My Pottery Management Tools:

I spent the afternoon avoiding pottery to create worksheets and journal print-outs that you can clip into a three ring binder that should better help you track your clay journey.
I created PDF of each sheet so you can print them individually and put them in your binder as needed.  Below is a description of each sheet and some background information on how to fill it in.  Even though I am not getting anything done due to procrastination, I do hope the sheets can help at least one of you in some way.

My Pottery Goals:

The “My Pottery Goals” worksheet has section to fill in ten year goals, five year goals, three year goals, and one year goals.  The ten-year goals can allow you to dream big.  Write in where you might wish to be.  All of these goals can change as you move forward, so no need to worry about what you put in as long as it is something you dream of achieving. As you narrow down the years you can also work to refine the goals more for the short term to make actionable steps to the over all big goal.  The one-year goal can be made by comparing advancements or opportunity areas to last year. Be sure to fill in as much as you can, as each day when you do tasks in the next worksheet, you can see if those tasks and projects you do either help you towards where you would like to be or not.  This helps to weed out those annoying projects you might take on because you are not able to say no.  I have to admit that I am still working on this with custom orders. But at least now I have some type of framework to follow step by step even in small ways and to assess how far I have come and what I might need more practice in.

I have also included your “Why”. Your “Why” needs to be more than passion.  As when you lose a kiln load of mugs you might not feel all that passionate about making pots but you still need to do the work and be action driven to reach your goal even on the bad days.  There are some great posts on finding your “why”. I discuss the topic in my post on balancing work and pottery here.

Another section I felt was important was to include ” If I live to be 86 from today , I have _____ days left.”  This section sounds a bit morbid, but I thought adding the idea of just how short life is and how we spend our time was very important.  Time is something we spend and give each day and a thing we never make up or give back.  When we are born we have a full “bank account” that dwindles down each day.  So knowing and seeing the end along with our long and short term goals might help us reevaluate and choose better what we will spend time on and how we tell our story.


My Pottery Journal:

This idea came from Donald Miller and his Story brand/ Business Made Simple website for business leaders.  I took a workshop on business and loved it. I reformatted the journal page to fit the artist and those who enjoy pottery so they could work to have some type of direction planning their daily tasks.  On the Journal page, there is space to list 3 critical tasks. It is thought that any more than three tasks becomes a distraction and can make one feel overwhelmed. These three tasks should be tasks that are critical to your pottery and towards your goals.  It is always important to review your goals each day.  Next are the secondary tasks.  These are small tasks that you can do that do not require much effort.  Then comes your reward for working so hard.  This section is called “Things I get to enjoy.” Here, be sure to schedule in a few things that you do that is relaxing. This section is also a good place to write in what you are grateful for.  The fourth section is “If I was living yesterday over, I would have..” This section gives you another chance to look at some things you might need to improve on and begin break cycles that hold you back.  This idea comes from the writer Victor Frankel and his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” .   The “Summery” section of the journal sheet allows you to write down any thoughts or ideas you might have about the previous day or the one that is to come.  The last section of the “”My Pottery Journal” page is that question again “If I live to be 86…”  just to remind us once more just how precious time is.  Lastly, there is a question on if you are enjoying life or not. I do hope you are!


My Pottery Project:

This journal print out page is for those projects you wish to start and keep track of. In the large open section you can draw out sketches of your idea and in the bottom of that section there is a list of art descriptions to help you think about what to add to your work to make it communicate better.  Some of those terms are form, shape, texture, asymmetry, negative space, functionality, and a few others.  The middle section allows you to write in the project name, due date, clay type, glaze, and important dates dealing with firings. At the bottom is a notes section where you can jot down ideas that come to you while you work things out.  Having theses all in a binder will allow you to flip back and forth to see due dates for planning, project progress, and your work has evolved.


