Dupre Mr Marcy M on tue 3 sep 02
Remember when you were a beginner? It was all a mystery then. The clay,
the wedging table, pinch building, coiling, slab making. Then came glaze
formulation, clay formulation and the man-eating Walker pug mill--"Killed
six freshmen so far." And the Holy of Holies, the KILN. (All bow before
Not until my second year in advance studies did I get to touch the kiln--of
any type--electric, gas, diesel, or wood. Reduction was a smoky kiln room,
not the subtraction of oxygen to create a monoxide atmosphere. Oxidation
was just a neutral atmosphere with a lot of native air going in the ports.
Very clearly remember the day the freshman was going to help light the kiln.
Before anyone could stop him, he had turned on the gas full bore, and stuck
a taper in the port.
Blew the door across the room and destroyed two weeks' worth of student
Now, in our advanced years, we pontificate the advantages and disadvantages
of electric versus fuel fire, oxidation (neutral) atmosphere versus
reduction (monoxide-heavy) atmosphere. Wood fire versus propane or natural
Personally, I fire an L&L electric, using Dynatrol computer controlling,
with a neutral atmosphere, most of the time. This is more a matter of
personal economics than an artistic statement. If I had unlimited
resources, I'd have at least one of every kind of kiln, running up and down
a rural hillside and fallow pasture, as I could cram in the territory. I'd
fire with wood, coal, gas (of all kinds), diesel, oil, cow pies and mule
muffins, and any other flammable substance I could get my gnarled hands on.
In my firings, I get some interesting things. As is the "Rule," I TEST,
TEST, TEST. Some good, some bad. Many days I pine for a noborigama (pun
deliberate), or a 40 cuft arch top.
And then, I shake it off and get back to work to improve enough, so that I
will sell enough, to be able to save enough, to buy what I want.
The practical side is in savings on energy and time. It costs less to fire
an electric to ^6 than it does to fire a 40cuft arch top to ^10. Less in
time, too. You can get more volume out of an arch top or a flattop, and
you have to fire an electric more often to equal the loads. So, if you're
calculating the cost-per-piece, it's mainly wash.
Esthetically, some more interesting things happen with wood firings and gas
firings. The surprises are more intense with a huge noborigama because of
the teamwork and social interaction of the firing and the long wait for the
cooling. (Don't know about you, but the clams and crabs at a pit-cooked
clambake ALWAYS taste better than at Red Lobster...)
The question becomes one of "What are you looking for?" and partly, "What
can you afford?" When those two queries are answered, you'll know what to
save for. Meanwhile, there is much material on clay bodies and glazes,
special effects, and firing schedules available around the world.
"Po-TAY-toe, po-TAH-toe..." what do you LIKE?
And that's my two cents on the matter. For what it's worth.
Good fires to all,
in sunny Springfield, waiting for work to be over so I can go home and open
my electric glaze fire, hoping for a bunch of really NEAT surprises!