Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mud-Slinging Pyromania - Vacation Day Three

Today, we glazed pots. Julie did three dragon vases, and I did two rockets, a glaze test piece, and the trout (trout! trout! trout!). We both worked in the studio, I was on the bar chair, and she sat behind the wheel.

After we finished, we went into the garage, and started moving equipment to the back yard.

First, I carried out the floor of an old kiln, that we had bought from Joe and Debbie. There were pots melted and fused onto its surface, in a thin layer. The piece is ten sided, about three feet across, is made from a single layer of kiln brick, and has a band of steel around it. I placed it onto the cinderblock pad, dead pot side down.

Julie brought out the firebox. I placed it towards the front of the kiln floor, with the burner port around back.

We brought our four wheeled lawn cart into the garage to move the kiln itself. First we had to flip it back over, since it was still upside-down from when I cut the fire ports in the floor. The kiln has handles built into both sides, so carrying and flipping is not too difficult. We placed it on the cart, then wheeled it through the garage door, past the front of the house, through the gate in the fence, and around back to where the raku pad is. We lifted the kiln into place on top of the fire box.

Julie spent some time putting a new layer of kiln wash on the kiln shelf that we were going to use in the raku kiln, while I pulled down a plastic bag of broken kiln bricks, and grabbed the burner.

We put three half bricks on the floor of the firing chamber in the kiln, to support the shelf. I then played around with the kiln bricks and burner, to figure a way to prop the burner up to the same height as the port in the back of the firebox, and to keep the burner from flopping over. I found a piece of kiln brick that matched the skinny part of the burner, and held it nicely. I added two pieces of kiln brick, one on either side, just in case the burner got frisky and tried to move. Finally, I pulled a cinderblock out of the pad, and ran the burner and hose through one of the large holes. This limited the sideways movement of the burner, and I didn't have to worry about someone (me) accidently kicking the flaming burner off to one side while firing.

We set up the three small metal reduction chambers, metal ash cans, the empty paint can that I had used the last time we rakued, and the thirty gallon metal trash can to put all of the burnt materials in and wet them down when we had finished. We also brought out our heavy gloves and tongs for moving hot pots.

I hooked up the burner to the propane cylindar, using a little teflon tape on the treads to ensure a good seal. I made sure that the burner valve was closed, and opened the valve on the propane tank. Next, I set the pressure gauge to four and a half pounds. We placed two rockets, one dragon vase, and a glaze test piece into the kiln, and closed the lid. I used a gas log lighter to light the kiln.

The burner ignited with a muffled roar, and I cranked it up to about a quarter power before leaving it alone. According to the analog pyrometer, the kiln had reached five hundred degrees within a few minutes.

While the kiln was heating, we built nests of shreaded paper and corregated cardboard in our reduction chambers.

The first firing took about forty-five minutes. We were a little timid, it being our first firing, and I slowly turned the burner valve up for the first half hour. The kiln seemed to hover at about fifteen hundred degrees, so we gave it a little more pressure off the regulator, and again hovered at seventeen hundred. At about seventeen seventy-five, we donned our gloves, and killed gas to the burner.

Julie and I got on either side of the kiln, and stepped up onto raised cinderblock steps. Together, we used our tongs to lift the lid of the kiln back, until it overbalanced, and the weight was taken by the attached chains.

Taking turns, we lifted the pieces free from the kiln, and placed them into their own reduction chambers. An orange hot piece, coated with molten glaze, tends to burst into flames when dropped into the shreaded paper and cardboard lined chambers. The piece would be lowered in, and then the tongs would be used to pick up the chamber lid, and to slap it shut.

Some pieces, the copper reds, or the Seth's, were rushed from kiln to chamber. Others, like crackle pieces, could be moved with less urgency. A Seth's piece is placed in a chamber for a minute of so, then the lid is opened, and the greasy green smoke is encouraged to burst into flame. The lid is then slapped back down. Additional sheets of wet newspaper are placed over smoldering cans, to reduce the amount of smoke.

We loaded the trout and two dragons into the kiln, for the second firing. Julie had me practice picking the trout up off of the cinderblocks with the tongs, until I could do it safely and with confidence (there are few things worse than fishing around in a hot kiln with a pair of tongs, and realizing that you don't know how to pick your piece up. Its a really great way to lose eyebrows in the heat). We lit the kiln, then stepped back to wait for our first pieces to cool.

The first rocket was the one that I made from one of Stephanie's designs. I covered it in copper red, with white underglaze under clear crackle engine bells. The flower in the porthole was carefully colored with pink and white underglaze, the leaves are florentine green, and the flower pot is brown. The rim of the porthole is white underglaze as well. All of the underglaze is covered in white crackle. This piece was placed in the paint can, lined with cardboard with a little shredded paper.

The second rocket has clear crackle on white underglaze for the body, lobster mason stain in louden's base on the fins and around the cockpit, and copper red on the engine bells.

Julie's first dragon was one she had glazed months ago. We think that the body of the piece is black lacquer, which is a shiny black glaze. The dragon is metallic copper, with flashes of maroon and dark blue.

The second firing took half an hour, and again, we were a bit timid in turning the flame up (fear of pieces exploding in the kiln from thermal shock). Julie's two dragon pieces turned out wonderfully, and my trout isn't bad. I could have put more glaze on the body of the fish.

We cleaned everything up, and later this evening I covered the kiln with a tarp, and used bungee cords to hold it down.

Julie has posted pictures of just about everything.


Anonymous keith christiansen said...

i was just browsing the web tonight... great stroies.. i'm in rochester ny, and have done backyard raku for 6-7 yrs now... lots of fun, and good not to heat up to fast, especially w/ your delicate pots.. enjoy!,

keith c.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

You're in business! This is so cool!

10:47 PM  
Blogger SquidgePa said...

Thanks for commenting! We are so pleased that we have the kiln up and running. We're already getting requests from some of our pottery associates to hold group firings.


9:45 PM  
Anonymous Rob Kastan said...

I'll take a much are they?


3:09 PM  

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