The original kiln was built over the course of a couple months in the summer of 2000. The new smaller kiln was completed in May of 2004. Every brick used in construction was recycled from another kiln and had to be cleaned extensively prior to laying in the arch.
The caternary-arch tube kiln is 20 ft in length overall, and the 18ft long firebox/ware-chamber holds up to 700 pots, ranging in size from 2" miniatures up to 30-36" jars and vases.
It takes 2-3 days to load the dry pots into the kiln. The pots are placed on silicon carbide shelves and/or stacked rim-to-rim on top of other pots. A mixture of sand, kaolin, and alumina hydrate is formed into balls (known as wads) and is used to separate the pots from one another and the shelves. Without these wads, the pots would fuse together at top temperature.
The pots are placed in the kiln to take maximum advantage of ember build-up and flame movement throughout the kiln.
Firings take place three times a year- in April, September and December. Our friends Chuck, Sue and Steve and Nate's dad Tom always come out to help.
The wood used in our firings is a mixture of ash slabs and edgings; waste cuts from an Amish saw-mill in Southern Minnesota. It is trucked in to us by the semi-load.
After a two-day preheat to dry out the pots, slabs of wood are stoked into the kiln every 10 minutes or so to gradually build heat in the early stages of firing. Over the course of two more days the fire builds to a raging inferno that consumes 5-6 slabs every 4-5 minutes as the temperature climbs to 2300 degrees and higher.
On day four, the front is held at top temp. and smaller pieces of wood are fed into side-stoking
holes that run the lenth of the kiln, gradually drawing heat further back into the chamber.
As the embers build up and burn away, and the alkalies in the flame weave their way between the pots on the journey from firebox to chimney, the pots are marked by the fire in a way unattainable with any other firing method. This is what makes the labor-intensive wood firing process worth every ounce of energy expended.
Hallie takes a break from side stoking to capture the hard at work crew: Steve, Tom and Nate.
After a 2-3 day cool down, the unloading begins! It takes at least 2 days to unload the pots.
We check each pot carefully as they come out, and rub them down with emery cloth to assure that each pot is smooth and ready for use. We'll use a Dremel tool or a grinder to smooth away any sharp or rough areas.
Once the pots are cleaned, we wash them with water, price them and get them into the showroom, or packed up for the next show.