Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making Colanders

Colanders in the making - that's my old and trusty Makita cordless drill on bottom right.

I recently had an order for a colander, so I made eight of them. Thought I'd share the process. I make a bowl, leaving clay in the bottom for a nice foot, and add some small handles up at the top so you can grab the colander without burning your fingers if you're pouring hot pasta into it.

When the pots become quite stiff, that's when I trim and drill holes. If I drill when the clay is too wet, it's a mess to clean afterwards. When it's at the right consistency, the drill cuts cleanly. I do clean each hole quickly with a scrubby when dry just to make sure there's no sharp edges.

Twenty years ago, my then sister-in-law (Martha) gave me a Makita cordless drill for Christmas. I had asked for one for the purpose of drilling holes in colanders. This drill has been one of my best tools. It still works - same battery, same battery charger.

After drilling holes, I use the drill bit to create a channel in the foot to allow liquid to flow from under the colander when set on a plate.

Here's a video:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Everyone

Thanks everyone, for a wonderful weekend at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters.

Especially Mary, for all her behind-scenes work.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Like my Rubber

My booth at Celebration this year
My booth at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters has a new look this year with the addition of three large rubber floor mats. I opted for the big mats as opposed to the puzzle type mat, and so far I'm happy with my choice.
The rolls of rubber (recycled rubber) are a bit heavy and bulky, but they go down quickly and lay flat nicely. They do pick up dirt quickly, but the dirt doesn't seem to detract from the appearance. The more foot prints that get set into the rubber, the more it just becomes lighter in appearance, the prints just melding into each other.
I could clean it the morning of the show, but then it'll just get covered again.
So, if you're coming to the show, stop in and rest your feet on my rubber while you browse my newest pots.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Playing with Embers

Looking through firebox
At the end of our most recent firing in our wood kiln, I noticed some little sparklers developing, as if we were celebrating the end of another successful firing, at least I hope so....

We actually built up quite a bed of embers under the grate where the wood burns. Normally, we try to keep the bed of embers in check, so that air enters the kiln and gets preheated as it passes over the bed of embers. We keep two holes open at the bottom of the kiln, and we keep an eye on the height of the bed of embers, raking out coals if necessary, or pulling another brick out of the holes to allow more air to enter.

The kiln fires most efficiently with the correct amount of air entering over the bed of coals.

But at the end of this firing, we experimented with allowing the coals to nearly fill the entire area under the grates as we kept the firebox filled with wood. This seemed to keep the front of the kiln from rising in temperature, but allowed the back of the kiln to climb in temperature.

We actually had the back of the kiln higher in temperature than the front of the kiln. However, we ran out of wood before we could see if our technique could allow us to get the back up to the same as the front. We reached cone 9 in the back and cone 13 in the front.

We're unloading today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quick Glimpse

Levi pulled this mug out early.
We didn't get the back as hot as we wanted, but we did manage to maintain a more even kiln front and back toward the end of the firing. We might have fed the kiln more wood, but we ran out at the end of the firing after 13 1/2 hours.

We'll be unloading tomorrow and bringing some of these pots to the Celebration of Seagrove Potters this weekend. Levi will probably have some for sale at the CO-Op of Seagrove Potters.

 Here's a few pictures from the front and back of the kiln:

Front shelves
Bottom of front shelves, cone 14 still standing
Back of kiln
Back of kiln, cones 9,10,11

Monday, November 12, 2012

Foggy Morning Firing

It's 6 a.m. and a heavy fog shrouds the kiln shed and surrounding trees this morning. I've just finished my first cup of coffee. In a few minutes, Mary and I will smudge the kiln, and I'll light a small fire under the grates of the firebox inside the kiln. We've got a mix of pallet wood from Pakistan and a variety of firewood from a recent cut under the power lines on our property - willow, oak, pine and gum.

Back of kiln (Levi's bowls, mugs and small soul pots


Friday, November 9, 2012

Nailed this Post

Sometimes, I hit the nail on the head with my posts, but my last post was a bit bland and technical. I apologize. Here's a bit of sculpture I unloaded from the kiln today, as I was cleaning out the firebox. I fired with all used pallet wood last firing and had an overabundance of nails that fused together in the firebox. Yes, that's one of my new table pedestals. (See last post for a mundane description of how I made those.)

Nail Sculpture
Up Close

I think I nailed this post, huh?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Rendering of some Table Pedestals

I'm always trying to make a better display of my pots when I go to a show, and the upcoming Celebration of Seagrove Potters Nov. 17 and 18 inspired me to create some different sized pedestals. I wanted to make some pedestals that I could collapse so they didn't take up a lot of space, as Mary and I like to take the Prius to shows if at all possible.

