Tuesday, February 3, 2009

tools of the trade.

I don't have anything terribly interesting going on right now so I thought I might share my kiln building tools for anyone who's thinking of building their own kiln.

I use both a 4' and a 2' level, the short one is easier for small walls and the stack. The tall one is useful for longwalls and as a stright edge to make sure your wall isn't bowing.
The hand saw is for cutting soft brick, I haven't found any better tool than a plain old carpenters handsaw. They dull quickly though, this is my second one on this build. I also like to use the saw blade as a sureform type tool to shape softbrick, it works great!

For cutting hardbrick there are a few options. Hammer & chisel is the cheapest, but not the cleanest or most accurate. Renting a wet saw is the safest, quickest, and most accurate method but can be quite expensive. In the middle there is the option of buying diamond blades for either a circular saw($20-40) or an angle grinder($15-25). The last two kilns I built I used a circular saw with the guard shimmed up to make cutting easier(disclaimer: this is VERY unsafe, be careful). The brick dust will wreak havoc on your saw quickly so it's probably best to buy a quality used saw rather than a cheap saw. On this kiln I've opted to use an angle grinder with a diamond blade. I had lots of bricks that needed edges ground down or mortar ground off and I didn't have money to buy blades for a saw and the grinder. This blade is a cutting blade, not a grinding blade but I find it to be far superior for shaping and cleaning edges than a masonry grinding blade. I feel that this is the most dangerous option as far as safety goes. Notice there is no guard on this grinder because it tends to get in the way. That means there is nothing between your hand/wrist and the blade which I'm sure could cause some serious damage. I am comfortable with a grinder and have lots of experience, if you're not comfortable with this then it is probably not the way to go.

These are probably the two most used tools for me. The brick rub is used to take junk off bricks, if you're using new bricks then this tool isn't as necessary. The other is a small drywall knife/scraper that I used for pretty much anything. I used it mostly to scrape mortar off bricks, it can also be used to help shape soft brick. I also used this as a trowel for mortaring joints.

I made this custom mitre box for cutting soft brick with the most common cuts. half,1/4, and longways. It was also useful to help mark hardbrick before cutting.
I also use several other basic tools that aren't pictured.
-Hammer, for tapping bricks into place, i use an old framing hammer which has straight claws that double as a brick hammer type chisel.
-Tape Measure
-Speed square, for marking bricks with straight & square lines.
-String line, this is useful if you have a long kiln to keep your floors and walls in check.
-Respirator, bricks are clay, clay dust is bad, when cutting wear a respirator. Ceramic fiber isn't too fun to breather either.

I mixed up some clay yesterday. We drop below freezing in the evenings so I set my racks in my studio. I didn't think about all the moisture, I hope it doesn't get too musty smelling in there.
I placed all the ceramic fiber on the kiln last night. I guess the bagwall is all I have left, well that and LOTS of cleaning.
I suppose I should get started on that.


Paul Jessop said...

I was going to say that Ron.!

This is what blogging is all about, sharing our experiences, as we meet them head on.
Thanks for that.

Michele D. said...

Ya know, that fact that you can build a kiln is an art in and of itself. Just wonderful.

michele d.