[Clayart] wood firing/long story

Paul Gerhold gerholdclay at gmail.com
Fri Jul 1 15:06:51 EDT 2016

But Mel, if lack of pain is your criteria for judging pottery techniques we would all be doing molded electric fired  pots.


Sent from my iPad

> On Jul 1, 2016, at 12:03 PM, mel jacobson via Clayart <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com> wrote:
> i sent a note to clayart about wood firing and of course
> mine did not show up.  who knows?
> i will try again.
> wood firing/dictionary translation:  hard work, dirty, expensive,
> frustrating, fighting, arguments.
> i have been around wood kilns for many years.
> my take is:  stay away.  watch a gas kiln fire from
> the seat of my pink lawn chair.  chat with friends, watch
> the kiln fire, have a cold drink.  chat `happily` with
> friends, pet my dog.  open a great kiln full of happy pots.
> david hendley is the only potter i know that happily fires
> with wood.  no rancor...but, i think i will call karen
> and see if this story is true.  (she is a fine woman, with
> great intengrity and she will tell me the truth.)
> it takes a great deal of planning to pull off firing with wood.
> fuel is the prime issue with all kilns and you need good,
> well stacked, well dried and abundant wood if you intend
> to fire with it.  and, you need a constant supply.  not just
> enough for a half a firing.
> that means...a truck, chain saw, wood splitter, gloves
> chaps, axe, and much in the way of patience.
> add that up...about 20 grand.  low estimate.
> whenever we have fired the hay creek fabulous donovan
> palmquist wood kiln we have fights.  do this, do that, too fast,
> too slow, should we stop, or keep going.  who the hell is
> in charge??????  and these are best friends firing the kiln.
> in most cases you need a crew of at least 6.  the leader
> should have a whip and at least a smith and wesson model 10.
> the leader has to make all the decisions, the worker bees do
> what they are told.  you plan ahead...keep to the plan.
> but, in most cases you have one worker bee that knows better.
> `come on, let's kick this kiln in the ass, load her up.`  kiln
> stalls.  you lose five hours of firing to get it back on track.
> the other issue.  the worker bees show up in heels and hose.
> polyester clothes that will explode if near a kiln.
> no gloves.  what, i have to do what???  i have to get up at
> 3 a.m.?  are you crazy?
> or, `i would love to help, but my dog is sick, take these 30 pots
> and load them, i have a show coming up...i need a good spot
> in the kiln`.  sure.
> or, two of the worker bees drink too much, get loaded and
> fall into the wood pile and pass out.  no booze at a wood firing.
> ever.  but, i have seen more drunks firing a wood kiln than sober
> people.
> remember, wood firing potters lie to themselves.  `i love this.
> man, i am not tired at all after 42 hours of firing`.  `i cannot
> wait to spend another 30 hours cutting and stacking wood.`
> so, it rains for three days while i fire, it is fine.`
> remember, weather is about 60 percent of firing a wood kiln
> to the end.  you can never tell what the weather will do.
> of course then there is the aesthetic.  snot and buggers all
> over the pots. pots all turn brown.  potters make pots
> with `wood fire form`...they all look alike.  one out of fifty
> has that racer quality.  the rest go in the dumpster.
> i realize that the screams of pain will now start.  `mel, you
> don't know crap about aesthtics of wood, and you are mean.`
> `how can you say such things?`
> well, i have been around the block, seen it, done it, watched
> it and i have listened for years to folks that say...`man, next
> time i will really fire this kiln better.`  i want this time.
> i want every time.  not 1 out of 5.
> and, the hardest part of the wood kiln experience is that
> the kilns are far too big.  the potter is always chasing the
> kiln.  `i need 200 more pots to fill the kiln.`  `i need more
> help, and the family is not going to do it again.`
> and nothing makes me sadder than an aging wood firing
> potter.  arms are tired, legs hurt, and one more load of wood
> has to be cut, split and stacked, covered and allowed at least
> a year to dry.  `i think i will just pay that guy $300 for a full cord
> all cut and stacked.`   and, where do you find that guy that
> will do it for $300?.
> i write this post for those that think it is easy.
> the ones that have committed to it, they will stay
> commited, and will think i am terrible for saying what i say.
> but, one has to go into the wood experience with wide open
> eyes. it is not a picnic.
> mel
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