Tag Archives: wood kiln

The heavy table

I made this table about 5-6 years ago with the intent of using it with guests downstairs in the studio, but as things filled the space I never had a place for it, and it ended up under the staircase for the duration. It had literally never been used  for its originally intended purpose and gathered dust. Until a few days ago when I started rearranging the studio. Now with the stairs out of the way, it is out, clean, and ready for action. I scrubbed off 6 years of dust and crud this morning and started thinking about how best to use it.

If you haven’t noticed already, this is a huge grindstone (one of a pair I acquired), and it must weigh at least 200kg. Somehow I was able to get it up on that railroad tie frame with the heavy duty casters underneath so it can be moved. The current top is actually the bottom, and the actual top is slanted, so one side is propped up on two short kiln stilts so the table top is level. The grooves are close enough together that cups can sit without wobbling or falling over.

It occurred to me that the depression in the center would make a good improvised receptacle for tea goodies, and a garbage can could go under the hole for waste disposal. One other suggestion was to place a bamboo section in the whole as a small waste basket. One of the railroad ties partially overlaps the bottom of the hole, so the bamboo doesn’t fall through.

The freshly scrubbed table, about 80cm/32in in diameter.
The freshly scrubbed table, about 80cm/32in in diameter.
table surface detail
table surface detail
Fresh section of bamboo cut for the waste basket.
Fresh section of bamboo cut for the waste basket.
goodies, with wrapper disposal in place.
goodies, with wrapper disposal in place.
Mmmmm. Nice steamy tea on a cold morning...
Mmmmm. Nice steamy tea on a cold morning…

Snagged a new wheel!

I managed to get my hands on a used wheel, cheap. It is a gigantic banding wheel: wheel head is 50cm across and the whole thing assembled weighs 60kg. It looks like it might have been someone’s homemade wheel, made from acquired parts and put together.

It is an oddly constructed wheel, no bearings at all. The top of the shaft accommodates  a pin in the wheel head like my kickwheel, but there is no bearing in the bottom, just tapered sleeve on the shaft that engages the bottom of the wheelhead shaft, heavily greased. It requires a very fine setting of the tapered sleeve. Engage it too much and the wheel doesn’t turn well, not enough and there is a waggle in the wheel.

It arrived pretty rusty and dirty, looks like it saw a lot of use at some point, then got left in a corner somewhere for a few years. I got a wire brush disc for my angle grinder and spent quite a while getting the accumulation of clay, gunk, paint, and rust off.

Removable wheel head shaft
Removable wheel head shaft
Base shaft
Base shaft
wheel head
wheel head
tapered sleeve
tapered sleeve
The whole shebang, still dirty.
The whole shebang, still dirty.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.

Finally got the wheel head assembly cleaned up and oiled, and with some experimentation found the ‘sweet spot’ for the tapered sleeve when engaging the wheel head shaft, and the wheel spins quite nicely. Click on the link below to see it spin:
Wheel spin test

My plan for this wheel is to weld arms to the base of the wheel head shaft and mount a wooden fly wheel, and add a wooden wheel head onto the current steel wheel head. The resulting kickwheel should be great for onggi style coil and paddle work.

Remodeling the studio

It has become increasingly obvious over the last year or two that a major remodeling of the studio was going to be necessary. As output has increased and work habits have changed, and the fact that I want to put in a wood burning stove for winter heating, changing the configuration of the studio has become unavoidable. I’d been putting it off for a long time because it is going interrupt, but I last week it finally reached critical mass and I decided to bite the bullet and get to work. So…

First order of business is to get the stairs into a more manageable place, and add some floor space to the second floor. Here is a series of photos of the project:

Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Start. Gotta get the stairs out of the way, remove the visible section of floor, and remove the shelving underneath.
Stairs and floor removed
Stairs removed, floor next.
Shelving gone.
Shelving and floor gone.

Interesting note here: when I removed the floor and started taking things off the shelf so I could dismantle it, I found my studfinder that I’d been searching for since, well since I put in that floor section 4 or 5 years ago. I looked everywhere for that thing!

Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.
Bottom shelf/clay storage gone.

I’ll still need to remove and redo the shelving at left, but for now just removed enough to get this project accomplished. Baby steps…

Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Post secured, main beam laid over the top.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.
Oops, very heavy stairs on the wrong side of the beam.

The ‘beam’ is actually two 4.5 cm thick boards screwed together. In my rush to get the beam in place, I forgot to move the stairs to a place within the work area. Doh!  Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 0.  But it all worked out ok, I threw the rope over the newly placed beam and used it to lower the stairs to the ground, then slid them over near to their final resting place, without destroying any discs in my back. Yes! Stairs 1, Homo Sapiens Sapiens 1. Take that, stairs!

Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.
Stairs on correct side of beam, cross supports almost in.

This is my first project where I have discovered the forbidden delights of the Simpson Strong-Tie. I’d seen them before in the States, but only recently in Japan, and only at one of the home improvement stores. They saved me all kinds of time, since I didn’t have to cut all the joints for the floor joists, and as an added bonus, they’re cheap.

