Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Haven't Posted For a While

Actually, I haven't posted for a long time. I guess I've just been too busy with work, writing for my other blog, Coulee Region Art, and shoveling snow. I haven't made any new pots for a couple of months and am itching to throw some clay and burning to fire a raku kiln.

I am also currently building a website Right now I am just figuring out how I want the site set up so I am creating pages and links and adding photos of pottery that I have made in the past. The site tends to change every day but hope to finish it up soon.

Outside of my activities stated above, I plan on finishing the fiber lid for my brick wood burning kiln, clean and tune-up a treadle wheel that is sitting in the studio, fire up the fiber raku kiln, clean the studio, throw some pots---Well, lets just say I'd better get to doing and stop the "planning."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wood Kiln

The wood kiln is nearing completion. It is looking pretty good and I'm pretty happy about it so far. Here are a few random thoughts about the kiln building process to date.

Plans are good but don't count on following them to "the letter." It ain't gonna happen. My original plans that I drew up don't look like this kiln at all, except that it is 8 feet long and the walls are about 24 inches tall.

Fire bricks are not the same size. They might look like it and might stack nicely on pallets but they definately aint the same size.

Assume from the beginning of the project that you're going to be a brick short. That goes for mortar too. If you're cutting brick, you're going to cut a bunch of them wrong. In fact, just think that you don't have enough of everything on the purchase list to complete the project.

The next step for this project is to purchase some insulating material for the arch and the sides of the kiln. I am thinking about about a home-made mixture of Diotomaceous Earth and Fire Clay, four parts to one.

After work today I am going to light up a fire in this puppy and see how it works. Basically I am just going to play around with the inlet flues and see how the chimney drafts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tapered Chimney

It doesn't look like I got much done yesterday, looking at this photo, but at least the taper of the chimney is complete. Well...maybe. right now the opening is 7 inches deep by about 15 inches wide. I'm thinking about adding one more tapered layer of brick to make the interior measurments of the chimney approx 12 inches by 7 inches. I'm not sure how tall the chimney is going to be and I have a few options.
Option 1: I could just use more fire brick and build a nice looking stack. Option 2: I could build up a couple more courses on the chimney using brick and then just place a chimney flue on top of that. The chimney flue is 24 inches tall. And Option 3: I have a 6 foot piece of stainless steel pipe that is 10 inches in diameter. I like the brick idea best but we'll have to see how tall I need to go to create the necessary draft for this kiln.
Anyway, the weather was miserable yesterday, about 90 degrees and wicked humid. I think the dang heat was making me stupid as I cut a lot of bricks to the wrong sizes and even mortared on layer of the chimney without tapering it. Nasty weather. The next step on this project is to start on the insulation on the outside walls.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Wood Kiln Chimney Flues

I'm getting closer to finishing the mortaring. Here is the chimney and flues. One mistake I made was that I did not tie in the first layer of bricks that sit atop the flue brick into the walls of the kiln. I say "Just deal with it."

The measurements at this point are: inside is 23 inches wide and 18 inches tall. The chimney is 8 inches deep and 23 inches wide. This is the point where I am going to start tapering my chimney to get to a 9 by 9 inch hole.

The flues are 7 inches tall. The center flue is 2.5 inches wide and the others are 1-3/8 inches. I didn't follow any principles from any books regarding flue size and intake holes. I just built them based on photos I've seen of other kilns and figured better too big than too small.

Today, if the rain holds off, I hope to finish the tapered chimney and the front of the kiln.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Wood Kiln Construction

Changes, changes, changes. I spent the last two years bugging people about kiln design and construction, looked at bunches of books, plans, etc.....and have come to the conclusion--If you want to build a kiln "JUST START BUILDING!"

I'm serious. Nothing goes according to "plan" and if you stick to that plan and are convinced to follow that plan and make it work---well, more power to you. Its just a big headache. In fact its just a pain in the ass. Have an idea and just start building and solve the problems as they come up.

In this case I've finally started mortaring the brick. Mix is one part sand, 2 part fire clay. I've never really mortared brick before so I took it slow mixing up very small batches in a 5 gallon bucket, although I only mixed about 1/2 gallon of mortar at a time when I first started. Stuff drys fast and I was by myself--a true tyro.

