search  current discussion  categories  kilns & firing - misc 

single fire pitfiring

updated mon 11 apr 05


Stephani Stephenson on sat 9 apr 05

Kate Wrote
Anybody going from raw greenware to finished
product, pit-firing?

Percentage-wise, I'm assuming you lose more than 20% that way.
I pretty much lost 95% when I tried it.) Anyone have thoughts on
Experiences to share?


One way to single fire (from greenware to finished pot)
that I have used successfully
is to stack bricks in a circle, firing above ground versus
in a pit.
Build fire in center of bricks, let fire burn for awhile , creating a
bed of cinders.
Keep adding fuel to the fire.
As the fire is burning down, place pots around the fire, RIMS DOWN, and
initially, far enough away from fire so that they are gently warmed.
As fire continues to burn, move the pots in closer, gradually.
Also , turn the pots as you move them closer, so that all sides get
When the fire has burned down to a nice hot bed of coals, place a
grate, such as an oven rack , or two , on the bricks over the hot ashes
and cinders.
By this time, the pots have been moved quite close in to the fire and
they are no longer just warm, but are too hot to touch.
with mitts or tongs carefully place pots on the rack, RIMS DOWN.
Proceed to add manure or smoking materials, or you can also add to the
fire at this point.
I like being able to do this, because I can get a hotter temperature,
moreso than relying only on a smoke firing and can do so in a
relatively short time... don't need a huge bed of ashes.

Of course a well 'tempered' clay will work best..
This way I first saw demonstrated by Susannah Denet,a Hopi potter,
and I used this method in my classes thereafter.
It is a good way to introduce students to
the process of firing , how to bring a pot successfully through a
firing process.
questions about thickness, dryness, and how a gradual transition will
get you there....
losses are minimal, unless a piece is too wet/too thick/moved in too

we continued with leaning cowchips or sheep dung around the pots, and
then pieces of sheet metal
and sometimes went for a partially oxidizing firing, not total smoke...

only thing I caught heck for was is that my first period students had
to go to all of their remaining classes on firing day reeking like the
dung fire.

Stephani Stephenson