My Pottery Kiln Log:

I made up this sheet to make it easier to keep track of firings. When holes are punched in the sheet it can be put in the binder for future reference.  Even if the power goes out you will still have good records of your kiln that you can go back and look at to make changes or to run the same program or schedule.  Simply place a dot on the grid and mark the time and temperature when you check your kiln.  You will be able to see if your kiln is staying on schedule or if you need to make adjustments.  When starting to use a sheet I would fire normally to get a good centerline record of what the kiln does.  That way you might be able to detect issues earlier if you see things going out of the base centerline schedule.    At the bottom of the “My Pottery Kiln Log” is a section to write in the time, warm up , soak, and other important information. The note section will allow you to write in observations or learnings you had while firing, any changes you made, or what issues you might have had during the firing.


My Pottery Troubleshooting Guide:

I wanted to include this in with the packet to make it easier to think through issues you might run into. The system I used is one that is used in manufacturing, and it is called the 6W2H.
By asking Where, When, Why, What, Who, Which, How, and How much, problems can be narrowed down and bring you to root cause. This video explains 6W2H at length if you can withstand to hear the robot reading to you. The middle section of the troubleshooting worksheet allows you to put in the root cause when you find it and what you did to fix it.  I also placed in a section for part numbers,  help numbers, and other important information so if the issue happens again you will have a sheet on file right in your binder. This will save you time by saving what the fix was rather than trying to remember.  This sheet also can help with reminding you to do preventive maintenance, or doing checks on things before they fail, causing you downtime before that big show.

The full “My Pottery” packet of PDFs can be downloaded below for free at no cost to you!  Let me know how I can make it better and also let me know if it helps you in any way.  Now I need to go make pots as I am way behind.  Happy potting!

PDF sheets for download are listed below:

MyPotteryGoals
mypotterykilnlog
mypotteryproject
potterytroubleshooting
mypotteryjournal

If you enjoy these worksheets sheets and tools, you may also like the Pottery Cost Analysis sheet I made up here.

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

You Can Do It!

By firing manual you can get to know your kiln, better understand the firing process, and even manipulate the work by making changes to the firing schedule. This is good practice especially for beginners learning the firing process and firing techniques. It is my opinion that when firing out work in a kiln you need to be there through the whole process as it’s like giving birth. It is quite simple to do but just takes a bit of monitoring and being able to see the correct cones inside the kiln when it is hot and knowing when to shut the kiln off or start the warm down.

The Sermon

Even though many kilns are digital or use a cone sitter, I am a hardcore manual kiln fire guy. Which means I fire all my kilns , even bisque fire, with shelf cones. Now I will not preach at you like a baptist minister if you choose to fire digital shut off or use a sitter, but in my opinion you are depending on luck to shut down each load. Mistakes like putting in the wrong cone number digitally, wrong hold time, improper sitter set up, improper cone set up in the sitter, or the sitter cone melting in a strange way and not shutting down all can cause a kiln to over fire. I witnessed a kiln melt down when I was a young wart hog and ever since fired manual. Kilns can be like children playing in a sandbox next to the road. For the most part they will be fine but if you forget to check on them in no time flat they will be out playing in traffic. You do not want your kiln to be out playing in traffic. Forgetting your kiln could result in a melt down where all the work shelves and posts become like taffy stuck in there. If you simply do a google search for kiln meltdown you will see some amazing images of things that happened when folks had a bad time with their kilns. You will still have a bad time with your kiln even if monitoring it but those bad times will be less painful and disaster averted by taking corrective action. Amen.

Proper Setup

It depends on what types of shelf cones you have. Cones measure both temperature and work heat. If you use a pyrometer to check your kiln, you will only know temperature. Pyrometers do not measure work heat. Some shelf cones need to be placed in a cone pack while others are self standing. I like to use self standing cones in the peepholes and place them on a small piece of kiln shelf or post. When placing them in the cone pack, be sure to research the recommended angle by the cone manufacture. I set the cone almost to the edge of the shelf, so they are easy to see inside when things heat up, and it all looks the same color. At high temperature, you might be able to make out just a slight outline. Some say not to place it near posts or near elements, but I like it right out in front. Be sure your cone will not attach its self to a pot when it bends, cones like personal space.

