Northeast Ceramic Supply/Monroe ClayWorks (NEC/MCW) is delighted to begin our adventure in woodfiring. June 2015 was when we began our woodfiring journey with a “Kilnstarter” to build Bruno. The idea for a wood kiln began with Bruno Laverdier’s generously giving us the brick and steel from his gas kiln. We, along with Patrick Durkin, brainstormed the possibility of re-purposing Bruno’s hard and soft kiln brick.
The idea of building a wood kiln at NEC/MCW was exciting. We quickly decided the kiln needed to be as smoke and ember-free as possible which led us to zeroing in on a train or Bourry Box design wood kiln. All three of us enthusiastically agreed the kiln would be named Bruno.
Since NEC/MCW is located in the northeast of the U.S. and we have deep cold winters, we knew we would need a good foundation for Bruno plus a decent sized concrete pad and kiln shed. We asked architect Joe Fama to draw up plans. Joe drew up the plans and also consulted with a structural engineer. While Joe was working on the plans for Bruno we struck on the idea of a “Kilnstarter” as a way to fund the cost of building Bruno.
In June 2015 NEC/MCW broadcast via our incredibly friendly, close-knit clay community, our Bruno Kilnstarter. On June 4th the first donation came in ~ we were beginning the amazing journey. Beginning June 4th NEC/MCW received donations at a startling rate. Week by week our Bruno Kilnstarter grew.
Barbara Costanzo updated our webpage with the current donation total and Kilnstarter flyers ~ many thanks Barbara. A big thank you to Mary Shaw for taking in and recording each donation and also continuing to keep track of clay, firing, etc. As of this writing (May 30, 2016) we have received $19,825!!
We formed a building committee (Dennis, Tom Forster, Richard Reiner & John Vasquez) and hired Jordan Becker to design and consult on Bruno.
On September 25, 2015 we had our Bruno Gala. At the gala we toured the Bruno kiln shed and beginnings of Bruno.
There were about seventy people at our gala and the excitement and anticipation was palpable. Bruno tiles were given to donors. Since that time, there have been many more donors which means there are more tiles made that will be given out to donors.
After the Bruno Gala work on Bruno continued. We knew winter was coming so in November 2015 we halted building and agreed we’d start again in the Spring. Patrick and his family had moved to California but he managed to return to Troy for a week during the winter and he valiantly worked on Bruno during his visit.
Wally Lane of Lane Refractories generously donated the use of a fantastic diamond blade mason’s saw. In addition, those cool chimney and arch brick are from Wally’s supply of brick and we refer to them as “Wally Brick”. We can’t thank Wally enough for his time, assistance and enthusiasm.
When Spring arrived we realized a different building tact needed to be put in place. We contracted with Jordan Becker to not only oversee the building of Bruno but for him to do the hands-on building. Spring 2016 saw Jordan coming to NEC/MCW several days almost every week. Bruno grew and has not only taken form with Jordan, Dennis and Mark’s work but she is nearing completion.
Kathy Catlin has generously given us pallets of hard brick which has been fabulous. Kathy and Will Larsen donated a huge amount of split and aged wood for Bruno firings. We are so happy and lucky as a community to have kind and generous potters and their spouses. Thank you!!
On May 17, 2016 we had a Bruno Gathering at NEC/MCW. Donors were invited to come to a potluck and see the progress that had been made on Bruno. They could see her graceful form, enjoy a potluck dinner together, view the bisqued vases for donation, a sample of the $15,000 donation goal yunomis and pick up the $10,000 donation goal woodfire slip recipes and samples.
Questions were asked. Dennis, Jordan and Barbara said a few words and we enjoyed our evening together.
Now we begin our firing journey ~ thank you to all.
What a fabulous and informative workshop Barbara Reeley gave on mixing up colored clays and using them to create beautiful inlaid platters.
Making porcelain slip from Laguna 550 is easy and fun. Use a blender and 80 mesh sieve to mix the either dry clay and water or wet clay directly from a pug of clay. This video demonstrates using metal oxides, Mason stains and Concepts. Mix to the consistency of heavy cream, thin if necessary, and enjoy various types of slip decoration.
The Air Pen can be purchased at Northeast Ceramic Supply, Inc. for $198. It’s an amazing tool!
Concepts Underglazes and colored slips were applied to leather hard clay by using the Air Pen with its tiny compressor and many tips.
This tool was simple to use and has multiple uses.
NEC carries these pens for $198. Pastry chefs and silk painters also use the Air Pen.
Choosing the surface glaze of a pot is important to its visual appeal. Shelf upon shelf of wonderful glazes await you at Northeast Ceramic Supply.
Or if you prefer, buy chemicals and mix your own. The folks at NEC or MCW will be happy to help.
Have you ever had a glaze was too thick or too thin? Or perhaps it seemed to be just the right viscosity but it fired poorly.
Well, if you were at the hydrometer workshop, you know that Harriet Hauser cleared up all the confusion. A hydrometer is a tool that will measure the specific gravity of a glaze and help you get more consistent firing results.
Once the proper consistency of a glaze is established based on firing results, the straw hydrometer is a simple and quick way to check that the glaze is mixed the same each time.
HOW TO MAKE A STRAW HYDROMETER
Adapted from an article by Roger Graham in Ceramics Monthly, June-Aug. 2013
- Plastic straw approximately ¼ inch in diameter Hot glue gun
- Lead or steel rod (or anything heavy that will fit inside the straw) Ruler with metric markings
- Fine tip Sharpie
- Fill one end of the straw with approximately ¼ inch of hot glue and allow it to set up:
- Cut off a 4-5 gram piece of lead or steel rod and slide it down to the closed end of the straw (I like closer to 5 grams because it spreads the final measurements a bit.)
- Place the weighted straw in a container of water and use a Sharpie to mark the level of the water. That will be 1.0 on the hydrometer.
- Measure, in millimeters, the distance from the bottom of the straw to the mark made at the water level.
Divide the distance found in step 4 by 1.1, measure that distance on the straw and mark it as 1.1.
Divide the distance found in step 4 by 1.2 to get the measurement for the 1.2 mark.
Continue to divide the distance found in step 4 by 1.3-1.6 to obtain the other values.
Fill in the following Specific Gravity chart:
The Measurement from step 4 is a 1.0 and specific gravity of water.
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.1 = ______________________________
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.2 = ______________________________
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.3 = ______________________________
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.4 = ______________________________
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.5 = ______________________________
Measurement from step 4 divided by 1.6 = ______________________________
Once the proper consistency of a glaze is established* the straw hydrometer is a simple and quick way to check that the glaze is mixed the same each time. Simply ease, not drop, the straw into the container of glaze; it should not touch the bottom, but float. Tap the side of the container a couple of times and note the level of the glaze on the hydrometer.
* Do you like how the glaze looks on your pots after they are fired?
Prepared by Harriet Hauser