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I finally did it. I thought and thought and read and read and decided to just try it…(that’s how I got myself into the deliemma of such a big Koi pond that holds way more water than I ever thought possible!!) Anyway…I put 4 cinder blocks in a square leaving a section open for the wood to be put in through. Then I stacked the blocks three high. After the second row I put a bar-b-q screen and put the 3rd row of blocks on that. I put a broken kiln shelf on that screen. I put a piece of metal on top of the 3rd row of cinder blocks. Took my raku pieces that I had poured from a mold – they will be made into my rain chain when done – painted them with raku copper stain. Let dry. Put them into the kiln on the top of the kiln shelf. Lit the fire (coal on bottom, paper, sticks, then old 2x4s. Kept the fire high enough so that the pieces were surrounded in fire. I did see a time when it looked like the stain was wet…I should have taken them out then but I waited another 15 minutes cause – well cause – I didn’t know what I was doing:) When I did take them out with the tongs I put them into the bucket with newspaper. I should have poured the water into the bucket where they were burning with the newspaper…instead I took them out with the tongs and put them into a bucket of water...I got confused at that point obviously!! Once they cooled I could see the different colors but there was a lot of brown. They bubbled a lot which I guess means they got too hot??? They are still pretty so after I scrub them and clean them up some, I will use them to make my rain chain once I get the rest of the pieces that go with it fired. I will try again tonight hopefully.
Phots: top left is the kiln; top right is the first bell I took out; bottom left is another bell, bottom right are 3 bells and 3 balls. It will be a rain chain but I have to raku the beads I poured to go with the chain before I can put it all together. Then I will try it ALL again and see if I can get it right this time:)
Congratulations on building your raku kiln. Well done.
Over 20 years ago, back in my potting days, the guild would have a raku weekend complete with picnic, primitive firing and a whole lot of social contents before and after the event. I looked forward to the raku firing most of all. We had a kiln very similar to yours that was fired by a mighty propane burner connected to a large propane cylinder.
We mixed our own raku clay with loads of coarse sand. That was the one occasion each year when we could fire in a reduction atmosphere; what a treat. We usually fired our stoneware and porcelain pieces to up to cone 10 in electric kilns. In preparation to that event, we amassed great bags of pine needles, shredded newspaper, straw, sawdust, anything organic and cheap that could burn easily and starve the glaze of the oxygen that surrounded it, bringing out the metallic hues we couldn't produce in the electric kilns. I was very adept at swinging the pots around at the end of the tongs before deftly landing them into the consumables. Oh the rush when that pot ended up in the water, quenching furiously.
Nice job! Beautiful reduction----and you did yours the same way we always did ours: take the pieces out of the kiln & put them into the reducing bucket, then after they've smoked for a bit, take them out and put them into the water bucket.
The bubbling could be from the glaze being not being quite mature enough----after I see it get "wet-looking", I usually turn the burner down just a skosh and let them soak at that temp (whatever it is) for another 15 or 20 minutes before I take them out.
I've found that over time the copper flashing has disappeared on my raku pieces, and they've turned green---I think because it has oxidized with the atmosphere. There may be ways of spraying or waxing it that would keep it. Something to explore.
As far as the metallic shine oxydizing over time, it was kind of a 50/50 thing. Some pieces changed colour, others remain metallic to this day - and that's using the same glaze on different pieces. Raku brings a random aspect to firing that is unequalled by other types of firing. Each piece is unique and can't be reproduced. You gotta love raku. So few people know about it.
Wow lourspolaire..what nice memories!! How I wish I had artist friends like that! Even the class I take for wheel throwing isn't very friendly. I can't even imagine a get together like that. I envy you. Now that I have finished the batch of bisque, I will begin to "amassed great bags of pine needles, shredded newspaper, straw, sawdust, anything organic and cheap" so that I can play and experiment with the next batch. I also want to use propane but didn't know if it would work ok with cinder blocks.
Imapigeon...I am firing with wood right now but I will try with propane next hopefully - then I will try to reduce the heat before removing the pieces. Have you ever fired with wood?
Thanks again everyone! I am so excited. There is nothing like sitting outside at night watching the fire in that kiln - seeing those pieces glowing inside - just waiting to take them out and see what you come up with...I'm happy with all I've learned in just the past two days!
In the early years, we built the raku kiln out of cinder blocks. Then, we got fancy and purchased some kind of a white blanket material which needed to be supported on the outside by a wire grid. I believe that was kaolin blankets. The advantage was that it hardly weighed anything and could be transported very easily.
My favorite reduction material was the long pine needles because they imparted their texture and shape into the molten glaze. We have never used wood except for primitive firing, which I did not like. Putting pots you burnished for hours into the embers and waiting for the fire to die down was too static for me. Oh, how I enjoyed those few fleeting seconds where I reached into the kiln with the tongs and swung that hot pot around! And then, the pine-scented aroma that came from the reduction stage, the hissing of the glaze as it hit the water, worrying about the pot breaking apart, etc.. The whole experience stimulated every sense. Plus, raku is completely lost on most people, specially the Hummel figurine crowd.