Accidents Happen

Photo on 7-9-16 at 1.56 PM #2

My new (to me) inexpensive electric kiln was unable to get to temperature for the second time, in spite of having taken the electrical system completely apart, replacing a cooked switch and putting it back together. Which is just as well. The coils were spent. I didn’t buy the kiln (and a spare) for their coils. I wanted the bricks and the steel wrap and kiln furniture. I got a whole lot more than that. To be sure. But it was always about the bricks. Being able to fire the thing as many times as I did was a wholesale boon. But I need a kiln to fire work. It’s that simple. So Thursday morning(7/7), over coffee and the news it became terribly obvious to me that building a wood kiln to fire earthenware was going to be an awful lot of work and that it would never get done if I didn’t go do it. So I did.

 

The sad part is that I just moved all of the bricks I used, all the shelves, even the kilns, across the street and either into the shop, or behind it in the woods.

Now it’s all sitting in the back yard in a pile. A very orderly pile to be sure. The 2 kilns are largely unchanged besides having their bottoms removed. The 3rd kiln was completely disassembled. I used a portion of the brick creating the sprung arch of the firebox. The 2 solid cement blocks (on each side) are butters for that arch. These soft brick are then covered with a layer of clay brick that were piled in the woods long long ago before any of us were born. The remainder of the soft brick are under each of the kiln bodies. Because the firebox is stepped down from the kiln floor, I only had to set the kiln bodies on 2 courses of brick to make a pass through underneath them. Set in that bottom 2 courses, I left port holes that will be used to stoke each kiln to exact temperature.  Controlling two tubes from a single distant firebox isn’t feasible if I expect any sort of regularity in temperature throughout such a divided kiln. As it turns out, one of the kilns I used (intact) is about 1″ wider than other. Different make and model I guess. So the 2 courses beneath it don’t quite match up. This leaves a lot of air gaps. Rather than try and fill these gaps with more spun silica blanket that I only have a little bit of (thanks Josh) I decided to make a cob mixture and plaster everything in place. I guess it is more of an earthen plaster than cob. There is no organic material in it. Not at this point anyway. Everything is sealed up between the firebox and the 2 kilns. The tiny-ish gaps between some of the bricks will expose the clay/sand to the inside of the kiln. But only a bit. I’m hoping it’s not too much of a problem. Not a terribly big deal as it’s only clay and sand.

When firing wood kilns to higher temperatures than I am going (stone ware/porcelain is a few hundred degrees hotter F than earthenware) every single crack and seam pukes smoke and flames when wood is added and the kiln is plunged into a high carbon, reduction atmosphere.

I toyed around with the idea of taking all the kilns apart and turning them into a dog biscuit shaped cross-draft thingy. That was way way too much more work. And I can still do it if I want. they are intact at this point. I have yet to cut holes in the kiln lids. I don’t have the right materials yet to make both chimneys. I cut the 2 bottoms which were  cracked into something resembling blocks. At this point, 1 chimney is built. I sheathed these brittle cast chunks of spun silica in half of the original steel wrap from part of the kiln that was broken apart.

I have been exchanging emails with the person who’s kiln is my inspiration (at rootedclay.com ) and am amending my chimney plan. The additional weight around a hole, which isn’t meant to be there, causes the lid to weaken, crumble and if left unchecked, collapse into the kiln while it is hot. While the visual image of smoke and fire erupting from the shattered shelves and cups is beautiful in a powerful Oh Bother sort of way, it’s not something I would like to do more than imagine. There are a million million ways to wreck a pot. I’ve found a few of them. Many more will come to light.

As it turns out, this farm seems to be some sort of bed-magnet. I’ve had more beds in this house that I have either never slept on or only slept on for a little while. And I’m not talking about just mattresses. Several of the frames here were just frames when they got here. Futon frames are great for shelving. Frames, in general, are made of metal. At least the long side rails. These are usually angle iron of at least a large enough size to support a chimney make of a little refractory material and steel.

I’m pretty busy for the next little while so it could be a while before I actually get to this. A couple weeks at most I hope. I put  a few pieces of metal roofing on top of the kiln with a bunch of bricks on it to keep the water from hitting the clay/sand. We’ve had a few pretty good downpours the last few days and it’s stayed put. If the wind gusts get too bad, the metal will become airborne guillotines. Not great but there are an awful lot of bricks on there.Photo on 7-9-16 at 1.56 PM

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