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loading and re-firing the u.p. hobagama wood kiln

updated tue 11 may 10


gary navarre on mon 10 may 10

Whah So Hay Crew,

Gone too far to give up now! You know the old saying, "Quitters never win =
and winners never quit!" we got from our high school gym coaches in track p=
ractice right? Too bad I found out about girls about the second month of pr=
actice 'cause I coulda been a contender. I found I had a knack for clay and=
Art too and trying my hands at that became pretty good so in college I tri=
ed partying with the Artists and girls and got pretty good at that too. The=
n the artists turned into scrap yard laborers, jug stomping oil hunters, 3r=
d. shift factory rats, under the table contractors, and the girls turned in=
to mental patients, sluts, and drunks and there was no more clay or Artists=
or Art. So I said "Ta hell wid it Lord, I've had enough! Hep me outa dis m=
ess and get that damn curse off me! Thank you for my upcoming healing!" and=
moved to da U.P. to let the Power of the Universe figure me out what to do=

That was eight years ago and I really didn't care or think about getting i=
nto pottery again. Hell, I became satisfied just getting out of bed and not=
going to the fridge to pop a top. After a couple years a location from som=
e folks who are like a patron came to me and I had a job and saved a bunch =
of beer money so I thought I'd giv'er some more and see if I could make the=
kiln I'd dreamed of before starting my last 12 year drunk. So here we are =
with one firing load under our belt...

... and I'm getting ready to re-fire everything that survived unbroken from=
the first firing. However since I haven't done this in 20 years I could us=
e any ideas to refresh my memory, or learn something new, as to what to do =
differently that might help us make this next firing better.

So far I have gotten more hard brick and lagged in the stack up to 166", w=
hich is a kiln shelf chimney cap short of 14', and added some used house br=
ick to the outside. These I staggered the horizontal seams so cracks will n=
ot show through. At about 12' I added another passive damper hole out of a =
soap brick which makes 4 holes up the stack and the active damper slot if I=
want a good slice of air about nut high...

I've had only a couple of loading suggestions in this 9' long 65cu.ft. cro=
ss draft chamber including keeping the top of the chamber rather tight and =
opening the space between pots in the tail and mid sections. I think I can =
see where I was thinking more of a smaller kiln, maybe even a gas load beca=
use of all the conservation of energy talk, and a tighter load worked in my=
smaller 30cu.ft.version so I stacked each shelf with the same sized pots. =
As I look at other folks wood kilns it seems each setting has taller pots o=
n the back edge of a shelf, medium sizes across the middle, and smaller pie=
ces along the front of the shelf. Then the next setting toward the front re=
peats the pattern so it looks likes the flame would kinda go like a wave go=
ing woompphp woompphp woompphp (making wave like motions with my arms) up a=
nd down through the pots. I'm having a hard time visualizing the flame thro=
ugh the load from the top view but I guess if I give everything an
extra finger width between I'd get a better "Plinko" action instead of mak=
ing the flame work too hard to get through the tight spaces.

I think the front was loaded too open with a 9" high shelf right in front =
of the throat arch and a shelf above it keeping the flame from going to the=

In the new setting I think I'll tighten up the bottom front with a couple =
shelves of cups and set the upper shelves along the sides of the crown and =
leave a void in the middle for the flame from the throat arch to rise up al=
ong the top...

There is a repair to the mouse hole in the firebox needing attention...

and I have two ways of fixing it ...

I think I'll use the former for the time being. I can slather the shelf sp=
ot with some slurry lag and press the repair shelf over the break. Then I'l=
l mix some castable with slurry water and bevel around the edges hopefully =
trapping the repair into place until it is fired in. If this doesn't provid=
e enough mousehole air I can always do the later and see what happens. My h=
ope is the tighter taller stack will cause a better draft through the mouse=
hole when the other air is closed. The use of less heavy hardwood logs and =
more lightweight Pine will probably reduce the chances of more damage from =
a poorly stoked log and tend to not clog up with long lasting coals. So muc=
h for now, stay in there eh!

Gary Navarre
Navarre Pottery
Navarre Enterprises
Norway, Michigan, USA