Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kiln Geek

Over time I have been getting questions about the construction of my kiln and requests for pics, so without further ado......

I'll start by saying that this was the 15th wood fired kiln that I had built and the smallest. As with anything I create there is experimentation, successes and failures; this kiln was the culmination of all that I had learned and still some experiments within it's final construction. The size was roughly 90 cubic feet of packable space, the rationale for it's size was largely for turnover time, I wanted to fire it more than once or twice a year, one winter I fired it 6 times. The design was based on the bricks that I had, more on that later. It's firing time was; from green ware to cone 11 in 32ish hours using 3/4 of a cord of wood (this was the fastest and least desirable results.) In general I was firing for roughly 72 hours from green ware to cone 11 using about 2 cords of wood, extrapolate that to 9 days and that's 6 cords of wood; this was the most efficient kiln I have ever met and in fact the hard part was to keep it moving slowly, it felt like a race car, it wanted to GO!

Kiln geeks, this is for you. The rest of you can go back to facebook or something.
The body of the kiln was a simple barrel arch with a cast key and flame peeps in the key, one stair in it and one side stoke hole on either side. The stair was double brick wall and backfilled earth with silica sand floor. The fire box was earth and silica sand, the bricks were used only for walls, arch, and chimney.   The walls were built double brick using arch brick and the arch was arch brick as well (this was the first time I had the luxury of using arch brick in an arch and it was so easy it almost wasn't any fun.) No, that wasn't a typo, I used arch brick for the walls; I scored about 1500 arch brick for free. They were in pretty bad shape, if I hit them together they would break into 10 different pieces. I also had, collectively, 300 other bricks of varying shapes and sizes, 30 bags of refractory cast-able, and 4 garbage cans of soft brick pieces, all of this material was free. In fact my cost for the kiln was about $150 for sair set mortar and fire-clay. The arch was a single layer then smeared with fire clay and a layer of fire brick set toward the base of the arch and progressing into soft brick as I moved up the arch. The drain tiles, also free, were meant more for visual and a surface to set things on, they probably offered minor buttress support as they were laid up in mortar.
On top of the soft brick layer was a layer of cast-able and basalt rocks from the quarry on the property, on top of the cast-able layer was broken drain tile set in a bed of regular mortar. This last layer was 
primarily for visual pleasure with perhaps some minor insulation properties. I believe the real secret power and work horse of this kiln was the flu system. I have built kilns with venturi boxes and one with a double venturi box. This kiln had a triple venturi box between the end wall of the body and the start of the straight run chimney, the pics on the left show some of that. One of the venturi boxes was made of castable while the others were made of brick. This is the only part of the kiln where I feel dimensions are critical, the rest is just sort of common sense kind of stuff i.e.: the slope being 30 degrees from fire mouth to chimney exit..... well, a sort of "heil  
hitler" pose gives you the right size of chimney. The first venturi box was a packable space and based on how much work was in there would affect the draw a bit; it did produce some amazing results that I had never seen before too, The red white and blue vase for example.
If you click on any of these pics they will blow up bigger for more detail, this is true throughout my blog. You may have noticed the past tense used here, well, I had to walk away from that kiln a couple of years ago due to a breakup. I live mere miles away from it now and have come to terms with not being able to fire it anymore. I believe it is used as a cat house now and as far as cat houses go....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well, for lack of a better term...... I'm back.
Life throws some curve balls and I've never been good at hitting curve balls, in fact, I had to quit baseball when I got to the age when the pitchers could start throwing curve balls. I had to walk away from my anagama in a split with my ex, money has been tight and jobs even tighter, surviving the grayness of winter and the lack of summer in western Oregon, trying to figure out what to make (that I actually like) in the earthenware world, and the ongoing musings of what art is in the "wine valley" of Oregon, more importantly, what sells!
Recently a friend of mine passed away from leukemia. I was able to make it out and spend the last two days of life with him, just over twelve hours before he died, myself and a small group of family and friends were glazing the last of his pots and firing the kiln. Through the years he and I had more than a few talks about ceramic art and one day about 15 years ago, I was making some tea bowls in his studio, he walked in and started looking at the bowls on the ware board. I asked him what he thought about them, he quietly looked at them for a bit and started running his finger around the inside of the lip of 2 or 3 of them, warping them to out of center, he said "Now they look good." and walked out. As I sat at his wheel feeling slightly offended that someone would have the gaul to touch my pots, I started looking at what he had done and quickly came to the conclusion that he was right. I have been finishing the lips of my tea bowls that same way ever since. During his last day while we were glazing pots I asked him what he thought about these new crystalline glazes that are available for low fire stuff, he thought they were cheesy, I agreed. I got to thinking about this and how it relates to thoughts I've been having about what to do to sell some pots in the wine valley, I was able to re arrange my ideas about this type of glaze and just started using one of them on some tumblers and bowls, I sold them all. What better to go with wine than cheese. This man was Martin Holt and he had a profound effect on more than a lot of people.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wall Pieces and a Tea Bowl

I was going through some photos for different reasons and forgot about these; a few wall platters and one of my favorite tea bowls.
I also just realized that Paul Soldner had passed away recently and it got me thinking of the time myself and 3 other friends had met him at an NCECA conference in New Orleans in 1993?, something like that. There we were sitting against a wall looking pretty haggard from the night before (being up all night on and off bourbon street; too many funny stories of that night.) Paul walks up to us and says " You look like you could use some coffee, can I buy you kids a cup?" So off we went to spend half an hour chatting with the illustrious Mr. Soldner just before we embarked on a 41 hour non stop driving trip back to missoula, Montana.
This being the first post for 2011; I resolve to stay on it and post more than I have in the past. As I am starting to write a book about my nomadic adventures for a 9 year period of time, I am going to post some excerpts from it from time to time.