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Kiln Ruins

Yesterday, I traveled to neighboring Takeo to look for some kiln ruins. Found two of them, the Otani kiln, and the Kotoge kiln. The Otani kiln is older, dating to the early 1600’s. Kotoge is a bit newer.

Both were busy during the time that porcelain production had started taking over in and around Arita. The potters of stoneware kilns were trying to make things that would sell, and it was difficult to compete with porcelain, but by changing the types of wares they produced, they succeeded for a time. Otani’s mainstay were large bowls and plates, suribachi (large combed bowls for grinding and grating foods), and other large kitchenware forms. Lots of hakeme and mishima Karatsu. In later years they also did a good deal of accenting with copper greens, and the shards at the kiln ruin attest to that.

This is the direction that Takeo went in the future, staying with stoneware and evolving into the production of large jars and other vessels for kitchen and farm use. They mass produced these things, up until recent times. Now there is only one kiln left which is known for the large coil and paddle jars.

These first two photos are of the two kiln sites (sort of ), because the Otani kiln is actually quite a bit up the mountain. What is visible from the road is the marker, and quite a few shards, kiln furniture, and broken kiln parts. The Kotoge kiln is visible from the road, marked by the white guard rails. It is quite large, running up the hill in distinct steps, at least 50 meters.

Here are some pics of the ground down below the Otani kiln site, lots of shards with wads still sticking to the feet, and lots of old suribachi pieces:

So this is what $4000 dollars looks like…

Not terribly spectacular is it? That’s 1400 SK34 hard bricks, 15 bags of refractory castable, and $900 of shipping.

This was the most expensive chunk of stuff to buy for the upcoming kiln building workshop, after this, it’s all downhill…

Electric’s maiden voyage

The electric kiln I acquired ended up being a bit of work to get into shape. The kiln itself was fine, in great shape even, but the controller panel and magnet switch needed work. When the electrician couldn’t get it to work, I tracked down the guys who made the kiln. They came over and rewired the control box, replaced a couple of power relays and the magnetic switch, and just like magic, the thing started working!

So this morning I cranked it up for its first bisque firing. What? The thermocouple isn’t giving any reading… Drat! Foiled again! But wait…. Perhaps when they rewired the box they reversed thermocouple wires…. Hmmm…   So I tried switching the wires where they entered the thermocouple, and wonder of wonders, it worked! One of the rare times where the cheap/easy fix works.

So now the kiln is firing away, and I’m a happy camper.

Here it is, with its little lights lit up:

 The horizontal breaker switch below the red light controls how many of the elements are activated. It is set now to candle mode, so as not to explode any pots. After it gets over 450C, I’ll switch it over to the right, for ‘nuke’ mode.

And here is the controller, reading at around 100C, and how it’s hard wired into the breaker box:

The timer (center bottom of the first pic) allows you to set the number of minutes you want the kiln to hold at a specific temp. Not sure yet if the timer is working or not.

Channeling Homer Simpson

Today I experienced a rare moment of pure stupidity. Rare, I say, because though I do stupid shi%t on a regular basis, rarely does it reach this level of brainlessness.

I unloaded the kiln a couple of days ago and the pots have been sitting on wareboards waiting to get their feet ground and polished, etc… Finally got around to that today.

So I too the first wareboard outside the workshop and set it on a stone pedestal about 14″ in diameter. The wareboards are about 5 feet long. Can you see where this is going yet?

I removed the pots one by one and polished the feet, replacing each on the board as I finished. The last pot in the row I picked up, and instead of paying attention, I looked over at the dog who had started barking at the neighborhood kids who were walking home from school. Well, that particular moment, the moment of diverted attention, was the moment the wareboard decided to tip up and dump its contents onto the granite stepping stones below. Doh!

So, I lost about 10 yunomi, and all but one of my katakuchi sake servers which I’d made for the express purpose of taking to the show at the sake brewery in about 10 days. At least I’ll have plenty of sake cups to show.

I truly hate it when I do stupid s&%t like that.

A few of the keepers

Here are some quick pics of a few of the nicer pieces:

The one saggared tea bowl turned out well, even warped to be lined up properly with the front of the pot. The regular madara yu for the chosen garatsu turned out just right, but the higher temp madara yu for the madara cup and the ‘reverse’ chosen garatsu (3rd and 2nd from top) wasn’t high temp enough and I didn’t get the frosty surface that I wanted, although the madara cup was pretty close. It was in a cool spot in the kiln. Need to adjust the glaze and try again. For some reason this glaze pinholes like crazy on inside surfaces when it melts too much. Keeping it a frosty, matte white keeps this from happening and the surface feels like soft skin. Must have been a little light on straw ash or silica or both.


 Here are the pots after firing:

Definitely not enough glaze flow and interaction on the plates, but the chosen garatsu came out pretty well overall, if just a bit too heavy with the rice straw ash glaze.  There should be enough for the upcoming show at Amabuki Sake Brewery. Tilting the plate up worked pretty well, next time I’ll have to try a higher angle, but how far without making it slide into the door during firing I wonder?