Monday, November 16, 2015

NEW Kiln!

My Aunt's old Olympic kiln.
Yes, that's a big redwood root behind it
    I started out with my aunt's little Olympic kiln.  The bricks looked ancient when I inherited it, but I made it work hard.  Replaced its elements several times, moved it, grew my hobby into a business with it.  Until I needed to make more product, because I was finally giving myself more time to do it.  Then I bought the Skutt, from another potter who was moving on to a digital control.  It was pretty new, 7 times
Kiln Sitter
The Old Skutt
bigger than the Olympic, and came with all the kiln furniture.  Both of my first kilns are controlled by the melting of a ceramic cone, in a device called a kiln sitter... and, of course, an eye on the clock.  The firing process required me to prop the lid up with the plugs all out for 3.5 hours on low to get the water out of the clay, or in the case of the glaze firing, out of the glaze.  Then you turn the kiln up to medium for an hour, after which you plug all the holes but the top one, close the lid, and turn it up to high.  I set an alarm for when I hoped the kiln would stop, but it was never exactly correct.  So many factors affect the timing from the age of the elements, the density of the load, the weather... So I usually just hoped it wasn't a faulty cone and would melt at just the right moment.  I could peek in the peephole.  But I really can't differentiate the 1000 degree red from the 2000 degree red.  I could use, and officially should use, a "witness cone", a backup melting blob of clay that I could peep at, if my eyeball didn't melt off in the process, to see if  it too was melted.  Usually I was too stingy with my space to give it up to precision.  Most of the time the firings were fine...but sometimes, making a change in the middle of the night, I would neglect to plug all the holes, or not set the timer long enough for it not to go off before the cone melted...and then I'd have to start all over again.
New L&L Kiln

My NEW kiln, an L&L SchoolMaster, tells me what temperature it is all the time.  It also has a venting system that eliminates my need to wake up different times to adjust the air flow.  And it turns itself up exactly as I request it to do.  And once I determine my ideal firing schedule, I only have to press the one button.  One for Bisque, one for Glaze.  It's not perfect, mind you.  The binder of information that came with it was clearly written by engineers, not the school teachers the kiln is marketed to.  It doesn't do voice control or an app interface, but it keeps me sleeping at night.  And though I was nervous to open up this first load... I am so happy with the result!  And I passed my old Skutt onto another aspiring potter so she can learn the down and dirty of the firing process before retiring to a digital control version.

Oh technology...

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