Category Archives: pottery

Kickwheel Conversion and Other Progress

wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
Large keyaki wood wheel head made to fit over steel wheel head.
Large keyaki wood wheel head made to fit over steel wheel head.

Remember this? This large banding wheel came into the studio last year, and I decided to try making a kickwheel out of it. I asked friend to weld some arms onto the neck that would act as a frame for a flywheel. This is what came back into the studio yesterday, and I must say I am very excited. After all, welding didn’t work out, but my friend was able to fashion a sleeve to fit around the neck and bolted arms to the sleeve. 2 set screws hold the sleeve in place. This arrangement can actually be disassembled for easy transport!

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IMG01865All I have left to do is to bolt a wooden flywheel to the steel frame, and I’ll be turning and paddling pots to my little heart’s content.  The large wheel head and higher momentum of this wheel will allow me to make larger work with greater ease than my low momentum Karatsu style kickwheel.

Here are a few of the other things that have been happening this last two days:

Kutsu gata food dishes. White Karatsu clay + feldspar, sand.
Kutsu gata food dishes. White Karatsu clay + feldspar, sand.
Oval food dish, Karatsu white clay + feldspar, sand.
Oval food dish, Karatsu white clay + feldspar, sand.
Ido style bowl, and it's little brother. Local Taku clay + Jiyugaoka clay, sand, feldspar grit.
Ido style bowl, and it’s little brother. Local Taku clay + Jiyugaoka clay, sand, feldspar grit.
Foot view of the same
Foot view of the same

Being Productive

Today was an unusually productive studio day for me. Usually I get sidetracked with something, but today I was in the zone baby!

Started out at 5 am, finishing up brush decoration on a few pots before breaking out the glaze and getting dirty. Rarely are all the pots in the queue getting the same glaze, but today they were, so one bucket instead of 5 to wade around, a simple setup and a simple cleanup.  From 6 to 9am I got the glaze prepped and glazing station set up, about 170 pots glazed, and everything cleaned up again. That freed me up to spend the rest of the day loading the kiln.

From 9 to 10am I had breakfast/lunch, then got busy breaking out the kiln loading kit and cat proofing the kiln doorways. Nothing worse than a cat walking around on all of your freshly loaded green glazed pots.  From about 12 to 5 pm I loaded 150 pots, finishing one of the two stacks that fit in the rear chamber.

Now that the pots are loaded I have about 15 ware boards freed up for making more pots, then those will get decorated and glazed, and the second stack loaded into the rear chamber. Cat doors in place, the chamber should be safe until I have the next batch of pots ready to load.

Going out this evening with family and friends to a restaurant the next town over. Beer is going to taste good tonight!

 

TV Crew Visit Studio

Today I had a very nice visit from a television station who did a very nice job of filming the studio, as well as conducting an interview with me for a show segment coming up in August. They filmed the studio and kiln, me making a coil and paddle jar, me glazing a bisqued piece of  similar form, and also finished pieces which had the same glaze as the demo forms.

All in all, a very thorough job on their part, although I have no idea how they will edit everything down to fit in a 5 minute segment.

I had taken photos of the crew to put up on the blog, but apparently the station prefers not to have behind the scenes images of its projects made public, so I am leaving them out for now.

I will, however, include a few images similar to what may show up on the air in a few weeks. Also, once the show airs and the segment is viewable on the internet, I will post a link to it for all this blog’s viewers.

Bisque 素焼き

Today is the first load of bisque aimed at the fall firing of the wood kiln.  About 28 ware boards worth of pots, I really tried to get as much packed in as possible, to maximize the gas used.

I don’t pack glaze firings very tight because I want the calories getting around to  everything, but for bisque I’m not too picky.
700C – 750C is my usual peak temp,  I like the ware to be very absorbent for glazing, however the resulting ware is quite fragile and needs careful handling.

