search  current discussion  categories  kilns & firing - pit firing 

an above-ground pit? is that even a word? or just a crazy idea?

updated tue 18 apr 06


L. P. Skeen on sun 16 apr 06

Luba, check my website for pit firing above the ground.

----- Original Message -----=20
From: MudFire - Luba & Erik=20
There are about 100 potters here wanting to pit fire (fire! fire! =
but I'm afraid there's no practical way to actually dig a large pit on =

Mark Issenberg on sun 16 apr 06

Luba and Eric, you are more than welcome to dig a monster pit up here on the
Mtn. I can even use my tractor to dig the hole.. Tell me some dates

Mark on Lookout Mountain

MudFire - Luba & Erik on sun 16 apr 06

Hi y'all! Good weather's here in Atlanta for about more 2 weeks... so
before it hits 90's here, I'm hoping to start and finish this year's outdoor

There are about 100 potters here wanting to pit fire (fire! fire! good!)...
but I'm afraid there's no practical way to actually dig a large pit on our
property. Most of the property is covered with asphalt (ie, old parking
lot) and there are water lines criss crossing it. In the few spots where
there's actual earth, there are big old trees and I don't want to wreck
their roots with a back-hoe.

I've gotten my hands on quite a bit of old fire brick... the hard stuff...
and am tempted to build an above-ground kiln for pit firing. I know it
sounds weird... or maybe not... I'm thinking of something coffin-shaped and
quite large (4deep X 3wide X 6long)... with vents or even chimneys on the
sides for cross draft and a corrugated metal lid for the top.

Does that sound feasible? Have you ever seen similar contraptions?
Stacked? Or mortared?

I'm a little worried about what will happen if we light a fire in the thing
and the hard brick is damp with dew or recent rain... Would they crack? blow
up? I know a couple of potters who have their hard brick kilns outside
year round (no shed!), but I assume they candle the kiln at a low
temperature for a while to dry out the ware and the bricks. You can't
really candle a pit fire, can you? Would we need to build a roof over it?
And then would the roof catch on fire?

I'm also wondering if the hard brick would take too long to heat up and all
of the wood would get used up in the process of heating the brick instead of
firing the work. I could do ITC inside to help with insulation but.....

Any thoughts or ideas on this would be very greatly appreciated.


MudFire Clayworks and Gallery
Open Studio * Gallery * Workshops

175 Laredo Drive
Decatur, GA 30030

Katrina Jeffries on mon 17 apr 06

Dear Luba,
yes it is possible to pit-fire with an above ground pit. There is an expert
there in Atlanta. A fantastic ceramic artist named Sammie Nicely. If you
contact him I'm sure he would be very helpful.
Here's what we did in a workshop of his at Penland. We built a shape that
you suggest out of regular concrete bricks and sealed the holes with clay. we
then filled the space with sawdust and began to load in the pots to 3/4 of the
way up. We fired it up and let it burn for about 10 - 15 minutes to get good
ignition on the materials and then covered it with courrigated tin with bricks
on top of that and left it to smoke for about 4-6 hours. That works just
fine and when we uncovered it we kept a hose near by and carefully dug out all
the pieces being careful to hose any still smoking embers.

Good luck
Katrina Jeffries
Mawu Studio