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kilns.round 2/long

updated thu 8 jul 99


mel jacobson on thu 13 may 99

firing kilns is much like glazing or making shapes on the wheel.
constant learning, growing and experimentation.

the hardest place to be in ceramics, is that place where every
firing `has` to work. there is no room for error or change.

i guess i have been very lucky, or perhaps it was planned, but
it is such a joy to be at a place where the entire kiln can be sacrificed
just to get one really great pot. (mind you, this is not a certain either.)
or stated in another way, if i can get one really great pot, hell, get me the

this leads me again to support nils about changing kilns. you are not born
knowledge of kilns when you enter ceramics, hell, it is the biggest fear.
we all love bon fires, know how to do that, but contain it......use it,
adore it.

but courage to experiment, learn about, change a kiln, is essential
to being a potter.

when a kiln is not doing what it was gotta kick it sometimes.
slap it in the face......cut off its stack, add some stack.
over feed it fuel, underfeed it fuel. move the heat around. and then as tony
thinks, save a bit for overdrive.

when things are going poorly during a firing, god almighty, do something,
don't just sit there and whimper. I have been with kurt during a bad
firing and he
has started to take the kiln apart and rebuild at cone 3. he gets raku
tongs and
starts taking out brick...making air holes.......once we got a commercial leaf
blower and stuck it full blast into the fire box. i thought for years that
an old electrolux was for blowing air in kilns.....did not know it was a
vacuum cleaner.

you see, richard g. in cal has spent three years messing with his kiln. it
is all
about learning, having a good time, experimenting......being perfect.
he has it now, but will still have to have 50 firings to learn how to use it.

kurt is going to build that train kiln at the farm next month.
he is planning, drawing.....wondering. fussing. but when he gets
those bricks out. he will take the chance. our mini train
is going to betcha, but he will build it and take it down three
maybe in one day. doug gray and dannon have not a clue what they are
getting into. i have a lounge chair reserved, the pink one.

there are only a couple of things you need to know to make an mft kiln.
they are the `genius` elements........the corner brackets for the top.
the jacking up and arching. the double venturi system. then you can
make one any size you wish. they just work. i have never been able
to understand why people think they are going to sag...if you do it correctly
it will stand forever. and man, i have seen many saggy arches. (had one

i also want to give a clue to those building kilns with nils lou plans....
he does not tell you twice. don't leave out a critical bit, then think
he will repeat instructions just missed it.

i do support john britt when he say's that beginners are not prone to
know what to do with kilns. but, when are you going to learn, where are
you going to learn? it has to be with your kiln. what did i know when i
first saw a drawing of an ifb kiln by jim mackinnel in 1958? nothing. but i
built it anyway. and it worked.
it was a box that you store heat in, had a stack that let the icky stuff
out of my garage. had some gas burners to make heat. got some
cone tens from me on the way. the only way to go.
potters, life long learners times 10. if you are bored, you have a big

Richard Gralnik on wed 7 jul 99

Hi Mel,

Thanks for the plug (I think!!). The only things left to do to my kiln are:

1. pack some fiber around the thermocouple protection tube where it comes
through the too big hole I made in the bricks, and wire it up to the digital
thermometer I bought from Omega engineering.

2. Wedge some brick pieces inside the flue to keep the front brick under the
damper in my Nils Lou double venturi from tipping up and wedging the damper
when I slide the damper in. A note to anyone building this double venturi
- you
might want to mortar the bricks that support the damper together or fill in the
top of the T shape of the flue into the chimney (as you look down on the
to make it look like an l so the brick on top closest to the kiln doesn't
tip forward
when you slide the damper in. Not a big deal to do while in
construction. Tricker

Oh yes, I need to make some more pots. I have a small cabinet full but it
enough, so I continue to throw, late at night, after work, after the kids
are in bed.
Making cylinders, trying some stuff, remembering how to make some shapes,
getting my hands dirty again. Gotta love it.

looking forward to getting that maiden firing under my belt (um, so to speak)

At 12:27 PM 5/13/99 -0400, you wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>you see, richard g. in cal has spent three years messing with his kiln. it
>is all
>about learning, having a good time, experimenting......being perfect.
>he has it now, but will still have to have 50 firings to learn how to use it.