As I was saying. Just build it. The dimensions have changed everytime I put them on paper. Once the bricks were stacked and mortared my dimensions are: 32 inches wide and 81 inches long (outside dimension). Ware chamber is 18 inches tall in this photo but will be 20.5 inches, and 23 inches wide when complete, (approx 9.5 cubic feet). And its 35-1/2 inches long. The fire box is 24 inches long by 23 wide by 20-1/2 inches tall.

I'm still planning on one-inch thick kiln shelves for the roof, layered with soft brick and fiber on top of that.

Still working on the front part of the kiln. Right now I am going to tie-in all the brick and create a door with some air holes in the front.

I should mention that the base is 36 cinder blocks and on top of that a bunch of house brick, then the fire brick. The exterior of the kiln will have a 2 inch layer of insulating material of some sort. Oh! and I did incorporate 2 peek-holes on each side. One in front of the fire box area and one higher against the back wall. I plan on using soft brick to fill these holes.

I'll post some info on the chimney and flues in my next post. But this is where I'm at, at the moment, But, everything is subject to change.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mouse hole/Grate system

Yesterday I decided that the coffin kiln needed a modification. At first the fire box was just a box with a flat floor. Now it has a mouse hole and a grate system. The bricks in the grate are spaced 1-inch apart and the dimensions of the firebox will now be 29 inches long and 17-1/2 inches tall. The ware chamber is now 34 inches long and 20 inches tall. The walls are one brick thick but I'll be adding a layer of home made insulation to the exterior walls and then adding another course of brick. I hope to start mortaring it together tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wood Kiln Number One

I finally got all my brick laid out for my wood fired kiln. It took the whole weekend playing around, stacking and unstacking, and just getting things "better." Here it is, although I will be making a base of 36 cinder block to restack it on.
Ok, the dimensions: Total length is 8 feet long. The fire box is 18 inches wide, 20 inches tall, and 31 inches long. The ware chamber is 18 inches wide, 37 inches long and 20 inches tall.
The top of the kiln will be spanned with 1-inch thick kiln shelves and covered with a layer of soft insulating brick. I might place a piece of 1-inch fiber on top of that.
This photo shows that I have started to add a second layer of fire brick to the outside walls but I will be replacing this second exterior layer with some red house brick. A friend of mine has a couple pallets of brick that he built his house with so I am going to place these bricks on the outside.
Don't know what else to say about this kiln. I'm just going to fire it up and see if I can get her to cone ten. We'll see how it fires. If it works I'll just buy some more brick and start on a permanent anagama.
The chimney portion is bacically 9 inches deep by 18 inches and it is tappered to accomodate a 6 foot tall stainless steel pipe, 10 inches in diameter.
I used a variety of fire brick that I have collected over the past couple years. There are some Rockspar, Empire S, AP Green Empire D, Warco XX, Mex-R-Co Mo-rex, and some fire brick with a PCE rating of 29 that I have purchased over the years.
Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm also on face book and have a photo album there of this kiln.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Ramona Raku Kiln

This is my fourth garbage can raku kiln I have made since 2006. I have the complete steps with photos posted on this blog dated Jan. 2006. My first kiln lasted about 2 years. It seemed like I was firing it up every weekend all year long and it also sat outside in the yard. I called it Rusty Raku. One day I forgot to plug the hole and some critters got in and tore up all my fiber. So I built another.

The second kiln lasted about a year but was taken out by a major flood, the kind they say happens once in 100 years. Nothing to cry about. I built another. Less than one year later that once in a 100 year flood struck again, although not as bad, but it still took out my kiln. That was was my fault though because I had a hasty trip to make to the west coast and I forgot to bring my kiln into the studio. Anyway, I built another and am getting pretty good at it.

I call this one Ramona Raku. She is lined with two layers of one inch fiber which is held in place with a combination of sodium silicate and ceramic buttons that I made from heavily grogged raky clay. Looks great and I'm sure it will fire a lot better than my previous kilns, as they only had one layer of fire. Once I clean up my burner I'll fire her up and post some photos. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Incense Bottle

Raku fired incense bottle, approximately 12 inches tall. What is an incense bottle? Well, you burn incense sticks in it. The end of the wooden stick is placed in a round clip, the incense is lit as normal and then dropped into the bottle. The round clip sits in the neck of the bottle. The incense burns upward and the smoke comes out of the top of the bottle neck. All the ashes fall into the bottom of the bottle. A very safe way to burn incense and I have recently found that there is a big demand for them.

