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thE EssEntial GuidE to Basic Kiln WorK

AnAtomy of A Kiln
ElEmEnts The wire coils that go around the edges. They are made of Kanthal, a type of metal alloy that is highly resistant to heat. They are held in with small pins to the grooves in the firebrick. If anything (pieces of ceramic, pieces of glaze, bits of metal) gets in the grooves or between the coils, you must remove it IMMEDIATELY because on the next firing it will fuse to the coil, break it, and cause all sorts of damage. Vacuuming is a fine way to get bits out, and is actually necessary every now and then. If you notice lots of fine pieces of brick stuck on the pieces, thats a sign that you need to vacuum, and be extra careful of the brick when unloading and loading. Kiln BricKs Firebricks are a refractory (meaning maintains its shape at high temperatures) material that is very delicate. Be very careful not to bump or chip the kiln walls or lid, especially when loading or unloading as this will cause pieces of brick to fly around in the wind created by high temperatures in the kiln. Chipping brick also degrades the kiln and will eventually cause the coils to pop out, and then it has to be rebuilt. Kiln lids are also very delicate, so be careful and give extra support when raising and lowering, and do not wrench it about when its closed. thErmocouplE The metal thing that sticks out about halfway down the kiln on the control ox side. Its like a thermometer, and reports to the control box the temperature of the kiln during firing and cooling. conEs Originally, kiln temperature was measured by cones, small, angled pieces made of a material that was calibrated to melt at a certain point in the firing. Kilns are not fired just to a temperature; they are fired to a cone level, which accounts for time as well as temperature. Think of it as heat absorption rather than just temperature. When a cone goes in the kiln, it is at an 8-degree angle. A perfectly fired cone will be bent to a 90 degree angle. If the cone is bent less, the kiln was under fired. If the cone is bent more, the kiln was over fired. When the cone reaches the right angle, the kiln tech turns

the kiln off and allows it to cool down. Cones come in different numbers, each of which corresponds to a heating-rate/ temperature-combination that will make that cone deform. Our kilns are automatic and do not require the use of cones, but they (and all kilns) still use the cone measuring system for temperature. We do our ceramic/glaze firing at Cone 06, which is approximately 1828 degrees F, but since it is heat absorption not just temperature, that exact temperature can range a bit. Cone levels go from Cone 022 (approx. 1087) to Cone 10 (approx. 2381). The 0 in 06 is like a minus it means that anything with the 0 in front of it will be a lot cooler than the number without a 0 in front i.e. Cone 06 is dramatically cooler than Cone 6. If you fire our ware at Cone 6 instead of 06, it will overfire so much that all the pieces will melt completely together and wreck the kiln and the shelf it was sitting on. Any cone level with a 0 in front is low fire, such as glass (approx. 013) and low fire ceramics like earthenware, which is what we use. There are other types of ceramics that are mid- and high-fire, like porcelain, which fires at around Cone 12. If we were to do a bisque firing (meaning firing wet clay to the point that it becomes insoluble in water, like the pieces we sell) we would fire at Cone 03, which, since it is closer to zero (just like negative numbers!) is a good bit hotter. Those pieces would then be glaze fired after painting at the regular temperature, Cone 06.

How it worKs
The coils, or elements, are heated by friction electricity and work a lot like a toaster. When you start the kiln, the coils flip on, then off, then on, then off again, with gradually longer periods of being on and shorter ones of being off this is to ensure a proper heating schedule. If they all turned on and stayed on, the kiln would heat up too quickly and the ware would be ruined. When the kiln gets to temperature, it automatically shuts off and begins cooling. You can tell what temperature the kiln is at and whether its heating or cooling by looking at the screen on the control box. If it shows a solid number, not flashing, it is still heating up. If the numbers are flashing and it says CPLT it has completed the heating and is cooling down. If you cant see the temperature, press the Enter button a couple times until it shows. We usually fire at a medium ramp speed that just means that it heats at medium speed instead of fast (which runs the risk of pieces being underfired) or slow, which is usually just too slow and occasionally overfired. We also do a hold of 20 minutes at the top of the firing (when it reaches temperature), which allows the pieces to soak in the temperature and be properly heated. Since we cannot fire both big kilns at the same time (the room will overheat), we can also put a delay on one kiln so it is set to begin firing as the other kiln cools off. The two kilns cannot both be above 900 degrees at the same time, so if you start one kiln at medium speed and load the second, you can usually put about a 10 hour delay on the second one and the timing will work out. Figuring out how much time to delay the second kiln will make sense with practice, but keep in mind that firing/cooling times can vary according to weather and humidity.

