[Clayart] Death by kiln?

vpitelka at dtccom.net vpitelka at dtccom.net
Thu May 12 19:19:59 UTC 2022

Many years ago, my friend Mike Selfridge was teaching ceramics at the community college in Crescent City, California, just south of the Oregon border.  He had just built a new sprung arch kiln.  Mike had been a welder/fabricator in the sawmills, so he built things sturdy.  They had just loaded the kiln, and Mike had shown his students how to light it.  One of them volunteered to light the kiln later on for an overnight preheat.  At the appointed time, the student turned on the gas, and then realized that she (it could as easily have been a man) didn't have a twist of newspaper and went in search of some newspaper.  She came back a few minutes later, lit the twist of newspaper, poked it in a burner hole, and KABOOM!.  This was a cross-draft kiln, and thus the student was on the side of the kiln, protected by the sturdy steel frame.  It blew her over backwards, knocked the wind out of her, and singed her a bit, but she was not otherwise injured.  The door blew out and the arch rose up in the air and collapsed, destroying the wares and the shelves.  Mike built another one.  
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Potter, Writer, Teacher
Chapel Hill, NC
vpitelka at dtccom.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Clayart <clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com> On Behalf Of William Schran
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2022 8:56 AM
To: 'Clayart international pottery discussion forum' <clayart at lists.clayartworld.com>
Subject: Re: [Clayart] Death by kiln?

Almost death by kiln: Several years back the now retiring Bill Campbell had a fire in his studio kiln area. Fire department hosed down much of the room. Sitting in the room were Advancer kiln shelves that got soaked. Bill thought he had dried them out but didn't follow the firing procedure set by manufacturer. The first firing with those shelves was a disaster. Shelves blew up and completely blew apart the kiln. Bill told me an employee had just checked the kiln, walked around the corner when the kiln blew apart! So that coulda been death by kiln.
Just this week a potter friend in Australia, Bill Powell had an explosion in a luster firing. He told me it was a normal luster firing he does all the time but in a smaller kiln. It was a small lidded container with a copper red glaze that exploded, shattering every other pot in the kiln and causing substantial damage to the kiln. He can only think the temperature ramp may have been too fast in this smaller kiln.
Years ago, probably about 1972, in undergrad college we were firing a hard brick kiln we had built that was straining to heat up. We tried many things to try to get kiln to heat up better and one night somebody had the idea to position burners right at the burner ports and use bricks to seal off secondary air from entering those ports.There were no safety cut offs on kiln. We would start kiln late at night then return in morning to kiln usually at around bisque temperature. One morning we arrived and looked inside the kiln and there were flames coming up from floor of kiln! The floor was covered in liquid propane!!! We quickly shut it down, opened spy holes, damper, arch bricks in the door and let the liquid gas burn off.
Sealing off secondary air was certainly the wrong thing to do. Could have been a kiln disaster!

William Schranwschran at twc.com703-505-1617

	-----------------------------------------From: "Roxanne Hunnicutt" 
To: clayart at lists.clayartworld.com
Sent: Thursday May 12 2022 7:35:56AM
Subject: [Clayart] Death by kiln?

 > durable outdoor planters

 Oh Vince, I fear to ask, can you substantiate “life-threatening injury”?
 I buy “destroy the kiln! “ But life threatening seems over blown, no?

 Let’s go to there? And deaths by kiln you’ve heard of?

 “Here's another example of how stubborn that impacted water can be.
 have no doubt heard about people trying to re-fire a low-porosity vitrified  form after it has been in use. A good example would be a teapot that  someone has been using every day, but then they decide that the glaze would  benefit from refiring. In the firing, such a form can explode from the  impacted moisture, and it can destroy the kiln or even cause  life-threatening injury.”

 roxanne in Oregon where April and May have been like winter. Which is great  because WE WILL BURN IN SUMMER! And need any moisture at all!

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