The top of this bottle was glazed with clear crackle raku glaze and then lightly dipped in Green Apple raku glaze. The bottom was glazed with Green Apple as well.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Some New Pots

Just a few of the many pots that I've been working on the past month. The vases on the lower shelf are for gladiolas. Two of them are cone 04 majolica glazed and the other two are cone 10 stoneware reduction fired. Top shelf has a couple more majolica pieces. The green porecelain bowl was made by my friend Ryan Meyers and fired in an electric kiln to cone 6. Next to that is a raku fired bowl made by my friend's daughter Natalie. The three bottles in the back are incense bottles. The one in front is an olive oil dispenser/bottle. They were all fire in and electric kiln to cone 04 and glazed with commericialy bought glazes. And the others are just some of the many raku pieces I fired while my electric kiln was baking away.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pit Fire Colors

I had problems replying to a comment posted on the "Pit Fire" post so I thought I'd answer it in a regular post. I have found that I get my best colors in the barrel kiln, which I fire completely uncovered until the fire burns itself out. In the pit firing I cover it when I can see the pots through the hot coals. And, it is loosely covered so that it can still get plently of air circulating around the pots. To create colors I sprinkle generous amounts of copper carbonate and miracle grow around the pots. Consistent beautiful colors every time.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pit Fire

Last Friday I helped students from Viterbo University with Alternative Firing. The get together was held at the instructor's house and we utilized his back yard fire pit for a pit firing. In this photo we have already lined the pit with sawdust, loaded all the pots, piled wood on top of the pots and lit the fire.
The pit was only about one foot deep so we stacked some brick up to increase the depth to about two feet. I also brought my barrel and we did a barrel firing as well. All the pots around the pit are just pre-heating because we fired my raku kiln non-stop, load after load, till 1:30 in the morning. Once the top pots were removed from the top ledge of the pit and raku fired we placed a loosely fit tin cover over the pit and let it burn itself out. I'm guessing we had about 50 pots in the pit. Some were wrapped in tin foil saggers, some had terra sigallata finishes, and some were just plain bisqued pots. We also sprinkled copper carb and some other "magic dust" around the pot to create colors. The good news is everybody had at least one piece that they were extremely happy about but all the pots looked great to me and we had no breakage. All in all I think we fired the raku kiln about a dozen times and between the three kilns fired about 150 pots. We're in the process of taking photos of the finished pots and when that
is done I'll post a slide show of some of our favorites. All I can say is that it was a fantastic and successful event. Stay tuned for the slide show.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Homemade Pottery Tools

I've been making a bunch of pottery tools lately. These are just a couple. The strips of wood are slab rolling strips 1 inch wide, 24 inches long, and 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch thick. Of course the sponges are just sponge sticks. Easy to make and fun to use, as are all my homemade tools, because I made them. I also made a bunch of wooded trimming tools and a bunch of cool textured paddles. I posted photos of those on my other blog Coulee Region Art. Check them out.
Anyway, if I'm not getting muddy in the studio, at least I'm getting dusty.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Few Raku Pieces to Fire

Just a few raku pieces that need to be fired. The two figures were made last year. The little one was carved out of porcelain. The other one was just my regular stoneware clay body. Both were glazed with clear crackle raku glaze. The covered container was dipped in clear crackle raku glaze and the top portion and lid dipped in a "mystery" scrap glaze. The masks are porcelain and were made from plaster molds. They're fragile right now. I'm not sure how they'll handle the raku kiln. All three were dipped in clear crackle. The two tea bowls are glazed with clear crackle and the rims dipped in different "mystery" glazes. I also have some other tea bowls to fire. Two of those are glazed with TAK White raku glaze. It is supposed to be a thick fat white glaze but the first time I used it it came out as a smooth glassy opaque white, not very "fat" at all. This time around I applied it super thick. We'll see what happens.

For the past two weeks I've been glazing a lot of pieces that I fired in the electric kiln yesterday. I fired to cone 05 and it took me 6 hours start to finish. It probably would have taken less than 6 hours but I noticed that two of my elements are either burned out or not working properly. Anyway, I'll open it up today and see how everything came out. I haven't used any of these glazes before. They are Amaco matt and gloss glazes that were given to me because they were "old." Yeah, they must have sat on the shelf for a few years or more, probably more. They were all brand new, never opened, but the water had evaporated and I had to spoon out each glaze, reconstitue, and run it through the sieve a few times. It took a lot of work, but they were free.