Looking in There

When things heat up hotter than a goats butt in a pepper patch it might be hard to see the cone. When you look in there it is best to use welding glasses as you do not want to damage your eyes over the long run. Also, if firing with gas pull the plug and wait a bit as if the kiln is in reduction you may have flames shooting out the peephole. So when you look in there be aware of that flame or you can lose eyebrows or catch your good flannel shirt on fire. Now look in there real slow and find the outline. I try and place the cones in front of a pot to see it better. Another technique is to shine a flashlight in the and have the light reflect off the cone. You can also blow into the hole to slightly cool the cone to see the outline. At times if I was not sure and cold not see it I shut down the kiln to be surer than restarted.

Reading the Cone

Be sure to look at the chart put out by the cone manufacture. Orton has a free chart that you can download here.

Also, be sure to check the cone manufacture bend chart. You can see an example here.

Checking the Kiln

Each kiln is different But here is the schedule I use for both bisque and glaze fire to cone 5/6 when firing manual.

Hour 1 & 2 – Check each hour
Hour 3&4 – Check each 30 min
Hour 5 to Cone Drop – Check every 15 min

Below are some examples and tips on what the cone will look like inside the kiln and suggestions on when you might want to shut it down.

When to Shut It Down

Each kiln is different and the rate of the cone drop will change based on temperature and work heat.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, say a cone 5 shelf cones and you want a cone 5 firing, you want to shut it down at the slight bend.

Below is what a slight bend looks like base off the recommended bend chart of Orton.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, a cone 5 shelf cone, and you want a cone 5.5 firing, you want to shut it down at the half bend.
I go to the half bend for most of my firings. By going to the half bend you can properly bring to temperature shelves that may be running a bit cooler slightly.
A half bend for a cone 5.5 firing will look like this:

If you have cone 5 shelf cones and would like a cone 6 firing, you would do a full cone bend. It will look like this:

If you are all out of cones and only have a cone 5 shelf cones and would like to fire to cone 6.5 you would do a full bend plus 15 min.
It will look like this:

If you missed a check because you fell a sleep or the cows got out you can still tell about how much time you missed as you will have hard full bends and soft full bends. A soft full bend the cone will look like melted chocolate but be blistered and bubbled out but not a puddle. It will look a bit like below. Here I was out of cone 6 but used a cone 5 plus 30 min to reach a cone 7 for a bottom shelf. So I intentionally over fired to bring to temp a cone 7 glaze test on a bottom shelf.

All the checks might seem excessive, but help to catch mistakes early and also allow you to make correction. In my gas kilns I can see if the kiln is heating correctly, if the firing is going to slow or fast based on color. Also, when testing firing techniques or a new shelf configuration, how big or small the load is or doing holds. All the checks paid off and saved loads and prevented over fires. I have over fired, but only from falling a sleep and missing the last 15 min. Thank goodness my wife woke me and I only lost 1 shelf of pots to blistering. You can also check cone that did not bend to get an idea of how much off you were on the under fire. A cone that did not bend but at all might be like glass and have gloss say it was close to reaching temperature for example.

Do you fire digital or manual? Do you have any questions about firing manual? Let me know!

Al Wayman
Artist/ Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for my newsletter and become a raging fan.


Thanks to all of those who came out to the opening and attend the show, March 17th to April 14th at the Slanted Art Gallery in Montrose, Pa.
For those who were not able to make it to the show here are images of the collection.  Kathy Taylor, jewelry artist of comingupdazees , created the enameled copper jewelry pieces for the raku pots.  She did a wonderful job!  Also thanks so much to the buyers as four of the eight have sold.

This project was a bit different for me as it has been some time since I fired raku pots. When I seen Kathy’s jewelry I thought it might be nice to do a show at some point. Kathy Taylor did an excellent job at matching up colors and style. Each jewelry piece can be removed and worn.
The stress from the raku process was hard on the pots and many of them fractured and should get the hammer. But many protested at the thought and after some debate it was decided that maybe the cracks added to the piece and that the buyer should decide. So all pieces will be clearly marked.

