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basement studios

updated tue 27 jul 04


Stuart Altmann on tue 7 oct 97

Sandy Lindsey asked for suggestions for setting up a basement studio. Here
are a few, based on my experiences in the altmann dungeon.

1. Your electric kiln is the equipment with the most critical placement.
It should be as close to your circuit breaker panel as possible (my large
Crusader is limited to about 25 feet, as I recall), it must be at least a
specified distance from any combustible material (see the instruction manual
or contact the manufacturer), and should be within reasonable reach of a
place where you can install an external vent. You will need a dedicated
220V line, which an electrician can make by bridging two unused 110V

2. You should seriously consider one of the kiln-attached venting systems
that are now on the market, e.g. Orton's. Check the Clayart archives for
brand comparisons. I have a restaurant-sized exhaust fan in the wall of my
basement, placed close to the kiln and near the ceiling. It is
*inadequate*! My wife will not stay in the house when I fire.

3. Get a good wheel. If you want an electric, the Pacifica is a good
choice among the less expensive models--if they've finally gotten the bugs
out of its foot pedal. Also consider one of the S-series Soldner wheels,
or better yet, if you can afford it, get one of the wheels in the Soldner

4. When you think you have planned enough storage space, double or triple
it. Whenever possible, put in point-of-use storage. E. g., put your
powdered glaze ingredients in one area, near where you will mix glazes,
your mixed glazes and pigments near where you will glaze and decorate, and
so on. Wal-Mart sells a line of clear widemouth containers in various
sizes that are good for storing glaze ingredients up to about 10 lbs.

5. A good way to store pots at various stages, from right off the wheel to
ready for kiln loading is in a ware board rack. Pots go from your wheel or
from the glaze bucket onto ware boards (e.g. 10" X 48" X 3/4 CDX plywood),
then each ware board is slid onto a shelf of the rack. A rack can easily
be built from ordinary 2 X 4 lumber, with common hand tools. I previously
posted a simple design for a ware board rack on Clayart; check the
archives, or if nothing turns up there, contact me.

6. A wedging table needs to be sturdy, otherwise much of your energy will
go into rocking the table back and forth. A simple, cheap way to make on
is to buy 8 ordinary cement construction blocks. Stand them vertically.
Glue one above the other; repeat with three other pairs of blocks. These
make the four legs of your table. From a garden supply shop, get a 24" X
24" smooth-surfaced concrete paving square. Glue that to the tops of the
four legs. If this would result in a table too high for you, replace four
of the cement blocks with half-size blocks, one in each leg.

7. Install a *large* fiberglas laundry tub--big enough for a 5-gal. pail.
Put some sort of drain board next to it.

8. Use standard 5-gal plastic pails to store glazes. You can get these
free or cheap from your local donut shop (the flavorings come in them). I
got most of mine from the Sinai salami company's delicatessen outlet, here
in Chicago, but the studio smelled of kosher pickles and garlic for a very
long time, no matter how well I washed them. Painters and plasterers get
their materials in them, then discard them, but those are usually too
difficult to clean. Be sure that the lids still have the rubber gaskets in
them. From Home Depot hardware, you can get a cheap plastic tool designed
to open the lids; a mallet is useful for closing them. At a nursery
supply store, you can get wheeled, wooden dollies to put under pails that
you move a lot; they are sold for large potted plants.

9. Put your wheel where the lighting is good--or install lights near where
you want your wheel. Be sure ventilation and heating are adequate.

Good luck!

Stuart Altmann

Lili Krakowski on mon 26 jul 04

I have had them. =20

In my opinion the essentials are

To make sure that your insurance companies approve. I assume that =
zoning is not going to be a problem?

wiring. You may need a new entrance box, or some other revamp of your =
electrical setup. As I can barely plug in a toaster I can only tell you =

Then. Your next consideration is keeping dust out of the house. =
Therefore, despite all the Clayarters who laugh at me as an Alarmist =
Fraidy Cat: Keep your workclothes and shoes in the basement. If they =
must leave the basement to go into the wash, put them in a big garbage =
can with water in it, transfer them wet to a plastic bag, and take them =
to the washer. DO NOT
wear or carry dry clay dust through the house. If you are having =
plumbing done to the house anyway see if they can give you a simple =
shower down there. As to toilets--well if it is possible have one put =
in; if not a chemical toilet is a good idea. =20

If you have children and pets--pets definitely should not come into a =
studio. They ae regular dust mops. Children--it depends on age. I =
have seen kiddies dashing in and out trailing clouds of dust--if they =
"work" with you they must follow same rules.

Follow all the cleaning advice given. =20

And off course you need good venting for your kiln.

Lili, AFC