An evening of searching online led me to a site where I ordered four 8-foot lengths of "clear two-way corner channel joiners" from U.S. Plastic Corporation. Cost, $45 (includes shipping). I have some 2-foot by 4-foot sheets of Formica covered hardboard which are black on one side, and I was hoping to build the pedestals with these, cutting them to size. But they were too thick, so I ended up using them for the top of the pedestal and bought a 4' x 8' 1/4-inch plywood from Lowes Home Improvement, cost $20.

Here's a few pictures with the final one showing the three sizes of pedestals I made. I ended up making four 10 x 10 x10 cubes, six 6 x 6 x 6 cubes,  two 6 x 6 x 10 pedestals and one 12 x 12 x 4 pedestal before running out of channel joiner.

Here's a section of the Channel Joiner

A hacksaw easily cut through the plastic joiner

Plywood that I cut and stained. These are 10" x 10"
I painted edges of tops black to match the Formica

I added electrical tape on each joiner to hide a seam

I think the tape created a nice look.

So, I glued one Channel Joiner onto each piece of plywood, so that the pedestals can be pulled apart and stacked in a box and stored for later use. The top has four pieces of felt (one side sticky) placed underneath in such a way that prevents the top from sliding too much. I'll share a picture of the booth when we get it set up next Thursday for the Celebration. I also ordered some rubber mats online for the floor of the booth, three four-foot wide by 10-foot long mats. I've spent too much time on these pedestals. Levi and I are planning to fire the wood kiln Monday. I've been sharing pictures of pots on Facebook, but I've neglected the blog. I'll have to get back to sharing more on the blog.

Hope to see some of you at the Celebration.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cone 6 'electric glaze' fires nicely at 10-14

I've been introducing a cone 6 electric fire glaze into the wood kiln for the past several firings with some interesting results. This last firing produced some nice purple and yellow. I know the purple is from a reduction atmosphere in the kiln, starving the kiln of oxygen so that carbon is produced. That's probably a simplistic explanation of reduction. But I'm not a chemist.

The yellow was a suprise. I hadn't seen it before. Levi glazed quite a few of some small cups and vases with the cone 6 glaze for this firing, and we had it throughout the kiln, from the front to the back. We reached cone 14 in the very front of the kiln, and cone 10 in the back. Many of the pieces were brushed with red iron oxide underneath the glaze. I'm thinking the red iron helped produce the yellow.

The glaze is a copper carbonate glaze with a small percentage of lithium as an ingredient. It's a recipe from Richard Zakin's book on electric kiln glazes.

When firing atmospheric kilns, it's recommended to keep a log of each firing. Well, I did a poor job of logging on this firing. However, there was a point when I put the kiln into reduction by opening up passives in the chimney, which I do for most of the firings. What we did do for a period of time, was allow the build up of embers in the firebox without pulling a brick in the air intakes to allow more air into the firebox. I'm thinking this caused some heavier reduction than usual.

Here's a couple of examples:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sneak Peak - will unload Saturday

Six-foot flame exits the chimney after the last stoke
Wednesday's wood firing went well - a 14-hour affair from start to finish with the first hour being a little propane warm up.
Now, we wait. Well, there's a bit of peaking in through the passive dampers where cool air is unlikely to rush into the ware chamber and crack pots. I suppose I should share a couple of pictures, huh?

We took the temperature up slowly for the first 1,000 degrees or so, as I had some shelves that were a bit wet from applying kiln wash (a mixture of kaolin and alumina that keeps glaze drips and ash from totally melting into the shelves) and I had those very large soul pots that I didn't want to stress out too much.

We reached cone 9 in the bottom of the back of the kiln, the usual cone 14 or more in the very front.

We will open up the kiln to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday during our annual R.D. Mahan Kiln Opening and Turkey Roast, Oct. 6 and 7.

A Levi vase with copper glaze at the back of kiln
Pitcher with flashing slip behind cones

Sunday, September 30, 2012

R.D. Mahan Kiln Opening and Turkey Roast, Oct. 6, 7

This coming weekend (Oct. 6, 7) we'll be opening up the wood-burning kiln and sharing with our customers the excitement of unloading hot pots and hopefully beautiful pots as we celebrate the Fourth Annual R.D. Mahan Kiln Opening and Turkey Roast here in Seagrove.

This is the first time we've organized a firing to allow us to open up during the actual kiln opening. We've usually opened up several days before to give us time to examine, clean and price pots, but I wanted to make this a "real" kiln opening,  so we plan to start unloading at 9 a.m. Saturday.

We'll have an electric kiln to open up Saturday or Sunday as well, I've got two large tree platters decorated with a new design, and some bells to fire in the electric kiln.

Mary's making her usual leek and potato soup for lunch, scones and cream for breakfast. I'll be brewing some of my organic Ethiopian coffee and roasting a couple of free range heritage turkeys.

My children, Levi and Chelsea, will be around the shop for part of the weekend, demonstrating, and we might have a bit of music being played, at least a few tunes on my flute.

Hope to see some of you here

Some large soul pots ready for loading into kiln

Here's me climbing into the kiln with a large soul pot.

