Sunday, May 25, 2008


Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Ever time I fire the kiln (almost always overnight, while I'm sleeping) I wake up feeling the most intense anticipation. Did it finish? Did it go "pop" like those internal temperature devices in turkeys? For quite a while this past year, it didn't go pop because one of my elements and connectors needed to be replaced, so I would run back out to the kiln, through the wet grass in my bare feet, wondering if the kiln was still hot enough (it always was) for me to turn it back up to high for another few hours.

This morning I woke up at 6 (the dogs are my best alarm clock), ran blindly (oh, I am SO blind and never can find my glasses first thing in the morning) to let them out, did my dash through the wet grass, happy to see that the kiln did indeed "pop." Back inside, feed the dogs, make coffee, find glasses, sneak a peek (top layer looks good!), now wait until the evening or even Monday morning until the kiln is cool enough to unload.

This is the kiln sitter- a wonderful (to me!) device that measures both the temperature and the time for firing. The knob to the left is the timer- after x number of hours it will shut itself off. The white circle and the silverish rectangle to the right measures the temperature. A tiny little stick called a mini-cone goes inside three prongs on the inside of the kiln. When it gets to the right temperature( about 2200 F/ 1240 C for glazes, cone 6), the cone begins to melt, causing the top prong to come down and that rectangle drops, shutting off the power to the kiln. I like this way of firing- many potters use programmable kilns, but I like to turn it up and control the speed of the firing myself. Luddite that I am, I'm always suspicious of digital readouts on equipment. Just one more thing to break down. I don't use witness cones (big versions of the mini-cone) because I'm lazy and I never can see them through the peep hole anyway. Most potters do. I've been chastised on more than one occasion for not using them.

More information that your ever wanted about kilns? Probably.


Little Flower Designs said...

hi! I found your blog from your flickr pic! I'm with you on the pop! My studio and kiln are in the basement so when I hear that pop (i call it plop!) I run to turn off the kiln vent fan, it's obsessive, ever sit and stare at the sitter and wait? any second!! I don't usually use the big cones either, can't see them - I do however have a very old pyrometer I occasionally stick thru a peep hole if the kiln is taking too long, I'll have to snap a pic of it to post, it's insane that I use it - I'm going to link your blog to mine, I hope that's ok. Happy potting! Linda

Sarah-potterknitter said...

Ahh I miss the pop. Now I'm sitting at the kiln after 18 hours waiting for the cones to fall. The ones I can see at least. 5 peeps with cones and usually i lose one to the reduction cloud, and three are too close to the door to be very accurate. So me and the bottom peep, lying on the concrete with gloves, glasses, and flame shooting out. Life of cone 10, makes me appreciate the days of cone 6.
I love all the bowls. I do much smaller runs usually, but when there's dozens of something it's always gratifying to spread them all out and just look at all that work. Off to trim/handle mugs!

Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed that anything ever turns out. I took a pottery class once and I always felt like it was similar to having a baby. You just never know how it's going to turn out. Good job - they look fantastic!