The kiln is pretty much done except for some minor tweaking. Joe finished the firebox on Thanksgiving day, then traveled back to Wisconsin. A few days later, he expressed that he would like to rework the firebox to make it better. The tatami brick did not work out as well as planned. See Joe's post for more details on what did not work.
I was hoping to be completely done by now, but it will not take much to redo the firebox this spring before the first "entire kiln" firing. So this spring, Joe will come back, take off the top of the main firebox and do it again, most likely without any tatami bricks. It is sad that we worked so hard on the brick for them to not work out. Joe felt like they were too tapered. He thought that the ones I made were straighter and if we had more, it could have worked. Too bad I was a slow producer and didn't make as many as Joe and Matt (but I am secretly happy mine were the best). I think the tatami bricks will eventually find a place to work, just maybe not in my kiln.
Steven and I finished coating the first chamber today, much to his dismay. When coating it several weeks ago we ran out of clay and I had to go buy more. I have been trying to finish it for weeks, but needed a night where the temperatures did not dip below 30 at night. Today was the only one in weeks, and there do not seem to be any more coming any time soon. It is unseasonably cold! Steven tried to talk me out of it today, but I was as determined as a two year old that I wanted to do it and do it today, even if it didn't make sense. I know it didn't have to be done until spring but I hated to leave the kiln with a patch of kaowool showing.
Another view after coating the first chamber.
The state of the first chamber for the last 2 weeks. See, it just couldn't sit like this for months. Thanks to Steven for your help today and for the past 2 months!
That reminds me, I need to thank all those that helped throughout this process. Let's see, there is Joe Cole, a huge thank you, thank you, thank you. I could not have done this without your hard work, planning, and patience. You helped me fulfill a life dream, for that I will always be grateful. Thanks to Christy for allowing Joe to come help me for several weeks. Also for your help on your vacation. I am so glad you could visit for a little while! I'd like to thank Matt Hallyburton, Gaines Bailey, Kyle Miller, Wendy Neale and Spence Bardeen, Luke Studer and Elizabeth Hodgson, the Harlans, Bob Feth, Emily Cox, Trish Welsh, Lara O'Keefe, Ana Howard, Darren Sink, Stewart Waller, Gene Christian, Alex and Poli Garcia, Dave and Katherine, Rick Tufts, Andy Miller, Takuro Shibata and Greg Shuck. Thank you all so much!
On Wednesday my friends, Trish Welsh and Emily Cox, came out to help coat the first chamber. We cut and laid the kaowool ceramic fiber, then covered that with chicken wire, and finally coated it all with the sand/clay/cement/straw mix. We had a great time. Here are some pics of us ladies in action.
Here is Trish, covering the sidewall.
And Emily .
This photo was taken for a laugh at how potters use their shirts and pants to wipe their hands. More funny than this would be when I'm in "good clothes" and forget it is not acceptable to wipe hands on yourself. This action is usually followed by the thoughts of "What was I thinking? Or not thinking?". We did not get the entire chamber covered, but got most of it done. We were running low on clay and had to make a run to Claymakers to get more. Also Joe was working on the main firebox and we will not be able reach some areas due to invading his work space. I plan to finish up with the coating next week. I've got family visiting for Thanksgiving and I'm enjoying some rest and time with them for a few days.
We unloaded the kiln today and the tatami brick look great. No casualties, so the preheat took care of drying them out. We hope to place them tomorrow, and also coat the kiln, which means we'll be done! Yea! Joe did a more in depth post of today, so check it out here.
We had a lot of visitors come out for the tatami brick firing. I really appreciate the help and enjoyed seeing everyone. Thanks so much! Bob Feth came out for a little while Sunday morning and made sure we stayed on track.
Joe returned mid-morning, after doing the night shift.
Wendy Neale and Spence Bardeen arrived around noon.
Steven brought us lunch, then took over stoking duties.
Darren Sink visited mid-afternoon. He brought his dog Shadow. Shadow had a great time exploring the property. I helped too!
Matt Hallyburton came out for the last few hours, helping us get the cones down. We finished around 9 pm. On the schedule for today, not much. But tomorrow we plan to unload the tatami brick and get back to work to finish the kiln by the end of this week.
Tomorrow we will be firing the second chamber again, this time it will be filled with tatami brick. We will follow the same schedule as last time, going slower due to the thickness of the tatami brick. We only need to go to cone 1 this time so I image we will finish a couple hours sooner but the firing will take about 18 hours. We started preheating yesterday and will continue today. We will really start going about 6 am tomorrow and hope to finish around 8 pm.
I finished up the first chamber wall yesterday, today I will start working on the door side. I also need to go get a few loads of wood for the firing. You can see the fire in the second firebox, preheating the tatami brick.
Here is a photo of the whole kiln, it is really coming along. Joe has been working on the main firebox and he has done all the work on it. I think it is beautiful, I wish that we did not have to coat it. We are close to the point where we will finish with the tatami brick on top. Most likely we will be finished with the kiln next week.
Joe and I fired the second chamber of the kiln on Sunday with the help of Luke Studer and Bob Feth. It was a nice and easy firing, the easiest I've ever done. We had no problem getting temperature and all cones were within about a quarter of each other. I was worried it was too easy, meaning the pots probably would not be nice. I know that is pretty pessimistic of me but I've been let down so many times in the past I was prepared for the worst. Most of the pots in the kiln were Triangle Brewing Mugs for their Black Friday celebration. I had a lot of eggs in one big ole kiln basket, but they all turned out great! I am so pleased with the kiln and the results. Here are a few pictures of the mugs. Here is a view inside the kiln. We stacked the kiln very loosely. I imagine we could get four times the amount of pots in that we did. We needed to fire the kiln to top temperature because we are going to bisque fire the tatami brick next. Joe thought that it was a good way to make sure all mortar and castable were dry/set while simultaneously testing the bagwall. Also I did not have time to fill the kiln but had an order for about 75 mugs. When I decided to make the mugs back in the summer I imagined I'd be renting a kiln to fire them, I did not realize I would be in the middle of building a kiln. Anyway, it all worked out!
