31 August 2009

the kilnbuilder is coming...the kilnbuilder is coming.

yes...i do feel as if this is my 'paul revere moment'. i believe that donovan and colleen will be the first clay people to see my kiln. the first people who own their own kilns to see mine..the first people who even know what a kiln really is to take a look at mine in the flesh.

donovan owns 'master kiln builders' and that is his profession. he builds fancy ones for famous clay people and big ones for universities and community clay centers along with ones for regular old studio potters. he welded the 'car bed' for my kiln which i hauled back from minnesota in the back of my subaru. i had a friend of my parents weld on my v-groove casters and one other piece that i wanted to be 'perfect', and then i welded everything else. it ain't pretty, but it's tight. thanks to sheila and mark for the embarrassingly long possession of their millermatic mig welder.

i feel that my kiln turned out pretty well. there are some glaring design/implementation issues..i.e. my damper, bizarre chimney stack and door but overall...not bad for no 'in person' help. I had great advice from kurt wild of wisconsin who talked me through the flue building and actually wrote a sample script for me to deal with the propane people.

i am just really looking forward to some help tweaking things. my bagwall (hard bricks placed inside the kiln where the flame enters to direct it upward (and off the wares) before it exits down at the bottom) for instance...i really don't know how tall is should be (or why for that matter) and my exit flue dimensions and probably 10 other things i haven't considered.

they are coming for vacation and to do some work at the archie bray foundation in helena so the focus will be on fly fishing, hiking, and camping but i will be grateful for 5 minutes with them discussing the details of my kiln. stay tuned.

11 August 2009

the business of working at home

People often ask me how many hours a day I work in the shop and I usually don't have a good answer for them. Working from home has nuances that are too subtle to explain.

For me, having my shop 75 feet from the house means that work and home are very difficult to separate. I very rarely am in the studio early or for long periods of time. Usually, I get out there around 11am and from then on, it's make some pots...throw in a load of laundry, make more pots...pick weeds, trim yesterday's pots, walk the dogs and get the mail. It really is just all in a day for me and I seem to be unable to distinguish between homelife and studiolife...they are one.
Today, I spent my morning on the computer, then washed the windows and then stacked wood. I checked on the plates from yesterday to make sure they weren't too dry, pulled a few weeds, did the dishes and now blogging. I'll be out to the shop by 1pm and then at some point walk the dogs. I usually work until 9 or 10pm with a break for dinner or visit with Leif if he's home. The one indulgence that I seem to consistently allow myself is that I wake up whenever I wake up. I am an avid dreamer and hate the mental jolt of the alarm clock. Leif gets up around 5 or 6 most days but when he's gone...I've got nothing to disturb me until the sun hits my face. I'm up early for glazing days or kiln firing though....no choice about that.

I often wonder what it would be like to have my studio at a separate location where I arrived, got my work done and then went home. That will have to be left to wonder though....I've created my life the way it is and I'm sticking with it...stay tuned.

03 August 2009

this weekend, i decided to remake my flue which measures about 4 feet between the back of the kiln and the chimney. i made it this long so that the chimney would not pass through the roof.

shockingly....i had a design error in my damper slot (who me....not thinking ahead??) so i knew i had better tend to it now before it's december...(also..friends are coming to visit this month and he builds kilns for a living so i figured, might as well fix the most embarrassing elements, right?)

after a firing is complete, the kiln needs to be buttoned up so it can cool slowly which means the damper should completely block off the chimney so that the heat stays in the kiln. not so much with my design....i can't even tell you what i was thinking. it has about 1/2 inch gap on either side when it's fully in.
in this picture...the damper is the black slot about 3 feet up from the ground. my camera battery charger is in limbo at the moment so i can't take a closer picture.

so the first two firings...after i reached temperature (usually sometime in the middle of the night) i would climb a ladder to the top of the stack and cover it with a piece of kaowool and a kiln shelf...dangerous business as the stack was burning hot. since i've added a couple of feet to my chimney, climbing is no longer an option..it's just too tall. the last 3 firings, i've just pushed the damper all the way in, plugged it with kaowool and hoped for the best.

i decided that the best remedy would be to deconstruct the flue and add a slot where i can drop in a kiln shelf that will completely block the channel.

since the flue was the last thing i made and didn't quite have all of the proper materials...it doesn't hurt my feelings to give it another go. the high refractory mortar that i made ( portland cement, sand, redart clay) hasn't held up that well...it is much better in the stack. i also used some commercial fireplace high temp mortar/crack seal but that isn't faring any better. i think that the 'good stuff' only comes in a 5 gallon bucket (which i don't need), but i will check today at the fireplace/masonry store.

i think i've got it figured out...it will still look a little 'homegrown' but that's how i roll. i'll update on how it functions as i usually only understand design flaws when something is in use.