Below are the images of the pots. I hope you all enjoy them. Thanks Kathy for the great job you did and also for taking the photos.

Below is a link to the raku pots when they came out of the kiln.

A Blog post from a buyer and collector!  Thanks so much for the support Gere!

Blog: Connections More: Mine!

Here are process photos of the collection of pots being made:

A video of the pots in a live feed from the gallery show:

A Wet Kiln Firing – 2/23/2021

Yesterday I had the day off from my job at the paper factory. At 8:00 am I went and filled 3 gas canisters at Tractor Supply because they charge by the gallon and not by the fill and it’s much cheaper. They also fill them all the way up. I loaded 10 raku pots for bisque and could not fit all 13 in. I normally fire with a full shelf 1.5 inches down from the lid but the pots were to tall so I over fired the bottom to make up for it. They will be fine as they are somewhat large raku.

I ran a 2 hour warm up to let the kiln steam out a bit and went through the firing process. Hour 2 I found a leak at the tank nozzle and had to switch it out and restart the firing. I did a slow climb until the cone 06 bent all the way down at 5:00pm.

I got no other critical tasks completed as the gas kiln needs to be monitored every 30 min which is how I caught the leak. Some of the pots were a bit heavy also but having them on the woodstove was a huge time saver and help in drying them.

If I was living a second time:

I would have held off the firing until today as I could have used the day to throw and trimmed pots today between checks. I would have help to pull that person out of the ditch as 10 years ago a kind guy did the same for me. Knocking on doors 6 am to ask to borrow a chain. Out there that was a good way to get shot at but kind and I never forgot. In the winter out here a person should always have winter clothing, boots, gloves, snow shovel and chain in the trunk. I took out all that to load in the propane tanks. I would have got hoses to connect to the large tank as driving to get propane is a huge effort and time loss.
Things I enjoyed:
I enjoyed steaming out that wet kiln even though it was more effort and seemed to take a bit longer. Between checks I watch youtube instructional videos and spent time with the wife. After the kiln went down The wife and I went out to eat and food shopping. I talked to my sister from Update NY for 30 min. When My wife was ready I went in the store to help a bit as I try to stay out of the way. She lets me pick out the Mrs. Dash seasoning, meats , and coffee.

On the way home there was a lady who was stuck real bad in a ditch. I drove home and got my snow shovel and chain and winter gear while my wife unloaded the groceries. Then I went back out and a few other were there with one chain but it was not long enough. I used my shovel and with my chain added the two kids that stopped were able to show off a bit by pulling the lady out. So in short they had a truck pull at 9:00pm on a corner. They must have known each other as they were talking a bit of smack and the one kid said that he would let the other guy go first and finish the job when they both end up stuck..I’m thinking maybe a Ford/Chevy riverly.

My Story Summary:

Getting scheduled tasks completed can be a challenge. There will be plenty of resistance to working new ways and getting use to keeping on track.  There is only so much time in the bank and you should spend each penny of they in ways that are productive and enjoyable. If you do not make your own journey and plan others will make them for you no trouble. But you may regret not having a choice in the matter later.  What hero’s journey are you on?

 

Through The Fire Collection: A Raku Pottery / Metal Jewelry Collaboration

Slanted Art Co-op Gallery Montrose , PA
March 18 6:00 P.M. EST. – April 12 6:00 P.M. E.S.T.

