Easy to build kilns

topic posted Thu, December 15, 2005 - 8:38 PM by  Unsubscribed
Hey all, I am new here, and not at the moment a practicing ceramicist unfortunately. I don't have the room for it and am unwilling to buy an electric kiln and have all the electrical work done to do so. I am not going to be staying where I am living for that long anyway. What I am interested in are kilns that are easy to build, natural, earthen ones that do not involve complex plans and expensive brick. So... does anyone have any sugestions? Kilns from different regions of the world? A hole in the ground with a fire in it?

I do have a style with my work that benefits from colorful peices and high fire clay so I don't know that that kind of stuff would even work with this kind of a "kiln," but I might be able to alter my work so that I can still retain my message and vision without all the glitz and glamour associated with the effects you can get from an electric or high fire deluxe wood burning kiln. Maybe. I am rather partial to the glitz however. Phooey. Is a fusion of the two worlds even possible? Well... any ideas?

Thanks for listening
posted by:
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Fri, December 16, 2005 - 12:05 PM
    1. find an old non-functional electric kiln

    2. get a propane burner

    3. cut hole for burner

    it will take a little more effort than those three steps... however, the whole thing can be disassembled and re-assembled.

    i know this works for raku, so it gets to 1500 degrees pretty easily.
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Fri, December 16, 2005 - 12:58 PM
    I've read about makeshift kilns in ceramics monthly. Once I find which issue I'll pass it on.
    Basically, This group built a temperary kiln on an island. Using a large drum and stove pipe, they dug a whole in the sand and created a fire pit. Setting the drum above that pit with a chimney they were able to get to Cone 10. Also, one doesn't really have to get to cone ten to get result. Throw some salt in, try an ash glaze(cone 6).
    I also like pit fires with manure and wood shavings, salt, copper wires, comic strips, and a glass of wine;)
    Have fun,
    • Unsu...

      Re: Easy to build kilns

      Fri, December 16, 2005 - 3:56 PM
      Meaning you drink the glass of wine and read the comic strips as the fire burns, or they are a part of the concoction? Sounds very interesting, I will have to try this out! Pit fire is the term for hole in the ground with fire in it? Excuse my naivete, but I am not a very worldly potter, as in, I have only had experience in classes I took as electives in school, both high school and college. But I would like to become a successful potter one day, when I finally am settled down somewhere and can build myself some sort of a cheap, easy to use kiln that is earth friendly.
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Fri, December 16, 2005 - 7:29 PM
    There is no easy answer to your question.
    We live in the 21st century where it is possible to make anything look like anything you wish... most of the technology is there, most of the world has tried one thing or another with clay over time.

    Suggest research but you have to really decide exactly what you want to express in clay, considering such things as color, hardness, functionality, durability, water absorbtion, etc, and then whether you could live with using other medias to complete your creation. Some just like the experience of working with the media... really difficult to tell anyone else what to do.

  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Sun, January 29, 2006 - 3:01 AM
    From my present understanding of the process - the melting point of glass >1650' F< is what creates the 'main' bond within the ceramics. A smokeless Propane fire is at about 1800'F depending on the process that is used for mixing it with air.

    The Kiln is built to retain heat - which is where you can get in trouble. Raku Kilns give off fibers so small that you can breathe them and not notice - but they remain undisolved in lungs and can create many problems that vary according to their own composition - Asbestos is often one of the ingredients.

    I make mine with firebrick & seal it with potters clay. - no fiberous material - and to ensure - I wear a filter mask as well as a chimney with a double "U" joint to slow down the flow equiped with a homemade valve. Of course It is also built outside with plenty of space around the kiln so that I can work upwind. I fly a flag so I can easily see the direction of wind.

    All else in largely within the thickness & quickness of the work peice as thicker cools slower and thiner cools more quickly - and this causes the two to contract & expand at different rates - which causes shattering.
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Tue, December 12, 2006 - 4:50 PM
    I discovered the joy of the Roman Kiln this summer at a historical reenactment event. We built the thing out of the clay used for the pots and just fired it in palce with the first batch. there are lots of diagrams online so I shall not waste the space here. I do suggest the tinfoil and sand layering for insulation to make it more effeceint
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Wed, June 6, 2007 - 11:50 AM
    i have pictures of a couple of kilns on my site .Kaowool is your best bet lokk at my site
    • k.
      offline 0

      Re: Easy to build kilns

      Wed, October 3, 2007 - 1:04 AM

      i hope i am not too late with this reply, but welcome to the clay addiction!

      as far as kilns, everyone you ask will have a slightly different solution, if not totally left feild. so a strong sense of purpose comes in very handy in this area. i think you would benifit greatly from ian gregory's "alternative kilns" especially the flat pack kiln profiled in this book. also clay art on line is very informative.
      i recently heard of a guy who made a kiln in a shopping cart with 5 gallon propane tanks and ceramic fiber insulation, makeshift top, propane tanks down below better move the pbr's, and away you go...
      on the same theme there was also someone in the early 70's (ahhhh! the 70's) who created a kiln from the trunk in their beetle. drove to shows, fired pottery, and made baked potatoes to quelch the munchies.

      there are some pretty good rules of thumb out there, but they are only so because people have been creative and full of spirit in their work with ceramics.

      best of luck!
  • Re: Easy to build kilns

    Wed, October 10, 2007 - 4:16 AM

    So clay is just a medium to express yourself. (it is my favorite)

    Ask yourself seriously what you want to, form, surface, hardness, etc.

    The rest will be easy if you follow up your investigations.

    If I were you, I go to a local clay co-operative, or to a community college, or to the beach or back yard and do a pit fire.

    If you were in Olympia, WA, I'd fire your stuff in my kiln...

    best to you.

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