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wood fired kilns

updated thu 17 feb 00


Talbott on fri 20 dec 96

If you can recommend good sources for wood fired kiln construction
and firing techniques for the same then please let me know... I am still
thinking about the Chinese and the effects they achieved.. I have also
seen some of Karen Karnes wood fired pottery and she is very famous among
New York and other upscale collectors. And.... what kind of effects can
you achieve in a gas kiln by using wood ash as a constituent in your glaze
materials?.... Best..Marshall..

PS-- up to 15 applicants/participants now..

Celia & Marshall Talbott
Pottery By Celia
Route 114
P.O. Box 4116
Naples, Maine 04055-4116
(207)693-6100 voice and fax

Tom Gray on sat 21 dec 96

At 08:48 AM 12/20/96 EST, you wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> If you can recommend good sources for wood fired kiln construction
>and firing techniques for the same then please let me know.

Marshall-The best book on wood firing today is by Jack Troy. The title
escapes me at the moment (sorry Jack), but as Jack is on this list too,
maybe he will respond with more info. Having had the opportunity to meet
some of the potters in his book, and of course reading it, I know you will
find a wealth of information there. Are you planning on building a dragon?
Tom Gray
Seagrove, NC

Carolyn Boeri on wed 19 mar 97

Hi fellow clay people,

am going to build a 2 chamber catenary arch noborigama kiln, in a couple of
months. poured a pad last fall and built a roof. 2000+ bricks have been
gathered, more are available as soon as the snow melts would like to visit a
few kilns around Vermont, New Hampshire and Mass. have a good idea of what
we are doing but would like to talk to some other kiln owners to get a feel
for any problems we might avoid. Also, we're interested in getting a list
together of wood firing dudes in New England to organize some annual get
together, for special projects, etc. So.. if you have some input to share
and have a kiln in New England please e-mail us at
asap, thanxs

Carolyn Boeri
Hartland Vermont

Karen Elkins on wed 16 feb 00

I've been following the discussions about wood fired kilns with interest,
this is the first time I've felt moved to contribute since I started
'lurking' about 6 months ago.

I found the Clayart discussion pages when I needed help tackling my electric
kiln which I was given and had re-built and wired in before realising that
there was no instruction manual... Although I've been involved in pottery as
a hobby for about 12 years, I'd only ever participated in firing woodfired
kilns, and had to translate everything I know into electrical phasing and
precise temperatures.

In 1988 I started attending the Historic Re-Creations at Kentwell Hall,
Suffolk, England and met potters there who welcomed all comers to help to
fire the wood-fired kiln, whether you had any experience or not. Over the
years I graduated from being a hanger-on to taking part in the pottery and
finally my friend and I made encaustic floor tiles and loaded and fired our
own kilnful.

The experience of firing with wood is so magical, such a team effort and so
inclusive of other people, whether they are visitors watching and asking
questions or children helping to watch the fire boxes and tell which side is
burning faster, predicting that the pots on that side of the kiln will be

Over the years that I've been lucky enough to be involved, we've tried
various schedules. We used to load during the day, seal the kiln with daub
as the afternoon visitors leave, then fire through the night so that people
returning from the pub looking for a campfire to sit at would come and keep
us awake during the stage where it feels like you're never going to get up
to temperature. Songs, beer and help splitting wood would gradually fall
away leaving a core of insomniacs to see the cone of flame as we reached
reduction, and take out the glaze rings hooked by metal rod from the spy
hole, checking that we've melted the glaze. The tallest among us would
balance a roof tile on a pole and gradually slide it over the top of the
chimney as the rest blocked up and sealed the fire boxes with daub to keep
in the heat. As dawn broke we'd troop off to the kitchens for tea and a
fry-up before going on to bed, meeting the early risers who all ask 'how has
the firing gone?'

Lately, whether we've gotten tired of staying up all night, or because we've
realised that the most exciting bits used to happen while none of the
visitors could see, a couple of us have been getting up at 4am to light, so
that by the time the second shift get up and relieve us at breakfast the
firing is well underway. Because the new kiln takes more like 18-20 hours to
fire there is still plenty of late night activity for the party animals, and
if the early shift can slope off for a nap at midday we're usually there to
see the sealing up.

The last time I fired at Kentwell we burned the old (1970's) kitchen floor,
varnish and all, and it was so dry it was inhaled by the kiln and pushed us
nicely over the plateau and onto orange heat. Usually we split logs, old
pallettes, and any odds and ends from building work. Whenever I've fired
wood kilns outside of Kentwell we usually scavenge wood out of skips
(Despite the bizarre law that the last government passed making it illegal
to take things out of roadside skips...)

I love wood firing, it's holistic, hard work but rewarding and gives such
unexpected gifts. I think it's wonderful that colleges in the U.S . are
teaching it with students - if that's what I understand the first message to
mean. I've gotten to grips with my electric kiln and I'm sure that it will
do until I can move away from the city centre and it's smokeless fuel
zone... and build myself a real kiln!

Now I'm making encaustic floor tiles full time and call myself a ceramic
artist, neither of which I'd have been able to do if it weren't for being
included in the wood firings at Kentwell.
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