17 October 2012

Higham Hall College, October 2012

Despite perfect weather for firing this was not our finest hour, or rather 44 hours. I am inclined to put its failings down to wet wood. We had a ton or so of 60cm long split logs nice and dry in the garage and 4 bundles of offcuts ordered of which only 2 had been delivered. Despite being under tarpaulins the seemingly continuous rain of the summer had left the wood at 30% moisture content (according to Rob's moisture meter gizmo) and the final 2 bundles delivered the day before firing were wetter than the driftwood I pick up on the beech at home.
The lovely Will arrived on Sunday to chainsaw up the bundles and agreed to return on Monday to deal with the second lot. Size matters when it comes to chainsaws, I only wish we'd found Will for the last two marathons of sawing - we were knackered then before lighting the first match. This time we were knackered from the continual rearrangement of wood on and around the kiln as we tried to dry it out. These bundles were of very small bits, far too small for the later stages of firing, and no time to sort it either. Not a perfect arrangement but better than no kiln at all!
Sunday we chopped and stacked wood, straightened the chimney with longer angle iron and brackets and threaded bar top and bottom, and set up tables and the wee pop up marquee which extends the shelter in front of the kiln. Monday was loading day although some precious time was spent on wood. It's a long slow process and so important. I'm not sure we'll ever make the best of it. We each have our own preferences for wadding, dry/sticky, white/flashing, course/fine, and many of the wads fall off by the time the piece reaches the person doing the packing crouched in the bowels of the kiln. More research needed on this. I like a fireclay/course sawdust mixture which flashes nicely and sticks well  to the pots, but it also sticks to hands which is not appreciated by porcelain.
   By the time the light was fading it had already been a long day and there was still dinner to make and the door to brick up and some clamming of holes to do. It was a tighter pack this time. More shelves, lots more pots, one more firer (5 of us). We had put the gas burner on  through the damper at the base of the chimney for a few hours earlier, which was a good move as it dried and warmed up the chimney to improve the draft. It gets very wet sitting through 6 months of Cumbrian weather between firings.
Overnight on gas into the firebox took the temperature to 100? Then we lit a small fire in the grate at 10am and so began the rota of 4 hour shifts, 6 hours off for the next 45 hours.


  1. Do you use white glue to attach your wads? It's wonderful! Much fewer problems. Bets wishes for a great firing.

    1. I think PVA glue has been used by one of the group but without great success. Are you gluing dry wadding to dry pots? We tend to fire bisque ware as it all has to be transported a long distance.