On Tuesday we continued making the tatami bricks. Here is a photo of Joe, Matt and I after we finished. Yea! This involved lots of wedging of groggy clay, my hands are glad to be done.
On Wednesday, Steven and I worked on the first chamber wall. Thanks to Steven it is very level. I was losing my patience and also starting to hit my limit of brick laying. You would think it would get easier but the trick is that the bricks are not all quite the same size. Eventually Steven started measuring the thickness and the hard bricks. They were in a range of 2.25 inches, 2.5 inches and 2.75 inches. It was hard to fit these brick in with the consistently sized soft brick. At least it's not me, it's the brick! We finally got them level with lots of mortar.
Joe worked on the main firebox, isn't the little arch cute! Joe was in the zone when working on the firebox, it was quite interesting to watch him work.
Joe and I have had lots of help over the weekend. There are a lot of pictures on Joe's blog but I'd like to add a few more. On Saturday, my good friend Niko and his family came out for a visit. Here is Niko letting us know that we need to use a straight brick on the arch as soon as we get more brick. We ran out of arch brick so had to take a break from the first chamber. More brick will arrive on Thursday. A big thanks to Niko's mom, Eleni, for bringing out yummy beans and bread. They were delicious!
Steven helped out most of Saturday, handing up bricks to Joe for the chimney. Unfortunately there was a little accident with bringing down the mortar for the last time. Oh well, it washes out. On Sunday, Wendy, Spence and Kyle came out to help coat the chimney. Here Kyle and Wendy are mixing the mortar/cement/straw coating mix. Kyle mastered the limb and trim baby chainsaw.
Then everyone helped with the chimney.
Wendy helped with the side wall, making sure we got a perfect fit.
By the end of Sunday the side wall was finished in the second chamber, we used the leftover coating from the chimney on the side wall too. We got a lot done this weekend and had a lot of fun doing so. I'm so glad my friends came out, it feels like I haven't seen them much lately. But the kiln will be done soon, then maybe a little bit of my social life will return. Thanks to all that have helped so far: Steven, Matt, Gaines, Stewart, Elizabeth, Eleni, Bob, Spence, Wendy, and Kyle.
I'm a little behind with posting pictures of the kiln building, but here goes. Last Friday E. Christian and Son of Oxford came and dug out the kiln site. Joe Cole came in on Friday from Wisconsin to oversee building the kiln. Also on Friday I received very sad news of my uncle passing away. On Saturday I traveled to Mississippi to help with arrangements there. So as Joe arrived, I had to leave for 5 days. Thankfully Joe and Steven kept on track while I was away. Here are some photos of all the work they did while I was away.
After much coordinating with fork lift rentals, truck drivers and brick salesmen it finally all came together today, we have a lot of brick. I am glad that this part is over with, too much time on the phone and shifting of schedules. I was very lucky that my husband, Steven, had the afternoon off to help get the bricks to the shed. I think he enjoyed it, he looks right comfortable on the fork lift.
This has been a very big week, another hurdle this week involved going before the town of Stem's city council to make sure the kiln did not offend any town zoning ordinances. I had checked with Granville county regarding the kiln when we purchased land, but it was not until I got the building permit for the kiln shed that I found out we are within the 0.9 square mile radius of downtown Stem (Surprise!). After finding this out everything got put on hold until the Oct. 18th council meeting. Being the studious type, I did lots of research and felt pretty prepared for the meeting except for not being able to get my hands on the town's ordinance book. This was a little annoying but I learned that they are in the process of making the ordinance book more available. It seems I am not the only one that would like to have easier access to it. Many town/county ordinance books are online at the municipal code corporation website, but not Stem's. I finally got to take a look at it immediately before the meeting and as I quickly read through it, I found nothing regarding zoning, smoke or anything related to kilns. After I spoke to the council about what my plans were for my property they had a few questions. I felt pretty good about my responses, but they still seemed a little unsure. Thankfully the whole discussion came to a quick end when the town attorney made it clear that Stem is not zoned at all (something they should think about in the future) and that I had a right to build whatever I want on my property at this time (if there are changes to the ordinances/zoning in the future I will be in the clear because I took action before any restrictions were in place). Yea, for good lawyers that point out the law especially when it is in my favor! If anyone is thinking about building a kiln and needs help with these types of questions I'd be happy to help. I talked to a lot of potters who never had to face this issue, so I had to figure a lot of this out on my own. I chose to ask permission instead of forgiveness, some would argue against this but now I can rest easy knowing I'm legal.
On the calendar for tomorrow is excavating for the kiln. Yea, more fun with large machinery! Then Friday evening a special guest will be rolling into town. Joe Cole is coming down from Wisconsin to help build the kiln he designed for me (see design here). Joe has been integral in getting my kiln plans off the ground from designing a kiln that will fit my needs to answering all the stupid little questions that I don't understand (How tall should the kiln shed be? Do I need a fork lift, a palate jack, loading dock or all of the above? Should sand cost $400?.....). I am so lucky that he will be here for several weeks to help put it all together. And a big thanks to Christy for loaning Joe out for so long, it is a big sacrifice and I really appreciate it. Sounds like she will be able to visit too for a little while, so we are looking forward to her arrival as well.