Fireman

I was asked to help with the firing of my friends ground hog wood fired kiln.  Tuesday after work I made my way down to the riverside farm of Rob and Willie for a long night of feeding an insatiable beast.

I’ve helped out before on firings but only for a shift.  There were times when Rob would have ten folk lined up wanting to assist in the process.  Most often other potters with work in the kiln, some of his students and students past.  Usually he schedules for the weekends in the past,  Now that he has retired, a Tuesday firing just makes sense.  Rob started the firing at around 6 a.m. with a small fire that drives the moisture and begins to raise the temperature slowly.

This time the crew was three.  Larry, Rob and myself was all there would be feeding the fire.  Larry has some of his work in the kiln.  I have had some hand built work fired here before, but I haven’t done much of any work since college.

We burned through most of the stockpile of wood that Rob had collected since the last firing.

It takes a huge amount of fuel to reach the desired temperatures.  The last photo is of Rob tossing several shovels of salt into the mouth of the firebox.  If I remember correctly,  Rob had us stoke the fire to around 2250F.  At times the chimney stack sounded like a jet engine.

The coolest observation was how the kiln actually breathes.  As we stoked the fire some of the smoke/gases would actually lap at the mouth of the box in a rhythmic cadence that seemed to match our breathing.

The firing was complete for me around 4 a.m.  I had been up for twenty four hours, so my usefulness tank had run dry.

We will unload the kiln most likely this weekend.

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7 Comments

  1. Ed said,

    August 30, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    I had never really thought about kilns being fired by wood because all my life I've only seen electric or gas versions. I can't imagine the amount of wood necessary to fire pottery. Thanks for the lesson.

  2. Ron said,

    August 30, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Looks and sounds like quite the adventure.

  3. Woody said,

    August 31, 2012 at 2:36 AM

    It's a lesson on every firing I've worked on. Rob is a great teacher.

  4. edifice rex said,

    September 5, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    So cool! I want to do that one day. Wood firing is the one thing I missed out on in college unbelievably enough.

  5. Woody said,

    September 6, 2012 at 3:25 AM

    Annie..Rob is thinking about running a workshop around a firing. I'll keep you posted if he decides to open one up.

  6. warren said,

    September 6, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Holy cats that's cool! I did some glass blowing and the incredible heat is simply amazing. It's sort of like a waterfall…it sort of draws me closer…I know, that's weird. Anyhow, very cool!

  7. Woody said,

    September 6, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Not weird at all Warren. I caught myself in a stare more than once during the firing. It can be very hypnotic watching the fire.


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