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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Building A Raku Kiln

In preparation for the two shows I have coming up this weekend (Fired Works and The Inman Park Festival) I wanted some more naked raku pieces.  I had a few already to go and all the equipment I needed to build a raku kiln so that's just what I did.

The Start of a Raku Kiln
The body of the kiln is a galvanized steel trash can (new and clean).  The flame will come from a weed burner.  This one puts out up to 500,000 BTU's so I thought it might be enough.  It connects to a propane tank like you would use for a bar-b-que grill.  The can was lined with ceramic fiber cloth.

Ceramic Fiber Cloth
This is not something you want to breathe or touch.  I wore a long sleeve shirt, gloves and a mask.

I rolled out some of the fiber cloth then pushed the bottom of the trash can down on it to make an impression of a circle the size of the bottom of the can.  It's not easy to draw on this cloth with a pen or Sharpe but this was actually easier than tracing would have been.

I cut the cloth with some surgical scissors I got from a friend who's a nurse.  They worked really well.
Cut Cloth With Surgical Sissors
I drilled a hole in the side of the can about 2 inches up from the bottom.  This is where the flame will enter the kiln and it needs to be low but above the ceramic fiber cloth that is in the bottom of the can.  I cut the hole larger with tin snips.  I made the opening one inch larger than the size of the torch head but I think it needs to be another inch larger.  I cut a hole in the lid of the trash can - now - kiln the same way, this will be the chimney.

I measured across the top and the bottom of the can then did some quick geometry calculations to get the circumference of both places.  This way I'd know how much cloth to cut.  The cloth was tucked inside the can then held in place with clay buttons that were held in place with high temperature wire.
Raku Kiln Buttons
This was a bit of a pain in the neck because the wire had to be pushed through a hole in the can, through the cloth, through a hole in the button and back around again then twisted tightly on the outside of the kiln.  All while wearing gloves and a mask.  I said some words that are inappropriate for small children and that seemed to make it work.

Three pieces of soft brick made the posts and one made a flame deflector.  But when I came time to install the shelf I realized it was just a tad too big because of the thickness of the fiber cloth.  More bad words and I was able to find enough pieces of shelf to cobble something together.  Yay, the cussing seems to help (kids, don't try this at home).
Raku kiln building by Future Relics

I have an old kiln that I've been using to scavenge parts. The stand and kiln bottom seemed like a good place to put the raku kiln for firing.  It was a little tall because I'm vertically challenged, but it worked well otherwise.  I suspect I could just put it on a few cinderblocks also.

Home Made Raku kiln by Future Relics Gallery
Firing the Raku Kiln
I had to use a piece of soft brick for the chimney damper since I used all the old kiln shelf for the shelf.  I will get a new shelf that fits before I fire it again.

I did a ferric fuming for the first firing.  I don't use a pyrometer for this type of firing, I just watch the aluminum foil and stop the firing when the foil changes from shinny to flat.

Fumed Naked Raku Vase by Future Relics Gallery
Fumed Vase

Naked Raku, Fumed by Future Relics Pottery
Fumed Plate

Two of my favorites from this kiln.

Disclaimer:  Working with ceramic fiber and firing a raku kiln can be dangerous.  Please do not do this unless you are qualified and/or are working with a trained, qualified individual.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

9 comments:

  1. Wow, that's impressive--both the kiln-building and the results!

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  2. yeah, you did it, wonderful results too

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    1. Thanks Linda, I'd still be happy to come up there and fire with you.

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  3. HOLY CATS, gorgeous work, and what a cute kiln you made! Funny, I have an old kiln sitting around and........

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    1. Thanks Gary, you should build a raku kiln, you'd love the quick firing.

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  4. We have a couple of raku kilns made out of old electric kilns... as a matter of fact we are firing one up today! I will post some pics (eventually).
    Your pots look great!

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  5. Thanks for the great 'how to' lesson, Lori. I am going to keep this if/when I try to build one. ..and nice results! :) Trish from Alberta.

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  6. Awesome! I'm glad the fiber worked out for you! Beautiful results from a first firing :-)

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