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.


Michael said...

What is your reasoning for drilling holes in the side? The only reason why I ask, is that I have read tips that suggest both ways - drill holes and don't drill holes. In the two barrel firings I've tried I have not had holes drilled and they seemed to work fine, but the sawdust didn't seem to burn up completely/hot enough.

Good luck with the firing - I hope I can do one soon too!

Jeffrey R. Guin said...

The drilled holes in the barrel create draft and keep the fire roaring. I prefer the holes.

Relix said...

Hey Jeff,
I fired up my wood fired raku kiln a few weeks ago. it seemed to burn well, but I think I'm going to fire it next time using coffee can saggers filled with sawdust and maybe some miracle grow and other fun stuff. any suggestions?

Jeffrey R. Guin said...

I haven't tried saggers yet but I have had the same reliable colors and flame patterns using the walmart brand of miracle grow and copper carbonate. I'm firing up my barrel kiln this afternoon if my buddy drops off the wood. Good luck.

Kella said...

Hi I just came across your post while researching barrel kilns and was wondering can they be used to fire ceramic beads? This is a medium I am hoping to develop next year after a few courses and was hoping this maybe the cheap alternative kiln I should be able to afford, which will allow me to pursue this art form.

Thanks for your reply in advance.

Olufunke Akande said...

i love what you all have been doing on barrel kiln, it is educative. i built my barrel kiln having lined it with insulating material so a little fuel is consumed. i use fire-wood as fuel and it fires to 900 degree in five.i have used it for glazing at 1100degrees too.