New Kiln Installed/Almost Finished Workshop

Alright! Here we are finally, with the workshop almost finished. The city inspection is finished, though I still need to do the trim around the windows, run the electricity(calling a pro for this), and finish the inside walls with cedar planking. I’ve built a kind of tall awning off of the south side to protect the kiln. Next week this will be fully enclosed with the same type of siding as the building. It’s about 4 meters tall at the top, so tall that rain comes right in if I don’t have those tarps tacked on.

The kiln weighs about 2 tons, apparently, so the regular hydraulic truck lift wasn’t beefy enough to lift it into the space. Takasago (the kiln folks) brought in a bigger crane to do the job. When it rolled onto the property the ground sagged and rebounded like a sponge under the wheels, interesting to see.

Roof finished, moisture barrier tacked on

Here , the roof is finally finished. The day after the roof was finished it started snowing, and didn’t stop for a week. During that week I tacked up the moisture barrier sheet, so now most precipitation doesn’t get into the building. About 8000 staples were used to tack all that sheeting on. Next step will be the siding, then I’ll be able to start putting insulation in and finishing the inside walls.

More workshop pics

Here are some more pics of the workshop going up, mostly the rafters being finished and the underlayment for the roof starting to go on. That’s me with the shit eating grin standing on the roof, and sitting on the huge upside down pot is my youngest helper. He’s 3 years old now. His older brother who is 5 always wants to help with the construction but I haven’t been able to find anything I think is safe enough for him to do yet, although he insists he’s old enough to climb the ladder and walk around on the roof.

The Workshop is going up!

Here are some pictures of the workshop going up. At the time of this writing, the roof is half covered with tar paper, and I’m waiting for the weather to improve so I can finish papering and tack on the galvanized sheets. Then I’ll tack on the vapor barrier and and siding and at that point it should be ok to start turning the inside into a workshop.

You may notice from the pics that this looks like a tall building. Well, due to several miscalculations it ended up being about 1 meter taller than I had envisioned (It’s about 385 cm tall at the shoulder), however this will work out great as I will be able to add a loft for storage in the future. The building is 4×10 meters. The foundation is 4×13. The extra 3 meters is for the kiln area. The kiln will rest under a roof angling down and out from the building itself. I am going to add detachable hinged walls that I will open during firing. Also there will be exhaust fans at each end of the building to vent and circulate air to prevent heat buildup during firing.
I’m also going to have a sliding door to separate the kiln area from the main structure. This way I’ll be able to slide the kiln car into the building and close the door behind it. This place will be cold enough in the winter anyway without having doors open for loading and unloading.

If you’ve never stood on a wobbly bare wood frame 4 meters up in the air I highly recommend it. 4 meters doesn’t sound like much, but it sure is scary when you’re actually up there. Especially when trying to tote around 3 meter long 5×5 beams. The largest cross beams we had to raise with a small crane, because they were too heavy for the 4 of us to hoist on our own. Those beams were 4x16in, and about 4 meters long. Oh, and they were still wet. How do you say ‘hernia’ in Japanese?

Homemade paddles and other tools…

Traditionally, Karatsu pottery involves a lot of paddling and trimming very soft clay. It’s hard to find tools that do this well, so the easiest way is to make your own. Here are a few of the tools I’ve made. They’re all really simple and cheap, and work better for what I need than what is commercially available.
I have included one bought tool (at left) because I use it a lot for paddling bottoms and lids, and it’s good for comparison. It’s good for bottoms and lids because of it’s even surface, but not good for much anything else, because the design is too even and man made for my taste. The made tools are from left to right:
-Cedar Paddle: cut to shape then burned to soften. ‘Worm holes burned in with a hot nail. use for bigger pieces because the length allows for more support.
-Pine Paddle: Use for small/medium pieces. Since it’s short, it’s easier to collapse what you’re paddling, but it leaves a much more interesting design/deformation.
-Copper Wire footring measurer: I use this to premark all feet before measuring so I get reasonably similar footring diameters. The copper makes it easily adjustable, just bend to desired diameter.
-Cedar Anvil: I cut a section from a cedar fence post and used a burner on it to bring out the figure, then used a small rounded chisel to dig between the rings. Using the growth rings looks more natural than turning rings on a lathe.
-Pine Knife: I made this for incising tea bowls, but I found it not to work well with Karatsu clays, too sharp. Works great with Mogusa and Gotomaki clays.
-Granite Finisher: I use this to erase knife marks, etc. on the bottoms of my paddled pots.
-Two trimmers: made from some cool stuff I found on the road that never gets dull, it’s some sort of laminated bandsaw blade stock with a 3mm strip of really hard metal on the lead edge.
-Pine decorative ‘thwacker’: This has various designs cut into the ends for final decorative markings. If you get it right on, it makes a cool ‘thwack’ noise, if not you’ve just torn a hole in your vessel.
-Footring carving tool: I made this out of some olive wood I had laying around, and mini hacksaw blades from the 100 yen shop, since I needed a footring carving dull loop tool. Brings out the wrinkles in the clay.
-All purpose rough cutting tool: Made out of an old chopstick and a jigsaw blade. I made it for carving the spout holes for katakuchi forms.

The second photo shows more detail and reverse sides of the paddles.

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