is split, stacked, and ready to go. Now all I need are some pots to fire….
Well, didn’t quite make the Feb. 29 date for firing the kiln. My wood ash supply ran out and it was hard locating more and getting it tested. Also had the top element go out on my electric kiln, so couldn’t use it for bisquing. Finally got that stuff done, so was able to mix up glazes and get to glazing/loading. Got the rear setting done this evening. My shipment of cones from Axner came in the nick of time, so here are the new self supporting cones in action. I have decided that I LOVE self supporting cones…
I mentioned that I’d run out of glaze ingredients. Some testing was required to ‘find’ my glazes again. This glaze is tough because it goes clear if too thin, or is too white and runny if too thick. Also, I’ve been trying to tweak my Madara to more closely resemble that of the old Karatsu pots, circa 1580. Theirs went on thin, but kept its color. A lot of silica, probably. Here are two test tiles with Madara glazes. They were fired in the tiny test kiln and you can see they went pretty clear, because they were directly in the flame path. The tile on the left is the tweaked version, with more silica/rice straw ash and less mixed wood ash. I think it is pretty close to what I want, and will have more color when not fired in the tiny kiln with that concentrated flame, and gets a slow cool.
This upcoming firing we will have our first attempt at hikidashi, which means pulling pots at high temp and letting them cool quickly, or quenching them in water or something flammable such as rice hulls, sawdust, etc… This time, all of the hikidashi will be hikidashi guro, or black glazed ware pulled at temp. In the picture of the rear setting above, all of those pots with the red glaze are going to be yanked out. From the side port, a pair of tongs about 1 meter long is just about long enough to get most of the ware. For pulling from the front stoke, tongs are just too short, so I spent some time this afternoon making a new tool. By drilling a hole into the side of the test kiln, I converted it into a simple forge. I took round steel stock and repeatedly heated it and hammered it to flatten the end then used a hammer and chisel to split it lengthwise from the end. A little creative hammering gave me a two pronged fork shape for scooping up bowls and pulling them out the front of the kiln. Can’t wait to give it a try.
Here are some test tiles from a test I did this afternoon of a glaze for hikidashiguro.
It is 50/50 Benigara (RIO)/Mixed wood ash
The last firing of the wood kiln, I mixed up a glaze of 65 mystery wood ash and 35 Amakusa porcelain stone. I expected a dark green or yellow glassy ash glaze that didn’t run much. I even had the test tiles from around 5 years ago that showed what I’d get.
Well, I ended up getting a rust red sintered crust on every pot I put that glaze on, and it was a lot of pots. Even in areas that got up to cone 13, that glaze did not melt. It was very confusing since I had the test tiles showing a green glossy glaze.
With the new tiny kiln, I was able to fire twice today, 2 sets of test tiles. One set using the mystery wood ash from the crusty rust refractory debacle, and the other set using my normal mixed wood ash. Each set was fired for 90 minutes to cone 9 (yep, just 90 minutes to cone 9!) and all the recipes were exactly the same save for the type of ash.
I think it is safe to say that these ashes are not interchangeable. The mystery ash was from a neighbor’s wood stove, and I have no idea what it was. At any rate, it seems to have been reduced to almost pure silica. Sure enough, the glazes with the regular mixed wood ash turned out as expected. The atmosphere in the tiny test kiln is interesting. The 80/40 test tile came out reduced while the others were oxidized, only 2-3cm apart in either direction.
So, in short, mystery solved, and it didn’t require waiting for a big kiln firing. All in all, this tiny kiln is turning out to be very useful indeed, and easy to fire.
My weed burner came in the mail this afternoon and I wasted no time getting everything ready for the first real test of the tiny test kiln.
I prepared 3 sets of glaze tile pairs and set them in the kiln, along with one Orton cone (#6). I fired it up at 4pm. At 5pm cone 6 was flat. Easy peasy! Next time, all the way to cone 10, when I have some more free time for testing.
Since switching over to the new wood kiln, there has been a need to tweek my gas kiln glazes, as well as develop new glazes for wood firing. Problem is, it is hard to test new glazes because the wood kiln gets fired infrequently, and I fire the gas kiln much less now because most of the work goes into the wood kiln. So I need something that I can fire test tiles in, and after looking at some little electric test kilns, (and their prices) I decided to build a propane gas fueled test kiln.
I had the materials laying around, and scavenged some from previous projects. I came up with this little Itte-Koi (going and coming) style kiln. It is basically just a scaled down version of the first gas kiln I built 7 years ago. This one only required about 20 bricks, and the hardest part was carving the chimney bricks. Thin brick slices hold up the floor/shelf, the flame goes in the bottom front, climbs up the rear and comes back around down to the exit flue at the middle front.
The chimney brick shown strapped to the front was a mistake, I replaced it later with one that wasn’t cut through completely. I had carved this one through because my larger version had a passive damper here, but it seemed like too much trouble on this tiny kiln. Much easier to lay a slice of brick over the top of the chimney.
3 more bricks across the top finish the kiln. I later set the whole thing on a flat stand with wheels and fired it up with a raku burner I had laying around. Waaaaayyyy overpowered. Within 10 minutes I had red heat in the chamber, but there was a tall flame coming from the chimney because of all the unburnt gas igniting as it left the kiln. This with the regulator set about as low as it would go, so I need a smaller burner, probably a small weed burner or reduction burner for an electric kiln would be about right. I’ll post on this kiln again once I get a burner to fire it with and some glaze tests set to go!