Floor boards almost done.
Floor boards almost done.

I secured all of the floor boards from below, so there are no screws or screw holes visible on the floor surface, and no need for wood plugs or putty.

Floor boards done, stairs back in place.
Floor boards done, stairs back in place.

As you can see, the stairs come awful close to the remaining shelving at left, but they are accessible. Moving the shelving is on the to-do list. Still, looking good from here…

The view coming up the stairs.
The view coming up the stairs.

Nice expanse of natural wood with no nails or screws visible.

Staring down the floorboards.
Staring down the floorboards.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.
The view of the stairs from the far corner. All done.

All finished. This is the view from the doorway side of the shop looking back toward the stairs. The original part of the second floor at left. Stairs are up against the wall, and the studio already feels roomier.

Spring Firing Wood

is split, stacked, and ready to go. Now all I need are some pots to fire….

the last of it. splitting done.
Douglas fir stacks next to kiln
four palettes of slender cedar and pine, two palettes of douglas fir.
the stuff that wouldn’t fit on the kiln side of the studio

Workshop in Taku, 2012: The Simple Teabowl

Well, I am sitting here now in the quiet aftermath of what turned out to be a fantastic week long pottery workshop, here in Taku, Japan. As I sit here, looking at the prospect of going back to my normal schedule on Monday, I realize what an amazing experience the whole thing was, and am now looking forward to going through the hours of video of pottery and tea demonstrations.

We started the week with a tea ceremony demonstration by Kawakami Mako Sensei. She had prepared an informative talk on the roots of modern tea ceremony, and some of the key concepts such as Wa Kei Sei Jaku and Ichi-go Ichi-e. She prepared Koicha (thick tea) followed by Usucha (thin tea), and then we all went outside near  a waterfall in the park and tried preparing a bowl of tea by ourselves.

Sunday and Monday mornings, Tsuruta Yoshihisa Sensei demonstrated his handbuilt teabowl forming techniques and coil and paddle techniques for larger forms. It is always amazing watching him work.  In the afternoons, we visited a few ceramics galleries and a tea ceremony supply in Karatsu. We also made a very interesting trip to the workshop and kiln of Nakazato Shigetoshi Sensei, second son of the late Nakazato Muan, 12th gen. potter of the Nakazato family and Living National Treasure. He was kind enough to show us his small personal museum of shards and special work, as well as a tour of his kilns and showroom.

Sunday evening was pizza party at my house and studio, and we baked pizza in the wood fired oven, yum. One of the Japanese guests, Housui san, is a calligraphy artist, and he treated us to an impromptu performance, first on regular paper sheets, then with a large brush on a tatami mat (I’ll post pictures of that later). We also did our first collaborative piece when he wrote a poem in iron deco one of my large plates. It will be fired in the next wood kiln firing.

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, Okamoto Sakurei demonstrated his pottery making skills making larger forms, thrown, hand built and coil/paddled. We visited Sakureigama studio and kiln in the afternoon, and Okamoto Sensei was kind enough to bring out a few of his antique teabowls. He brought out two old Karatsu teabowls and two Ri period Korean bowls which were my favorites. I was even accused of ‘fondling’ them. I probably was. Wed. afternoon we visited the Nagoya Castle ruins in Chinzei. This was the castle from which Hideyoshi staged his campaigns into Korea. It is a huge complex, quite amazing when you imagine what it must have been like at the time. There is a tea room there, Kaigetsu, which we visited for tea, and the hostess showed us the separate tea house set in the far end of the garden. My father in law, who helped drive for the group, said it was the first time he has ever visited a tea room and the first time he ever had matcha, which he enjoyed thoroughly.

Thursday we visited the studio and showroom of Maruta Munehiko and  he demonstrated throwing teabowls on his kickwheel, as well as trimming. After his demonstration we visited his showroom, where everyone ogled the work and a couple of  people bought  two of his beautiful Kuro Oribe guinomi. I couldn’t resist buying an E-Karatsu yunomi. Thursday evening we visited the tool store, before going to dinner at Hisago on Nishi Arita. Maeda san, the chef at Hisago, prepares Kaiseki meals in dishes he has personally collected over the years. The whole meal is a feast for all the senses. He keeps records of what he has prepared for his customers, and never serves the same thing twice.

Friday we took it easy and shared all of the photos and video we had taken over the last 6 days. Everyone packed up and I took them to the train station, to head back to their own countries. It was an amazing group of people and everyone got along, making for a remarkably smooth workshop with a minimum of drama. I hope everyone will come back for the Workshop in Taku 2014: The Undecided Theme.

Loading, new tools

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…

The rear setting done, finally. A total of 115 pots, give or take.

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.

two test tiles with variations of Madara Karatsu rice straw ash glaze.

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.

New fork tool for pulling pots from the front stoke