I am happy to announce I am currently creating a body of raku pots in collaboration with metal jewelry artist Kathleen Taylor that will be on display at the Slanted Art Co-Op Gallery in Montrose, PA for the month of March.
The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us in ways we may not realize. We have been pushed to our limits at times as we traveled through our infernos. But the fires can also refine us.
May we all take time to see ourselves and each other, with community and collaboration, to recognize how the fires can make us all stronger and more beautiful.
I do hope you all enjoy this specialized collection of raku and metal handmade art. And may each one of you break forth to behold the stars in the new year.
“e quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle” – Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, Canto 34

It’s not just pottery, but a lifestyle with art that’s affordable.

bule001

While looking for a glaze cost savings and going though our glaze raw materials  I realized I had a few opportunity areas.  I try to review the raw material pricing  every six months to keep the prices of my pots at a level for the local area while also maintaining quality.  I was taught to hand mix glazes and always have, only buying premixed glazes for special projects in very small amounts.  To make it cost effective it is important to have as few raw materials as possible while still maintaining the safety of the finish wares.

The Search For A Glaze

In the past I have seen some glazes have six to eight raw materials.  If a pottery were to have five or six glazes each using different materials the cost for maintaining the glaze recipes and raw material storage can rise creating loss in studio space, storage space, and grow into a large financial burden.  All of this adds up over time, driving up the cost of the finished product.  So I set out to correct some of the issues by looking for a low material glaze that would have a wide firing range.

Since I fire to cone 6/7 in an up draft gas kiln, the top of my kiln is always cooler.  I hit a cone 7 on the bottom, cone 6 in the center, and the top a cone 5.  With my old glaze I would sometimes loose the top shelf of pots to under-firing.  If I fired longer  to make the top of the kiln warmer, the temperature on the bottom would over fire and vitrify the pots.  That ‘s why I was happy to find the “Blue Dawn ”  recipe on the Facebook pottery group.

Janet Holdcraft’s “Blue Dawn

janet

“Blue Dawn”, was created by the late ceramic artist and teacher Janet Holdcraft donated by her friend and colleague artist Jerry C. Williams Sr.., who put the glaze “Blue Dawn” in the public domain.  Hearing about Janet from her good friends Jerry Williams and his wife  Lea Ann Nall-Williams , I found Janet to be an amazing person who was loved very much by her students and kept very good records of her glaze research.  I have included part of the post below:

The blue glaze used on this piece was created by Janet Holdcraft and she loved her bubbles. This is Janet’s recipe we are calling it Janet Holdcraft’s Blue Dawn. Base glaze 2500 is EPK of 500 grams, Flint of 750 grams, and Gerstley Borate of 1250 grams with 5% or 125 grams of Cobalt Carb. She has a whole page of trial and errors and this is the last one on the page with a * and a “YES” we have her book and it is a treasure. Thank you Janet for all the good you did in this world. This is for the last few Good Will Friday’s that I have not posted but the good you showed to me and Jerry will never be forgotten. RIP Lea Ann Nall-Williams. Clay used is 50 pounds of premix with 5 gallons of reclaim and red art added to the mixture there are also other things he adds but trying to get him to measure anything is as impossible as getting Jerry C. Williams Sr. to post of facebook. Posted by Lea Ann Nall-Williams. I use to be there sometimes when she mixed her glazes she was very percise and on a mission.

After seeing the post I gathered the raw materials and hand mixed a 100 gram batch as a test  and gas fired out the glaze in my test kiln.  The results for such a simple recipe were quite amazing.   I was able to make the full range I needed with zero loss from glaze defects which was a huge relief.   I was quick to show Jerry the results and took images off my coffee table.  The poor lighting did not do the glaze color justice, but the blue shown through just beautiful enough to cause excitement.

bluedawnoo2

A Janet Holdcraft Tribute

So after I was pleased with the results I decided to try the glaze on a collection of shave bowls I had started.  And what better way to create a collection then to have it be a tribute to the person who made it.   It was amazing to think about how many artists, teachers, and craftsmen live far beyond their years in the work, research, and contributions they left behind.   I am proud to have the opportunity to mix this glaze and I am more than happy to post Janet’s recipe here so others may try it if they wish. Below is the recipe converted to a 100 gram batch:

Janet Holdcraft’s “Blue Dawn”

