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kilns and trucks: how the energy crisis made my day

updated sun 22 apr 01


Stephani Stephenson on sat 21 apr 01

ENERGY shuffle #1:
To cut energy costs , a California manufacturer of refractory shelves
decides it will switch over to tunnel kilns
(so they will not waste fuel heating and reheating the kilns for
each firing)
As they reorganize , move things around, they need to get rid of a lot
of 'stuff' including several pallets of kiln shelves.
They call us and say we can have four pallets at next to nothing if we
can get a truck to pick the stuff up by the next day.

We call a trucker we have used in the past. They have been bought out
by a larger company, due to rising costs of operation.
The larger company says they can do it.
This trucking company is trying to save on fuel costs , so (unknown to
me, at the time),they are stacking more orders on fewer, but larger
trucks.The truck that shows up is the largest I have ever seen, not the
bobtails the old company usually sent. It has a sleeper cab and the
longest wheelbase allowable. The driver can make the turn through the
gate but he cannot turn around in the small parking lot here so he has
to back out. I don't know how he does it ,but he finds a place to turn
around up the street and backs the behemoth back down the street,
causing an interesting traffic situation out there, somehow makes the
turn backwards into the driveway , and backs through the small parking
lot here. Unfortunately there is a little hill/rise at the end and he
can't make it and still get the correct angle for the lift gate to work
correctly. The pallets are over 2000 lbs each.
So we SCRATCH our heads for a few minutes, figuring if we STARE at the
hill long enough it will magically flatten itself out! This does not
work. The truck is at the bottom of the incline but the driver puts his
pallet jack and pallet on the lift gate and down he comes. I am thinking
, (groan), we will have to leave the pallets here at the bottom of the

SHUFFLE #3 : Our pottery is selling one of its kilns , in part , to
help cut our use of gas and raise some cash.

SHUFFLE # 4: An L.A. high school ceramics teacher, trying to save energy
at the school studio, is looking for a better/larger kiln than the one
he has, for improved efficiency and fewer firings. The teacher and his
student teaching assistant, a young potter , have chosen this moment to
arrive, to look at our kiln.

We all decide to try to get the pallets up the hill, none of us
relishing the prospect, but everyone willing to try.
The driver suggests we do a snaking motion, (just picture skiing in
rewind, i.e. traverse skiing motion UP the hill.) It WORKS!!! Two
pushing , two pulling!
Someone remarked, " So this is how the pyramids were built!"
Someone else, "yeah only WITHOUT the pallet jack," someone else ,"
Yeah, and without the asphalt" someone else ,"yeah , only it took
40,000 slaves , for only one rock." "it's a good thing we've got three
good men and one good woman!"

So the refractory company got rid of some old stuff to make ready for
their new kiln. The trucking company made it in and out without TOO much
hassle and the driver left with a smile. He was actually quite pleased
he got to give his legs a workout, now that summer is coming. The
pallets are nested happily where they should be and no lifting was
involved . The teacher found a kiln, and a new place to bring students
on a field trip. We got a great deal on some much needed new kiln
shelves which we otherwise could not have afforded at this time. I made
some new friends who might come to the June workshop and maybe even buy
a kiln.

So that was a pretty good day , courtesy of the California energy

(And thank you, THANK YOU , to the teacher and the student teacher who
had an afternoon off from school!)

Stephani Stephenson
Alchemie Studio
Leucadia CA