreams I have. So I decided to try to write an entry. It’s working and I feel much more alert.

I pulled the third pull (FN 1) from the kiln last night. Actually, I tried to pull the third but it got stuck and the loop for the pole broke. So I pulled out #4 — the last one I have. The glaze is very good (YEAH — relief arrived, I’ll just write this and go to bed — SO HAPPY). Even on the stoneware the glaze is thick and glassy. Porcelain never has issues w/ glassy glaze but my stonewares haven’t been doing so well.

It’s confusing though because the kiln monitor is showing a lower temperature than in other firings. Raising the temperature has been hard this time. First, there is no wind. I mean none. Fire shoots straight up from the chimney. I noticed the few times a breeze blew through that the temperature rose (gosh — feels like I already wrote about this). It’s usually blowing like the devil whenever I fire.

Secondly, I may have made a stacking error. Thinking back to the first firing, there was a lot of stuff tumble stacked in the kiln (FN 2). All us stokers being inexperienced, we smashed that stuff up pretty quickly. However, for the stuff that survived, the glaze was simply gorgeous. In subsequent firings I stacked closer and closer to the firebox and things got progressively worse and worse. Last firing, I backed off a bit and things got better. This firing I backed off more but maybe too much. Perhaps there isn’t enough mass in the kiln.

And right now, it’s pouring rain. Steam is rising again meaning water is cooling off all that soil I warmed. Did I already mention the curiosity with pyrometer? It 41 mV after about a day, day and half of wood — I can’t recall exactly. Then stuck at about 40. Early on, the fire was easy to look at: orange. After a day, the fire was painfully bright to look at without welding goggles.

A word to the wise — sleepy stokers suck. Tony’s getting the temperature back up, which is quite the relief. Another word, writing is quite a good way to wake up. I finally feel alert and awake — just in time for bed.

Anyway, last comment — the pulls make all the difference. Cones don’t work in this kiln (they melt early on), and type K thermocouples are notoriously inaccurate. But a pull doesn’t lie to you. If it’s glossy and coated with glaze, that’s what is going on. If it is rough and dry, that’s what is going on.


1. A pull is just a piece pulled from the hot kiln. My pulls for this firing are like small baskets about 1×3 inches with a tall loop in the center. They’re made of the three clays I used most — sort of neopolitan.

2. Tumble stacking is a suggestion people often make to me. But it just doesn’t work in this kiln because the pieces get so heavily coated with glaze — it just results in glued together gobs of pots.

March 31, 2006

Firing Update, #3

Filed under: anagama, 6th,Firing — odin @ 7:19 am

A quick note before I crash, and I’m crashing hard.

It was a hard night last night. Maybe I’m pushing the kiln but it usually seems hotter by this time. Some data points: it’s the warmest I’ve ever fired and there has been very little wind. Usually it is colder than Antarctica during firings. Not this time — I’m a actually sweating with only a t-shirt and shirt. Also missing is the steady 25 mph wind w/ 50 mph gusts.

Interestingly, the wind picked up after dawn and the temperatue shot up. I’ll have to consider that — is the wind making a stronger draft, or is it slowing the draft down? I’ll have to think back but realisticly, after I wake up. I need to sleep right now.

Oh, another concerned citizen stopped by to warn me of a chimney fire. I’ve learned to make certain that the 911 call center is well advised of my firings. A call and fax prior and a call every evening as well. No firetrucks or cops yet so it seems to be working.

Bed …. now.

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