Gerstley Borate – 50
EPK. – 20
Flint. – 30
________________________________
Cobalt. – 5

If you have work with these stamps on the bottom,  or  your  citronella lamp has the “Mariposa Pottery” note seen below, then you may have a Janet Holdcraft piece.  Thanks very much to  Lea Ann Williams for sending in the images.

stamps001

 

stamp003

“Blue Dawn” – A Janet Holdcraft Tribute Collection

Below are some samples of the “Blue Dawn” collection.  The works maybe purchased while supplies last at  our Creek Road Pottery shop on Etsy

 

The artist Jerry C. Williams Sr. has inspired me with his work  and forced me to think about the bottoms of bowls as a whole new canvas begging to be worked with texture.  Jerry’s Native American inspired designs capture the native culture in very unique way.  On first seeing Jerry’s work  the patterns, textures, and drawings on the bottoms of his bowls made me appreciate all sides of the pots I was making and forced me to think about what other parts of the work I might be missing out on experiencing.  You can find Jerry’s ceramic work posted on his page or at the Green Door Art Gallery.  I would like to thank Jerry and Lea Ann once again for posting this recipe to the public domain and it was a pleasure to use the glaze and I’m sure many other artists, potteries, and ceramic lovers will enjoy using and seeing the glaze . If you the reader try this recipe please let me know how it turned out by posting a comment here with a link to a sample!  I would love to see where this might go!

Jerry and  Lea Ann,  if you are ever in PA  feel free to stop by and I’ll show you my little pottery!  Also thanks for the beautiful bowl you sent over to me.

Al Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

20160822

Carbon coring or “black coring” can be an issue when firing clay bodies. While doing some experiments with reduction firings I had many pots that were cracking in the process and had no idea why. It seemed that the cracks were from fast cooling, as they were clean breaks through the glaze with sharp edges. Little did I know that this cracking was caused by carbon coring or “black coring”. I did some comparisons wth cross sections of the broken pots and noticed that this discoloration did not happen in my oxidation firings but only in reduction. I dug out my ceramic books and searched online to find out what this issue might be.

Shattered By Black Coring

While researching I found a post by the Lugna Clay company entitled ” Bloating and Black Coring”, which seem to suggest that I may need to bisque fire my clay body properly.  The theory behind the article suggested that not all the carbon was burned out of the clay body and the kiln also may need to be vented better in the bisque firing. The clay body I was using was AMACO high-fire warm brown 58-M stoneware clay. I only had issues with bloating when I accidently overfire it a few times on the bottom shelves while trying to reach cone 6 in the middle of the kiln.  The clay body was high in iron content which, I later found, created the issue with black coring when I reduced the updraft kiln to produce a body reduction. The iron in the clay and the reduction process was a bad combination and would produce a bad kiln load of pots.  Bowls shattered as they cooled.

Black Coring – The Cause

The answer to the problem came from an excellent research report entitled “Calcium and sulphur distribution in red clay brick in the presence of a black reduction core using micro X-ray fluorescence mapping”. by L.Gredmaier, C.J.Banks , and R.B. Pearce. These findings can be found on page 2 and 3 of this report:

“The following factors determine the extent of black reduction coring in red clay ware:

- Firing time – a longer ring time can eliminate the black reduction core.

- The oxygen atmosphere during ring. Lack of oxygen promotes the formation of black reduction cores.

- Iron oxide content in the raw clay.

- Carbon content and burnout or oxidation of carbon during firing of the raw clay.”

The research in this report stated also that the red iron oxide was converting to magnetite.

To the potter, according to “The Potter’s Dictionary of Materials & Techniques” by Frank and Janet Hamer, on page 26,  means this conversion created weakness to the clay body caused the clay to vitrify at a lower temperature due to the red iron oxide and carbon converting to black iron oxide and carbon dioxide, which creates an active flux . The pots become brittle and fragile.  One mug I took from this load popped apart while I poured coffee in it as a test, sending shards across the table, because it could not withstand the thermal shock due to black coring.

