Friday, June 13, 2014


I'm back at it in the studio, making pots and getting ready to fire the new kiln.  My first firing is tentatively scheduled for next Sunday, the 22nd.  I have my electric kiln hooked up, I haven't fired any pots in it yet but I did fire my cast burner ports and it performed admirably.

I mixed up my usual four batches of clay which is about 1300 pounds.  That used to be two firings worth, not sure what it is now.

I'm slowly getting pots made but I'm having trouble getting a rhythm going.  I'm used to making large runs of pots for two wood firings.  30 soup bowls, 20 serving bowls, 60 cups, a dozen teapots, etc. With a smaller kiln it seems ludicrous to make enough to do 3 or 4 back to back firings.  So the cycle will change, 8 cups here, 4 serving bowls there.  That's going to be tough for a workaholic type potter like me.  For me working on pots is an addiction, at the end of the day I need to see boards full of pots, and of course it's never enough.  It's hard to stop at 4 or 6 or 8.  My studio was setup to hold enough pots for two firings with the idea that I would eventually be building a two chamber wood kiln.  For a variety of reasons I decided last year that a larger kiln wasn't in the cards for me.  So, I dunno.  I'll figure it out though.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nearly there!

I got right back to work on the kiln as soon as I arrived home from Minnesota.  I'm just about finished but I have a small punch list to knock out.  I still need to cast salt troughs for the firebox and set the bagwalls, set up the burners, and build some storage for the kiln shelves and posts.  

I put up a metal roof for the shed and flashed around the chimney.

This is the door frame and the I-beam trolley system.  The beam is about 12' long and extends out the side of the shed.

The oil burners require a much smaller and tapered port.  I found these plastic funnels that were just the right size.  I built a little frame and cast them using Mizzou castable.  They should work just fine.

Here is the 99% finished kiln.  The door is constructed of high alumina soft brick, this is the same brick I used on both of my previous wood kilns and it held up pretty well.  I coated the kiln side of the brick with a thinned down mix of AP Green #36 high alumina cement.  I wanted to use greenpatch 421, which is fairly common amongst potters.  My supplier was out of that and recommended the #36 as it has a higher amount of alumina, about 70%.  I did discover that it will not bond if there is any dust on the brick, which is a tall order for soft brick, but I think I made it work.  Time will tell if that coating makes a difference.  The door track works great, I can move the 700# door with one hand quite easily.  I'm excited about it!

I mixed clay several days ago and it should come out of the racks in a week or so and then it's on to making pots!


Sunday, May 11, 2014


We had a great time in Minnesota this last week.  We spent some time up at the north shore doing some hiking and sightseeing the nature.  In Texas we lack the kind of nature that I love, tall trees, rocky hills, rivers, waterfalls, etc.  This is a photo of Sadie and me at Gooseberry Falls, north of Duluth.


The St. Croix pottery tour was insane.  I've never seen so many pots and so many people buying pots.  I was able to meet a few people in real life, plus briefly catch up with some other folks like Dan Finnegan, Michael Hunt/Naomi Dalglish, and Linda Christianson.  There were a few potters whose work I was excited to see in person, and knowing that I would be heading up there I saved a few bucks for some pots.  Since we flew up and I had a tiny budget I was limited to small pots like cups and bowls.

I picked up some cups by Sam Taylor, Mark Shapiro, and Dan Finnegan.  Sadie picked up a Randy Johnston and a Linda Christianson.

I also got these nice pasta bowls from Kent Mclaughlin and Bob Briscoe, and a dinner plate by Sarah Jaeger.  I'm not usually one for bright colors but I've always loved these blue pots she does.

These cups are by Michael Hunt from Bandana Pottery, the one on the left is mine, the other two I picked up for some other folks.

I saw this large slab dish (about 15") in the middle of the Bandana pottery display and I loved it and couldn't stop talking about it, but it was too expensive and a little too large to carry home.  Sadie decided to buy it for me as an early birthday present, that was really nice of her.  I picked a winner.

Tomorrow it's back to the kiln build.

Cheers y'all!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Golden arch.

The arch is up and the steel work is mostly complete.  It's been a long few months, I'm going on vacation.

Cheers y'all!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Build

Here is an update about the kiln build, I'm making some good progress, I'm starting the steel work this weekend and would like to get the arch up as well.  Next Tuesday the lady and I are heading to Minnesota on vacation for a week.  I'm going to hit up the St. Croix Pottery Tour for a day, I'm really excited about that.  So I'm trying to cram as much building in as I can before we go.  

I like arches with a steep slope, not quite a barrel arch but pretty close.
Back to the grind.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coming down and going up!

I'm excited that my kickstarter is finished and I was able to raise what I needed to get this new kiln up and running.  I started taking down the wood kiln a couple weeks ago, trying to sort what was reusable and what wasn't as I took it down.  

Look at those gaps!

Above the grates there was getting gnarly!  I tried to save the bagwall to use as a classy lawn ornament but it was just too heavy to move.

Not much left.

I snapped chalklines for the kiln and laid down a layer of self-leveling compound so that the foundation was perfectly flat and level.

Today I laid up the concrete blocks for the foundation and layer of cement board on top so that I start with a perfectly flat area to lay brick.

Here is the kiln shed, my studio is just to the right.  I'm going to put a metal roof on it once I get the stack through the roof.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm hoping to start laying the floor of the kiln tomorrow, I also need to go track down a brick saw.  I started loosely planning this project almost a year ago so it feels good to see it start coming together.  


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oil Burner Update

The stars finally aligned themselves this week and I was able to fire the university kiln with my waste oil burners.  Things went pretty well, I had a few small issues during the firing that I was able to resolve or at least troubleshoot for the next firing.  I made it to cone 10 in about 11 hours using 27 gallons of waste vegetable oil.  The two biggest issues I had were the burner nozzles clogging and my air compressor not being able to keep up.  The latter was an easy fix, I was able to commandeer the department compressor so I had one on each burner.  I'm going to have to invest in a much larger/higher CFM compressor for my kiln.  That was an unexpected expense but I'm glad I figured it out now so I can budget that in.  I think the clogging was due to the oil not being adequately filtered.  The burners drew from a 5 gallon bucket and I had a 100 mesh sieve that I poured the oil through.  While attempting to remove sediment from the sieve I cracked it and put a couple small holes in it, so I think quite a bit of sediment made it through.  I was able to clear it quickly with a wire brush but it could lose temp pretty quick if the clog happened for too long.  I'm excited to know these things work and have that stress behind me.  It makes it a lot easier to move forward with getting the kiln built. 

In other news, I picked up an electric kiln this week.  I've been looking for a used one for a couple years but I had a pretty long and picky list of what I wanted.  My patience paid off and I was able to pick up a computer controlled Skutt 1227 for an extremely small amount of money.  It came from an elementary school that was having mandatory equipment replacement and was used at most 4 times a year.  It was a 3 phase 240 which is an cheap style to rewire as the elements don't need to be replaced, but lo and behold when I got home it turned out that it had already been rewired at point in time.  Score one for the home team.  The pieces I do with multiple layers of slip don't take to raw glazing so this will be a useful tool for me.  I don't know why I haven't taken a picture of it yet, but here it is tarped up in my truck. 

My kickstarter is over in 6 days.  I am currently $480 short of my stretch goal which will help with a number of additional expenses for the kiln.  If you are interested in contributing you can click here.  I still have plenty of brushes available for your contribution or would be happy to make some pots for you!