Duncan glaze (green) 1. Initially mix with electric mixer for no more than 2 minutes. A stainless steel wire whisk can be used to stir glaze periodically. 2. Submerge a Viscosity Cup into tank and fill with glaze. As you lift cup from glaze, begin timing. Stop timing when stream of glaze begins to break. A range of 19-24 seconds is normal. Add small amounts of water as needed. (4 oz at a time) 3. Hold ware with hands or dipping tongs. As you remove ware shake away any drips or runs. Do not finger sand to prevent airborne dust. 4. If necessary on larger piece, dip unglazed portion, slightly overlapping glazed area for full coverage. Let dry. 5. Use a Fan Glaze Brush to touch up any missed areas after ware dries. * Tends to form a gelatinous skin on top, so stir it often. It is important when glazing not to allow too much glaze to soak into the piece. This can cause the running and blurring of detailed work, the appearance of drips and blobs on the underside of pieces, and on dark colors, you can see the cloudiness of too much glaze. To avoid this, immediately shake all drips off the piece before it can soak in. -When you shake pieces, be sure that your hand does not remove the glaze (or color) from the place youre holding. -Pieces that have holes, like banks glaze the part with the large hole first so the glaze gets inside. This way it has more time to dry. -Glaze pencil tends to smudge if you touch it, so be extra careful with those pieces. -Make sure both halves of each piece half approximately the same thickness of glaze on them, or they will be uneven after firing. -If there is a piece with very fine work, try to find a horizon line you can dip to, to minimize the appearance of overlapping. -#2 pencil will bubble and resist a little when you glaze allow it to dry, then sand it with your finger and retouch if necessary. Always make sure to do this on the back of plates where we write on them. -Watch for areas of resist, allow them to dry, fingersand them and retouch with a brush. -Always fingersand the bumps left by the drying rack when the pieces are dry.

-Dry-footing the reason we stilt is because glaze seals onto the shelves. If someone is doing tiles for a wall project, the bottom of the tile must not be glazed, you can just paint the glaze on the tile surface (make sure its even), but with these tiles, they can just rest on the shelf with no stilt. Any piece can be fired without the clear glaze, but make sure the customer knows that it will not be food and water safe, and that it will collect dirt and oil easily. Also, pencil lines show up orange on unglazed pieces, they do not burn off (weird, I know). *All glazed pieces must be completely dry before firing! If you load a kiln with less than 95% dry ware, you must put a delay on it, or if its about 80% dry, you can fire it on Slow instead of Medium speed, just make sure not to put a hold on it.*

Things to remember about the firing process: *Heat rises: bigger pieces toward the top, especially with flat items. *All ware expands and then shrinks in the kiln. Allow enough space. *High temperatures create an almost windy atmosphere small bits and debris will fly around. -Always leave a fingers width between pieces and above them. -Use as big a stilt as you can for each piece it distributes weight more evenly, and helps prevent warping or tipping. -Try to organize shelves by height and like objects. For instance, the bottom shelf should be items around 8 high (mugs, etc) to allow proper airflow. The next 2 or 3 shelves should be flatter items (tiles, small plates) with smaller on the bottom and larger further up. Taller items can go on the top shelves. A good way to judge your kiln space is to find the tallest object that must go in, and make sure to leave enough space for it on the last shelf. Medium sized objects can go wherever you feel they fit best, but try to keep pieces of approximate size and weight in the same place to be sure of even heating. -Use the mirror to check every shelf to make sure nothing is touch the shelf and that stilts are in the correct place. -Use the stick to measure if anything is sticking up too far, especially on the top shelf. -If you have to adjust the placement of the shelf on top of the supports, lift and re-place it, do not scoot! Scooting it around can cause items underneath to tip, or the shelf supports to move and touch pieces.