Black Coring – The Solution

The solutions to black coring from the article link to above would be to use a clay body with less iron content.  Also, it is suggested that bisque firings should be slower and to the correct temperature to allow carbon burn out.  I personally found that in my high iron clay body, if I skipped the body reduction of the firing and reduced the kiln towards the end of the firing, I still got reduction glazes to look great without black coring.

If any of you who read this have found this helpful or have your own findings, feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

20160512_185726
Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Firing out the Amaco AG40 is great for raku , but I sure had issues with the higher temperatures.  When I was working towards my degree and also was an apprentice at a pottery when I  found a little Amaco AG40 updraft kiln in the classified section of the paper.  The kiln was owned by older gentlemen and hobby potter about two hours from where I lived.  This gentleman had the kiln installed above his garage he was using as a studio.  He had a ventilation fan that came with the kiln and everything was in great condition.  A family member and I loaded this little kiln onto a truck and carefully drove it home.

The kiln had no instruction manual, and we had to learn how to light it from the label on the side.  We had the gas company bring out two tanks and connected both with 2 lines running into one hose with a connection to the regulator.  After following the directions, we were able to fire the burner and bring the kiln to life. That summer, and for the next two years would use the little kiln to run a raku line of pots.  Those were the best summers.  We ran a Spring and Fall show with demonstrations for the public.  It was three days of fire, smoke, and pottery.

 

View post on imgur.com

Dusting off the AG40 Updraft

After graduating with a B.F.A. in Ceramics and leaving the pottery, I put all my equipment into storage. I had to find work to pay off student loans.  When my wife and I bought our home, I put in a small clay studio with the encouragement of friends and family who were into the wet shaving hobby.  These friends wanted lather bowls and brush handles.  I hooked up my little Amaco Kiln again and looked online for a manual. Amaco was able to send me an old manual.   I only fired this kiln to a midrange temperature with this kiln once but could not remember the schedule to repeat it.  The manual had a suggested firing schedule, so I started tinkering.

I had the gas company come and hook up a tank large enough to prevent freezing.  The first few firing were terrible simply because I was not able to properly regulate how much gas was going to the kiln’s burners and I had a broken gauge.  I started with a simple bisque fire but knew I had to make some repairs before I went to a full first firing.

At times I was almost ready to roll the kiln over the bank.  I had a whole cone or more difference in temperature between the bottom and top, with the bottom shelf being hotter.  The kiln would also stall out.  So I saved up some money and bought a converter kit.  The kit had a stand with an updraft burner which allowed hookup to a twenty-pound propane tank.  This helped out a great deal because I now had more control over the amount of gas and temperature of the kiln because this had a gauge that worked.

With the conversion kit, I now went back to square one and used the firing schedule out of the manual and completed a midrange firing.  I still had a large temperature difference between the top and bottom.  To fix this issue, I widened the glaze firing range so that the top of the kiln would not fall under fire.  I was able to get a few good pots using this method; that is until I accidently overfired on Christmas day.

Over Firing The Amaco AG40

Meet the Kilns

On Christmas Eve 2015 I prepped and glazed a load of shave bowls that I wanted to have completed as Christmas gifts.  I wanted to wrap those gifts right from the kiln for dramatic purposes and hand them out a few days later. Glazing ran later than expected and the firing stalled out climbing to cone 5/6.  I left it run for an hour longer than usual, but the cone was not bending.  I realized that the gas had dropped off.  After fixing the issue, I went back inside. It was now 3 am Christmas morning, and I had an alarm set to go off every 15 minutes, but instead it went off after another 45 minutes.  While I nodded off with”visions of sugar plums dancing in my head” the little Amaco AG40 was over firing.

I jolted awake and looked at the time and realized the problem, then rushed to the kiln and looked through the peephole.  The bottom shelf was running real hot, and the middle shelf cone was now all the way down.  Thinking I caught it in time I started the 2-hour cooling cycle the manual recommended. All was fine until I opened the kiln about 30 hours later.