Placing the soul pot on top shelf


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sometimes, a Pot doesn't Fit in a Bag

We recently sold a wood-fired pot to a couple from Connecticut. It was around 40 inches tall and I offered to wrap it in cardboard for the ride home, but the lady that chose the pot decided she'd be able to hold the pot while riding back to their friends' home in Moore County where they were staying. Check out the padding around the neck of the pot in the picture - gives a neck pillow a whole new meaning.

Carol Frank of Old Saybrook, CT. keeps an eye on her new pot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Whirrrrr-Zzzzzzzip Plunk! Plunk!

I've got three pallets of pallet parts I'm cutting to size for the wood-fired kiln this week in between decorating some large soul pots and loading and firing an electric kiln which has two sinks I've made for a hotel in Geneva Switzerland along with some soul pots and some teapots and little mugs to go with them, and a large tree platter.

Whirrrrrr-zzzzip. Plunk! Plunk! (Two thick boards cut in two with my DeWalt chop saw and tossed into the wheel barrow.) Whirrrrr-zzzzzzip. Plunk! Plunk! (Two more....)

The sinks are glazed with two different glazes layered together that the client picked from several tests. The tests were dipped in glaze; the sinks are sprayed with glaze, two different methods of applying glaze that result in slightly different effects, so I'm hoping the client likes the sprayed sinks.

Returning an empty wheel barrow to my cutting area after stacking the boards near the kiln, I noticed a beautiful butterfly on the saw. I took a break and photographed him as he flitted about, landing here and there, pumping his wings, "tasting" the sawdust with his curly little antenna thing.

Then I got back to work:

Whirrrrrrrr-zzzzzzzzip. Plunk! Plunk!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quickest Firing yet looks Good

Chelsea, Levi and I fired a load of pots in the wood-fired kiln Tuesday, most of the pots being made by Chelsea and Levi while Mary and I were away in Ireland. It was the quickest we've ever fired the Manabigama, nine hours.

We stoked heavy until we reached cone 11 in the front then slowed the stoking to let the kiln raise and lower between 2,000 F. and 2,300 F for a few hours. Then Levi took over at the end and stoked heavily, putting the kiln into reduction for an hour or so. We had cone 14 flat in the front and cone 10 tipping in the back when we shut the kiln up.

A peek into the kiln this morning shows we've got some nice color on the front pots. Many of the pieces are glazed in shino, which looks to have turned quite dark up front.

We'll be unloading in the morning.

Chimney flame near end of firing

Front shelves next to firebox

Right to left: Chelsea, Mariel Feigen, and Levi

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Soul Pot with Curvy Limbs

I'm trying to connect my blog to my twitter account using Twitterfeed, so I'll do a quick post and see if it's working. Here's a soul pot I decorated yesterday:
The top with its signature rim

Adding some limbs

And then some leaves. It's ready for the kiln.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Back to Work in North Carolina

Finished shed in Ireland
Well, I've been back to work for a couple of weeks now since we got back from our trip to Ireland. We succeeded in erecting my 23 1/2-foot by 10-foot metal shed, insulating it, laying a concrete floor and pad outside, and installing a small wood stove. And I also bought 650 heavy duty fire brick. So, next year, we'll be building a kiln if all goes as planned. I love the trees in Ireland. Don't get me wrong. We have some beautiful trees here in the U.S., but for some reason, the trees of Ireland strike a chord in me that inspires. I made several pieces since I've been back to work here, and one in particular was inspired by a tree I saw in Ireland (I can't remember where I took the picture). I'll share some photos:
A lovely Irish tree
Here it is on a pot.
This Lime tree in Ireland was just a mass of brances at its base.

Lime trees, also called Linden or Basswood

Monday, June 25, 2012

Figuring out how to Fire Pots in Ireland

I got my hat in Tipperary today

I've got my Irish hat on these days - spending a month here to set up a workspace so I can make a few pots here in Ireland. I've got a 23 by 10-foot metal shed up and we're working on the concrete floor, insulation and electricity. It looks like an electric kiln may not be feasible, as I'd have to run a new service into the building, and that would cost more than $2,000, plus we'd have to pay a monthly service charge, even when we weren't here. So, I'm thinking about finding an old front-loading electric kiln and converting it to gas, or possibly even building a small kiln that could be fired with gas or wood. I was hoping I could get up and running using an electric kiln and be ready to make pots on our next trip in a year's time. So, while the kiln is on hold, I'll be searching Done Deals (an Irish classifieds publication) for a wheel and a slab roller, and getting the shed finished. I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck.

Here's the inside of the shed, ready for final layer of concrete
Putting the final wheelbarrow load of stone into the shed

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Here's the Pots

Results are in. It was quite a successful firing. Lots of nice flashing, ash buildup, a few long drips of colorful ash... and the shino couldn't decide if it was white, orange or brown. Here's some pictures: