Manabigama translates "a beautiful learning kiln," according to the designers. I bought the plans for this kiln in early August, built a tool shed, a kiln shed and finally started construction of the actual kiln on Sept. 4. Eleven days later, it's beginning to finally look like a kiln.
I've worked every day for the past 11 days, taking breaks to keep an eye on the shop and make a few pots here and there. I think I could have been further along if I had ordered the kit that Larkin Refractory sells for the Manabigama. But I, and two other potters, stumbled upon a bunch of refractory material earlier in the year (picture at right) and I spent many hours trying to figure out how to alter the plans for the kiln in order to use some big refractory block I have.
But finally I decided to stick to the design that potter John Thies sent me. The plans call for 2 1/2-inch thick brick. I've got 3-inch thick brick, so I have to keep counting brick in the plans and photographs on the cd that came with them and then multiplying by 2.5 and then dividing by 3 to figure out how many courses of 3-inch brick it takes to make the same or close to same measurements in the plan. Today I spent an hour or more scraping off old mortar from some soft brick that I cut with a saw over at another potter's place yesterday.
It's the first time I've built a kiln and John's been very helpful, guiding me along and giving me advice and encouragement. I've been determined to get the kiln finished in time to fire it for our next kiln opening, Oct. 3. As that date fast approaches, I'm beginning to think I may have bit off more than I can chew.
Anyway, the photo below shows my kiln's firebox and the ware bed behind it where I'll be stacking pots if I can manage to make some before I finish the kiln. I hope to soon be building the arch (that's where the beauty of the kiln will begin to shine):