The bottom shelf was severely warped with cone 5/6 clay pots melted to it. It appeared that the shelf might have gone to cone 9 or 10.  The second shelf of pots had blister marks in them, so I suspect this shelf reached cone 7/8.  The top shelf was perfect.  I was able the salvage five good shave bowls to give to friends.

All of this was great practice on how quickly things can escalate even if minor adjustments are made.  I am still working out temperature differences, and the little Amaco AG40 needs new bricks and repair work done.  But the kiln has grown on me, and I enjoy firing it out in both reduction and oxidation firings.

Click here for the manual for those who may need it. It’s quite old but had some good information in it.  If you would like to add your experiences or tips concerning the Amaco AG40 or updraft kilns in general, feel free to comment!

 

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Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Welcome to Creek Road Pottery!

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We are happy that everyone has stopped by for a visit and we have been working on the website to get it ready for for future content.  We would like to thank everyone who took part in the pilot order program.  It was a big help as we find our areas of strengths and opportunities. It was always my dream to open a ceramic pottery and work clay.  Running an operation is hard work and keeping track of everything has been both fun and challenging. I have a full time job so the pottery is a part-time endeavor for now.

Currently I am working many areas of the business at once. Making the pots is only about thirty percent, the rest is learning to market yourself to customer segments that you would like to target. There are many areas we need to improve in.  One area is to add more glaze colors to the pallet I have.  When I started out running tests and composing a glaze I at first wanted to keep it simple so it would cut down on cost to the final prototype when it came to raw materials.  I was able to find a recipe with only four ingredients. However, this had to be modified to the clay body I was using.  The clay body had large amounts of Iron in it that would come out during the firings and interact with the oxides in the glaze.

Also there was, and still is, the issue of to much reduction in the kiln, causing both the clay and glaze body to go much darker then planned.  In the future I plan on allowing more space and air flow through the kiln to allow the glaze to oxidize and this should bring about the nice blue/green colors I am trying to achieve. Once I am able to get a few more of these challenges worked out the color should be more stable and add value to the ceramic ware.

A huge help was having small electric kilns that could be turned into gas updraft kilns by purchasing a simple kit (shown below).  This allowed me to have two kilns that can fire off twenty pound propane tanks with little effort. With the lower gas prices I am able to get two firings off one tank. The kits were easy to use and by cutting a simple hole in the center of both the top and bottom of the kilns and the process of firing was simplified.

 

Another big cost savings that happened quite by accident was the small gas kiln that I had in storage is built in sections.  This allowed me to run smaller loads of orders without using extra gas or waiting to fill a large kiln load like some of the larger potteries. I was able to simply take a ring or two off, place the lid on and fire one or two orders at a time. This add value to the customer experience because it cuts down on wait time, which I found when researching, can take up to 6 weeks for an order to arrive from a larger pottery.  My goal is to get custom orders down between two  or three weeks.

In the next few weeks we will be trying to mail out new orders and also researching how to improve packing and shipping.  Shipping charges currently are quite high due to the weight of the pots and extra packing material that is needed to ensure safe delivery.  We will be looking at some packing techniques used by others in the trade and also be researching some ideas that can simplify the whole process but still manage a high degree of quality. Currently the cold weather has delayed some firings.  With the sub freezing temperatures it was a worry that the small kilns would cool much to fast and cause cracks and crazing.

Stay tuned to win free pots as we do more prototype testing to find out what is important to people and what they like. Craftsmanship, Quality, and Customer Service are the big three items we are working on. We appreciate any feed back or ideas you may have.

Once again we thanks everyone for stopping by. I have a long way to go but am having a blast working with you all.  The guys have been upbeat about getting their pictures on the website.  There are even links to their Facebook pages so you can learn more about the team.  Once we get all the administrative things out of the way and streamline the process things should get mush easier. Once again thanks for all your support!  Be sure to leave a comment below and say hello!

 

– Al Wayman,

Creek Road Pottery