This time around there are quite a few slab plates of various shapes and sizes, which I am a bit worried will crack. These are stacked on spacers, then more spacers between stacked plates, because I don’t want to take any chances with cracking. The rest of everything is pretty safe, so packed and stacked without too much thought other than to get as much in as possible.

Clay/Centipede Storage

In 2010, when we started digging the trench for the wood kiln, we found a seam of clay from about 60cm – 90cm down. This 30cm thick seam stretched as far as we dug, but with varying levels of iron. I ended up keeping a few hundred kilos of the lightest stuff, and it has been taking up space in bags that have been slowly decomposing over the last 3 – 4 years.

Finally, I rallied the gumption to get that big pile of clay moved today. First, I built an enclosure on the edge of the property behind the kiln chimney, then I started shoveling. The bags were so far gone that they just tore apart if I moved them, so there ended up being very little heavy lifting.

Scavenged  roadside construction boards.
Scavenged roadside construction boards.

I recently came into a big load of boards used by roadside crews to build temporary retaining walls. They are nice sturdy pine boards (2 1/2 inches thick) and are great for all sorts of projects, although they are not all that great looking.

I ended up just pounding in some steel stakes and tying the boards to them. I looked for some little screw-in brackets to go around the rods and onto the wood, but alas this is Taku, and none of the hardware stores had that sort of hardware.  This happens often, and my go to solution is almost always the same: stainless steel wire. It is cheap, comes in various thicknesses, and pretty much lasts forever once in place.

Stainless steel ties.
Stainless steel ties.

Once two sides were finished, I had a place to put clay, but the storage area is not quite finished. I still plan to put in  one or two dividers, so that I have 2 or 3 sections for storing different types of clay. Here is what it looks like so far:

Clay settling into its new home.
Clay settling into its new home.
Clay from the kiln trench
Clay from the kiln trench
Clay from the neighborhood reservoir
Clay from the neighborhood reservoir

The clay that is still in bags came from about 200 meters away, from the farm reservoir. We drain and muck it out once every 2 years, and that is when I discovered the clay seam.  It is not very refractory clay, but it makes very nice pots if fired to the proper temp.

During the process of moving all of this clay, I ended up killing 4, count ’em 4, centipedes , ranging from medium to gargantuan. Normally I would let them go, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of them in the workshop, and they have  a very nasty bite.

Making Furniture

Nope, not that kind…

These last 2 weeks I have been getting over my fear and loathing of slabs, because I have finally figured out how to keep them from cracking during drying. So, lots of slab plates for starters, then a customer came in who wanted even more in different sizes for his sushi restaurant. This is good high end restaurant, and there is a very high chance of repeat business.

Anyway, I had been using someone else’s risers for my plates, but since I needed my own anyway, I spent a few hours today mixing up some fireclay and press molded my own risers.  Below are pictures of the very simple process. These risers will be used during drying and also during firing to support corners and edges. The fire clay is very rough and easy to grind off if the glaze runs and sticks to it.

Riser jig. I just press in a clay coil then trim lengthwise with a wire.
Riser jig. I just press in a clay coil then trim lengthwise with a wire.
Risers sitting on plaster to stiffen.
Risers sitting on plaster to stiffen.
Risers before cutting
Risers before cutting
After cutting, about 360 risers.
After cutting, about 360 risers.

Here are some of the plates that have been made so far:

 

Slabs cut and laid to rest/stiffen for a night.
Slabs cut and laid to rest/stiffen for a night.
Stiffened slabs cut to match template.
Stiffened slabs cut to match template.
Finished and supported with risers.
Finished and supported with risers.
Natural stone texture.
Natural stone texture.
Four sided slab plates, 22cm x 15cm.
Four sided slab plates, 22cm x 15cm.
Square slab plates, 25cm square
Square slab plates, 25cm square
Thrown/stretched slab 'Abalone' plates
Thrown/stretched slab ‘Abalone’ plates
More slab plates, this time much more flat, so that picking up sushi is easy.
More slab plates, this time much more flat, so that picking up sushi is easy.