19 April 2010

As I haven’t got a firing planned for the near future I wanted to write a brief description of the first wood firing. Not just the first in this kiln but my first ever. I hadn’t even helped or watched someone else’s firing. My college experience all took place on the third floor of a central London art school building, no wonder they didn’t encourage woodfiring. The closest I have been to a full firing was Joe Finch demonstrating a gas/wood firing for the Scottish Potters in 2007.
After building this small kiln and reading various books and articles I still wasn’t confident but there came a point in late spring when I was on my own at home and I thought ‘I’ve just got to do it and to heck with the results’.
I packed the kiln with oddments and experiments and shoved my raku gas burner into the fire mouth to dry the kiln out slowly for 2 or 3 hours (the west coast of Scotland has high humidity). I planned to fire to cone 6 to start with, not knowing how long it would take, but I put cones 7 & 8 in too, to be safe. And I thought I would bung in some soda too for effect.

5am the next day with the sun already rising behind the mountains across the Sound, I stumbled out of bed to relight the gas on low. Having no idea how long it would all take and because I was firing solo I had decided to go up to 250°C with gas (which meant another hour back in bed).
7am I was back at the kiln with cup of tea, turning up the gas.
8am I started feeding in small pieces of wood along with the burner.
8.30 larger pieces started going in
9.00 gas was turned off and silence descended apart for the birds singing and the crackle of wood burning. I fed another piece of wood into the fire and the peace felt as wide as the view. Now I know why I do this, I have a sense of completing the cycle which I don’t get from electric firing and almost get from raku firing but not quite.

The firing continued as with the subsequent ones. I put in soda soaked wood into the fire at about 1150 (about 500g soda) It was remarkably easy to get the kiln to cone 6 down so I continued until the pyrometer read 1250°C and cone 8 was bending at the tip on the top shelf. I allowed the fire to burn down a bit then bricked up the fire mouth and the chimney and retired.
The next day the temperature was at 250°C and by the evening cool enough to unpack. (After 10 firings I am trying to slow down the cooling by firing down to 1100°C and with extra panels of insulation). The results were pretty unremarkable but so exciting to feel the weight and density of the stoneware and follow the path of the flames in the markings across the pots

This was the perfect day. The sun shone warmly in a cloudless blue sky (no midgies (wee biting monsters)yet). A gentle breeze wafted away the smoke and nothing to distract from the feeding the fire and enjoying being alive.

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