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Firing the Kiln

Fourth Firing (Mar's Landers'), Page 1
Jan 28, 2004 (12:01 am) - Feb 2, 2004 (7:30 pm)

Icy day for kiln loading Jan. 27, 2004, 9:30 am. It was an ICY day to load the kiln. Actually, the person with the worst job is the one who stands outside the kiln and hands in pieces. Inside the kiln, the temperature stays fairly mild - one advantage to an underground kiln. Loading took even longer than usual and it wasn't until midnight that I could light the gas burner.

Comfy insulation board I discovered that silver foil backed foam insulation board is very comfortable. You can see a piece of it in the center of this loading shot - this stuff is warm and really takes the edge off the bricks.

Keeping warm A wood kiln should be all about sweat, singed hair, and burned fingers. Truth is, there is a lot of time spent being freezing cold. The fire in the grill was severely innadequate.

What is significant about this picture for me, is that there is actually a place to set the grill. From other pictures on this site, you might recall that there was a big rock protruding from the foundation wall. At first I thought it was cool, but, it was uncomfortable to sit on, and had absolutely no useful surfaces. Two days before the present scene, I covered it with concrete (using that insulation board, backed by wood of course, for my form walls - being foam, it cuts much easier than plywood ... cheaper too).

Quiet warmth So here is where the true advantage of capping that rock shows up. Unlike a propane powered "Mr. Heater" - the kerosene stove was silent, and completely odorless w/in 5 minutes of starting. After borrowing this one, I'm sold. I need to get my own!

Dressing warm Dressing appropriately is key to an enjoyable firing. Here's what I'm wearing: warm hat, warm boots, 2 pair of socks, knit longjohns, silk longjohns from REI, loose pants (trap air - tight jeans will make you freeze), a t-shirt, two flannel shirts, a wool sweater, a tube scarf, and a light wool jacket. Sounds like overkill but we have truly damp biting winds here. I can moderate my body temperature by removing the outer jacket, changing hats, removing/adding the scarf. If I'm working hard, I'll take off the sweater. --- NOTE: you can see the Evil Mr. Heater on the left. Listening to that thing roar like a jet will make you prefer to freeze!

Steaming ground over anagama It rained almost every day of the firing. This kept the ground water level high and on the rainy days we could keep the kiln temperature under control very well. On the dry day, the temperature went pretty high and it was hard to moderate.

face warmer The front face of the kiln is quite touchable until the last couple days of firing. Only then does it become hot to bare skin - still cool enough however if felt through cloth. This is surprising to me in that the kiln temperature is sufficient to lay cone 11 flat - not just bent, but melted into the cone pack. I still have to grab some higher cones to see what we actually reach.

face warmer Here you see Isac, Tony, and Karen (my "day job" business partner) gutter stoking. I planned poorly and was fast asleep when she and her husband arrived at the kiln.

first fire First fire from the chimney - complete with rain drops.

In this firing, I lowered the chimney four courses. My thinking was that the fire burns fine with a lower chimney, and that more of the "good stuff" in the fire might stay in the kiln chamber longer if I slowed the velocity a bit. The kiln fired fine at this level so I might even consider lowering the chimney more next time. If it is too short, it's a simple matter to stack the bricks back up.

Camp cooking Here, Shiori "cooks" rice (in a foil pouch - heat and serve). We tried "real" cooking in past firings, but it really becomes a burden as we get more and more tired. Now, we stock up on anything that only needs water - instant coffee, Tang, instant oatmeal ... you get the idea. By the end of the firing, any kind of food sounds great, so long as it requires more preparation than hot water.

It was rather windy on some of the firing days - the tarp helped keep us warm and dry from southerly winds we had early in the firing.

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