I have a few olive oil bottles, some coffee mugs, some incense burners, a spitoon, a yarn bowl for my mother, and a bunch of other small stuff.
I'm out of clay so hopefully I'll sell this stuff real quick, buy some more, and get back to kicking the wheel.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Raku Firing Video

I posted an awsome video of my last raku firing on Coulee Region Art Blog. Check it out. Many thanks to Allen for shooting the Video, Brian V. for editing and Brian S. for all the rest of the help I needed.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Barrel Kiln

Time for a new barrel kiln. One of them is snowed in at the back of my friend's property, one is just plain old and rusted out, and the other one was run over by a wild man on a skidsteer. And No, that wildman wasn't me. Anyway, I threw some vases and some other pots last weekend and I thought a winter barrel firing party was in order. Planned it for this coming Saturday so I had to get cracking on the new barrel.

I have discussed the making of the barrel and my method of firing several times before on this blog but have learned a couple new things that make things a bit more easier and more efficient.

First of all, drilling holes was a pain in the butt on the last three barrels. Even though I used a brand new metal drill bit, I had to use a punch, create a mark, and then start drilling. It was a chore and it was hard on the drill batteries. On the next barrel I used another brand new metal drill bit but used an electric drill. It was still a chore. The end result was I did not drill all the holes that I wanted to. Tip #1---use a "Uni-bit" or a stepped up MultiCutter bit. This type of bit is the cat's meow, the bee's knees, and makes drilling into a brand new barrel a breeze. As you can see in the photo I drilled holes 5/8-inch in three spots on the barrel spaced 4 to 5 inches apart. I didn't measure. I just eye-balled it and drilled.

Tip #2---Don't drill holes in the bottom or the floor of the barrel. The reason I say this is because I believe that it creates too much draft or air into the base of the kiln which tends to cause the saw dust to burn up too quickly. I like the sawdust in the bottom because it seems to give better blacks and better flame patterns on the pots. I'm not positive on this but it just seems so.
Oh, one last thing. If you need to cut the lid off the barrel a sawzall works great. It rattles you around a bit but works really well.
I'm going to soak-up the left over oil in the barrel with some sawdust, dispose of it "properly," and light a small fire in the barrel to burn up any left over slime. Will be firing this kiln this Saturday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Little Rocketman Kiln

Yes, I know, I haven't posted anything for a while but Happy New Year and here is this year's first post. I have been keeping busy. Besides my paying job I have been doing a lot of stuff at the studio and stop everyday, although I haven't been making any pots. My newest project is the construction of a wood burning kiln that I am calling "Little Rocketman." It is a smaller version of a kiln that was designed by Mike Weber quite some time ago. I found a photo of it a few weeks back on Dave Zdrazil's website and thought to myself---"Too Cool! I can make a smaller version of this and start the fire this Spring."

My first experience with wood firing was with Tony Ferguson in 2005 and his kiln is the same design, but bigger. In Fact, I think both David and Tony were students of Mike Weber. Anyway, I'm just now starting to build the form for this wood burning, cantenary arch, tube anagama.
It took me a while to come up with the shape and final size of this Little Rocketman. All I knew is that I didn't want a kiln the size of Tony's, as it would take too much time and effort, not to mention money, to build and fire that dragon. Dave's kiln looked like the best fit for me but I ended up drawing my own plans based on standard firebrick brick sizes, and kiln shelf sizes. What I came up with was a kiln that I could afford to build and also one that I thought I'd be able to fire by myself in relatively a short amount of time (anything less than 24 hours). So I came up with these dimensions: 6-feet overall length that would incorporate approximately 36 square inches of flat kiln shelf space in the rear of the kiln, 36 flat square inches of firebox/ash pit area, and with interior arch dimensions of 36-inches wide by 31-inches tall. These measurements allow me to crawl into and out of the kiln for loading and unloading without it being too much of a pain in the ass. I know because I created a cardboard template to test it out. I came up with the cantenary arch by cutting out a bunch of wooden templates of standard straight bricks, #1, #2 and #3 arch bricks. I played with these wooden cut-outs until I came up with something I liked. Stay tuned for more info on the construction process. Next step is building the form.