Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Urban Woodfire?

The last time I fired the kiln at the Edina Art Center, we were joined by a guy named Brandon. That firing may have been the last, if you want to know the reasons why, you can read this post. Brandon contacted me last Spring and asked if I wanted to try another sort of wood fire. He saw an article in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly in which Bruce Bowers describes converting an old electric kiln into a gas fired kiln in which wood is added at the end to create some ash deposits on the pottery. The idea is to achieve wood fired results with less work in an urban setting. If you are thinking this is too good to be true, well maybe. We got an old kilin, stripped out the wiring, filled in all the coil pockets with a mixture of clay and saw dust and set it up in my back yard. We fired it with propane using a weed burner we got from Continental Clay. The article suggests using a Venturi Burner (sp?), something that costs about $200. We opted for the $60 weed burner. Needless to say, we didn't get to temp. We probably maxed out at about cone 7 after 12 hours. Weed burners are typically used to fire similar little homemade and converted kilns for raku. That is a much lower temperature, something around cone 04. We had never tried using one for reaching cone 10 and if anyone out there is considering it, I would advise against it. They just don't put out the necessary BTUs. One thing that was nice to learn is that there are plenty of junker kilns out there that people are willing to give away or sell for under $100. We got ours for free and had leads on several others. Craigs list is a good place to look if you are interested. Brandon took the kiln over to his moms house and is considering building a new burner. He thinks he should be able to build a venturi burner for quite a bit less than $200. If that happens he may try it again and has promised to give me a call.

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