-If you have a very large piece, like a platter, make sure it will be heated evenly by placing items around it. If there are no items that can go on that shelf, use the shelf supports to distribute heat. Otherwise, theres a very good chance the piece will warp and crack. -Leave around -1/2 an inch around the shelves and make sure the spacing is even for proper heat flow. Ditto the gap in the middle between the two shelves. -On each shelf, try to put the shelf supports in approximately the same spot on top of one another it helps the balance as well as the heat. However if you have a huge platter and you have to arrange the supports around that, its not the end of the world, just make sure they are even enough to provide proper heat. -Do not allow shelves to touch any elements, and avoid touching the thermocouple if you can it will give inaccurate temperature readings if it is too close or touching a shelf.

stArtinG tHe Kiln

*Put in all the plugs! *Turn on ventilation system and kiln fan! Control Box: Press Cone Fire Mode Enter Cone 06, then Enter Enter speed Med, press Enter Enter hold 00.20, press Enter Press Start. You can hear the coils click on, then off, if you listen for a minute. *To Enter a Delay: Set everything as above, but do not Start. Hit Delay, then enter the desired time, hit Enter again, and then Start. You can see the minutes start to count down if you wait a moment. Turn on the small fan by the door, make sure it is pointed downward and is up against the vent. You are good to go.

-When the lid is cracked, you can use the fan to draw the hot air from the kiln, but dont blow directly on the items too much cool air too fast can cause cracking. -If you are unloading quickly, make sure to let each shelf cool a bit and have contact with cooler air before removing pieces. -Allow large pieces to cool for longer to avoid cracking. For example, if you have unloaded the top shelf and there is a very large plate on the shelf below it, allow it as much time as you can to cool off while its still in the kiln, and when you take it out make sure the fan is not blowing directly on it. Uneven cooling can cause cracking much more easily than uneven heating. -If you notice the pieces you are unloading towards the bottom are looking slightly brownish or dull (especially noticeable in reds) you are unloading too fast. Let the pieces cool til the colors look right or they can break. *Be careful of brick when removing shelves!*

Some of the main issues with glaze firing. The most common that we see are Crawling and Shivering, but all the others have happened at some point. Its often difficult to pinpoint issues with ware because there are so many things that can affect the outcome of fired pieces, but these should help identify obvious issues. With all of these issues, it is worth re-applying the glaze and re-firing just in case. Sometimes it can repair the piece, but if not it will help you narrow down the cause.

BlistErs: big explosive looking pockmarks in glaze they look like popped bubbles. Can be smoothed edges or sharp and pointy which tells you how hot it was when the bubbles popped. Theres nothing you can really do about this, although reapplying and refiring may help. Its a chemical issue with the glaze, most likely. craWlinG (also pEEl-BacK). Crawling occurs when the glaze hasnt properly adhered to the bisqued clay. The most frequent cause is that the the glaze was applied to dirty, dusty, or greasy pots, or that too much glaze has pooled in an area, especially in the edges of the bottom of a mug or other corners. Can also be buildup of dust or particles or gook from hands. Crawling is not usually fixable, but it is worth refiring. pinholinG / pittinG pinholing is tiny pinprick holes that go through the glaze down to the clay, and is a problem with the bisque. Pitting is pin sized holes that are only on the glaze, and is a problem with the glaze. Can be too much glaze, or gases not escaping properly. Sometimes happens when the glaze is too wet and the piece is brought up to temperature too quickly.. Can also happen with too much clear glaze, although this is less common.

crazinG --Crazing is a bunch of fine hairline cracks that appear all over on the glaze surface. There are two types of crazing, immediate and delayed. If you get delayed crazing, weeks, months or years later, it is caused by moisture getting into the pottery, often from inadequate clear glazing or from stilt marks. Immediate crazing happens when the bisque and the glaze shrink at different rates in this case, the glaze shrinks more than the clay, there is no longer enough glaze to fit everywhere, so it cracks (think of the Hulks shirt bursting). This usually happens when the clay and glaze are incompatible in some way, but it can also be thermal shock, like when the kiln has been opened before it is properly cooled. Shivering-- happens when bisque and glaze expand and shrink at different rates in this case, the bisque shrinks more than glaze, and it pops off (think of a tablecloth draping over the edge of a table). Can also be caused by layers of dust on the bisque, or it can be a bad batch of clay meaning there is some element in the clay that is not compatible with the slip in the glazes. It can also be under or over fired bisque, which is the manufacturers fault, or if the color glaze is wet underneath the clear glaze steam from the bottom layer can get in between the glazes and cause it to pop off.