Friday, February 21, 2014

Kiln Loading

This whole week has been pretty much swallowed up by kiln loading and various errands. On Monday, we worked on the greenhouse at the farm and got the raised beds finished. Here's a photo of the raised beds in construction:

I've been posting photos on Facebook as I went along with the kiln loading, but I thought I would share some thoughts with the photos and about the process since I just finished yesterday.

Do any of you fine readers remember the game Tetris? I would liken loading a kiln to the game Tetris in which you have different shaped blocks that fall and you have to rotate them in order to fit into the blocks below them. Luckily, in loading the kiln, the blocks don't implode or disappear when you fit them together, but I sometimes wonder if I would go insane if I listened to this theme music all day:

First, the pots had to make it to the farm. We're working on building a barn to get my studio and a workshop out there, but for now, I move the pots from my house to the farm like this:

In other words, I move them VERY CAREFULLY because they're thin, raw clay pots! I've been pretty good about taking photos this week at every level of the loading. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember to snap a photo before throwing another shelf on top (which I did in a few instances), but this will give you the general idea of how it works.

The first couple of rows seem to be the hardest for me. Not only do I have to try and fill as many spaces as possible, but these shelves tend to hold my smaller items, so there are more to deal with! Dishes take up a lot of room. The rims are deceptively wide and they need some tending to in order to get them in the right position. I've been trying to be better about making things like the smaller dishes in the photo below to fit below larger dishes in order to maximize filling the spaces. 

 A few more rows:

 I shifted my front shelves around for this firing and decided to put this stack of flowerpots there in front of the firebox. My theory is that this layout may provide for more airflow and make the kiln more evenly fired. We'll see!
 Kiln halfway loaded and here is what I have left:
 First row on the front stack:
 I purposefully made the first two levels of this stack very tall in order to encourage some air flow. Typically this front left corner is pretty cool in temperature, which is also why I put the flowerpots in the corners.
 Sneaking in a few more dishes:
 I had to take the lid off of the compost crock at the front and put it on top of the stack of dishes in the back left. Otherwise, it could have touched the ceiling, which would not have been a good thing. Top part of the final stack:
 This is the final view of the stacks before I put the bricks up in that opening, making a solid wall across the front.
 And here is what was left at the very end:

I will do a gas preheat overnight on Saturday to keep the pots from freezing since it will be cold and to give us a leg-up on the firing. The preheat puts the kiln at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday morning and ready to roll. I do what is called single firing, which means that the pots are raw when they are loaded into the kiln (no bisque firing). When we were not doing a preheat, the firing took 17-18 hours, and now with the preheat it takes about 16 hours total. Because I salt the kiln I had to build it out of hard brick, and a double layer of hard brick is a lot of thermal mass to heat up! 

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