Saturday, August 28, 2010
It's a Dirty Job, but Somebody has to Do It
Finally we have had some rain and the ground is now damp again. That means getting my kiln cleaned up and ready to fire. First on the list of undesirable jobs was cleaning the shelves. In an electric kiln you only have to do it if you have a runny glaze. At school I make sure that NEVER happens. Anything questionable goes onto clay 'cookies' that catch any drips. However..when you are firing with wood the ash becomes an airborne glaze that lands on everything. Of course that is why your pots turn out so great, but it also makes a huge mess of the shelves. Last time I got the brilliant idea to use some Aspen wood, a noted ash maker. Pots were outstanding, even got a dragon's eye pot ! The shelves were another story. Of course going to cone 12 instead of the usual 10 didn't help.
Enter my trusty angle grinder and a sharp chisel and a rock hammer. Safety glasses and the respirator for the dust. It only took about an hour and a half, but couldn't do it before because the grinding causes sparks and there is lots of dry grass around that could have caught fire. After the shelves are clean of glaze drips they have to have a good coat of kiln wash. This is a really refractory mix of kaolin and alumina that sort of helps protect them. Now we are good to go.
Next task was taking all the ash out. Did that. Then taking out the old silica sand on the floor. It also gets hard from all the melted ash, but does a really good job of protecting the kiln floor.
Brought out a bunch of pots and washed them. The glaze will 'crawl' if there is any dust on the pots. Tomorrow is glazing and loading. But before I can load I
have to make wadding.
Wads are used to separate everything, otherwise it would all get stuck together from the melted ash. You use kaolin, some alumina and sawdust dampened with enough water to hold them together without crumbling. You make little balls for the pots and big ones for the shelf props.
This really sounds like a lot of work just to get some pots fired! Wood firing is more work, but more fun too!
The last photo is of the cone packs drying out on top of my wood cookstove. For a treat I put up the spoonholder made for me by one of my best students. Actually he didn't make it for me....a leg fell off and he was going to ditch it in the trash but decided to give it to me instead. It is of a road kill crocodile with the visible tire tracks on the stomach!! That kid has a cool sense of humour.