Sunday, April 5, 2009

Evening Out the Wood Kiln.... a Brief Glimpse at the Process....

Bruce holds up a stick of wood that didn't fit into the stoke hole. It didn't take long for it to become charred.

When I arrived at the kiln, the temperature of the first chamber was over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. I took over stoaking from Bruce Gholson of Bulldog Pottery. Three sticks of wood every few minutes, maybe two sticks if one was unusually thick.

Chad Brown took over as shift leader and with the help of Ben Owen III decided to begin alternating stoking into stoke holes at the front of the firebox and at the rear of the firebox. After some discussion, it was decided that stoking on one side of the kiln should be limited to one stick while stoking on the other side should continue to consist of three sticks.

We were dealing with a kiln that was firing unevenly. I believe cone 12 was tipping at one side's bottom, while cone 9 was tipping on the other side's top (the bottom of that side being much cooler). We began to stoke with shorter sticks on the cooler side to try to keep the heat from reaching the other side.

The firing seemed to be ahead of schedule so someone called Takuro Shibata, director of nearby STARworks Ceramics, who was slated to finish off the firing. I've never fired a wood kiln, so I watched and learned. I've participated in several firings, and each kiln has its own characteristics.

The following pictures show Takuro settling in to his role, getting to know the kiln and this particular firing.

Here he is standing at one side between the two chambers. The flame here is spewing out of two holes. It allows one to read to atmosphere of the first chamber.

The fiber blanket in the foreground was used to cover the hole when stoking was complete in the first chamber.

Takuro spends a moment at the front of the kiln, getting a sense of the firing.

Then he moves to the rear, watching the flame in the chimney.

Back at the front, he's watching as potters stoke.

Stoking the firebox

Close up of embers in firebox

A shot between the chambers after stoking.

Back at the rear of kiln.

The kiln was started at 4:30 a.m. and finished shortly after 9 p.m. It is slated to be unloaded April 13. Some of the pots will be donated to the annual fund-raising auction at the NC Pottery Center April 18.

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