Wali Hawes 1952 - 2014
                          pottery and more!

Pottery Help

I'm often asked for help - and I'm happy to give it. These are some of the questions I have been asked about various things.

Barrel and Wall Kilns

Sasha from Serbia asks:

Can you explain a little how are you building your barell kiln or the wall kiln please?

Wali Answers:

The Wall is essentially a simple brick structure that is designed to be fired either from the bottom (Updraught) or from the top downwards (Downdraught-but not in the usual sense of the word)

The kiln can be as tall as you want, as long as you want but usually it is just one and two half bricks in width.

Here is how you build one.

The bricks I use are heavy duty firebrick but I have also used ordinary house bricks, though they do tend to deteriorate quite badly after a few firings.

On level ground you place a brick perpendicular to you. Then from here you start on both ends of this brick building horizontally. You build it as long as you want but the quantity of pieces determine the lenght (and height) Leave one end open.

Build upwards till about four bricks high. Then either place a metal grate, short lenghts of iron bars or simply kiln shelves along the top of this being careful to leave gaps for the heat to flow. 

Carry on building the wall with bricks but this time all around. After about four bricks high you are ready to load the pieces. I usually place bits of wood on the kiln shelves and then a bed of charcoal. On this I place the pots. More charcoal till pots are fully covered.

Build up wall higher-more wood and charcoal and pots. You continue llike this till you run out of pots. You then cover the entire structure with sheets of magazine paper dipped in slurry (The Paper Kiln Technique)

Usually three or four layers is sufficient. You then cover the top of the kiln with kiln shelves leaving space for combustion to take hold otherwise you will choke the kiln. Set a small fire at the bottom and keep stoking till the combustible material inside has started to burn. Once that happens you have to continually adjust the kiln shelves to get the fire to burn evenly. Once coal starts glowing at the top close kiln shelves and clam up with more sheets of paper and slurry.

If you like, before closing up you can keep stoking. Like this you can increase temperature.

It is best to use a heavily grogged clay body or commercial raku clay for the pots. I also treat the surface of the pieces with terra sigillata, metallic salts and I sometimes place salt or sodium bicarbonate around the pieces. Wrapping pieces in seaweed, copper wire, cassette tapes (chrome type) etc gives interesting results.

I am sure once you get going and do several firings you will get the hang of it and perhaps beginng to try out your own ideas.

Good Luck and let me know how it goes. Feel free to get back to me if you have further questions.



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