Category Archives: tools

2014 Fall Firing: Unloading the Kiln

Here are images from Saturday’s unloading of the kiln.  Some good, some bad, but mostly good.

Most problems came from mistakes made with clay or glazes, the firing of the kiln was exactly how I planned… first time ever.

Got a nice gradient from about cone 12-13 in front, to cone 6-7 in the back of the first chamber, and an overall cone 6-7 in the rear chamber.

Biggest problem was crawling of iron brushwork on raw ware. I will touch up bare spots and refire these.

Lost both big slabs, which both cracked BADLY.

Madara  and E-Madara items came out really nice overall, with lots of subtle blues.

Kickwheel Conversion Finished

The kickwheel conversion is finally finished. Here are some pictures of the flywheel getting put together:

Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying.  After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying. After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Reassembled and ready to go!
Reassembled and ready to go!

And it was just as easy as that.  Many thanks again to Yamaguchi kun for making the flywheel armature!

And here I am taking it out for a spin:

I have this recurring nightmare…

before every firing of the wood kiln. Actually it is four separate recurring nightmares. In the first, I am loading pots onto normal wood shelves in a fairly standard living room, for some reason not worrying that the lot of it will burn up with the entire house. BUT, for some reason, I always remove all of the lamps and light fixtures, because they and they alone can’t handle the  high temps.

In the second, we are firing the kiln as usual, and we are into the third day, just hours before finishing and I realize that I FORGOT TO LOAD THE KILN… This one is by far the worst of the dreams. The feeling of sudden panic is positively sublime. Very happy to wake up (and realize it was just a dream) after this one…

The next is not quite as bad as the previous, but still pretty unsettling.  It starts out well enough: I have just unloaded a very successful firing and am so happy with it that I decide to fire again. Because it is a dream, I miraculously have enough glazed ware to load the kiln up again in about 2 days (Normally takes me 10). I get everything loaded, and start the fire, but about a day into the firing I realize I ONLY HAVE ONE DAY WORTH OF FIREWOOD! This one also wakes me up with that icky panicky feeling.

The third is not a nightmare per se, but a recurring dream about a kiln that doesn’t exist. It is a large single chamber, with white interior, and there are shelves on the walls and in the center of the large chamber on a sort of island. The floor, walls, and island are all white and rough with kiln wash. There is no chimney, and the kiln is connected to the fire box via an elevated brick tunnel, which goes out the rear of the chamber about 2 meters, turns 90 degrees right, stretches about 8 meters, then takes another 90 degree right turn, where extends forward and turns into the firebox. From the firebox to the kiln forms a large U shape. Even more strange, the firebox is open to the sky and steps up to the flue channel, which somehow ‘sucks’ in the heat of the fire. The firebox is probably 4 meters long/deep, and the wood used is huge: entire tree trunks shoved in and stacked in a criss cross pattern, burning.  Any one have a kiln that looks like this?

Coming up to this fall firing in Oct., I feel as though everything is under control, and no particularly strong feelings of anxiety, yet the dreams continue, including 2 nights in a row now, a dream of some of my teeth falling out. Seems quite normal in the dream at least…

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.

New Videos

I finally sat down and figured out how to use my video camera and software. For anyone who is interested, here are some videos I posted to youtube.

Karatsu Sake Cups

Sake Cup Trimming Part 1

Sake Cup Trimming Part 2

Karatsu Teabowls

Karatsu Teabowl Trimming

All of these pots were made with clay from the property, discovered right under where we built the kiln. It has a lot of iron, but still takes some heat, and won’t bloat at higher temps. Probably due in part to the fact that it is very open with a lot of sand and other even larger inclusions. Even vitrified, it still sweats because of the openness. With use, the sweating stops, as all the pores fill with minerals from the water and tea tannins, etc…