Thickness as a design consideration

As a ceramics student and a novice woodturner, I naturally succumbed to the desire to make my work as thin as possible. Thinner bowls and cups are lighter and more pleasant to hold. They are also much harder to create. Making thin work became the goal of my craft and the criterion by which I measured my level of skill.

It was not until I had achieved that goal that I realized what a false idol it was. Continue reading

First Kiln Firing

Kiln at about 2000 degreesI have finally fired my kiln!

On Saturday I fired my first bisque and on Monday my first glaze. Neither firing went perfectly but the results were better than I dared hope.

The bisque firing was supposed to be cone 06 but I ran out of time (I was going to a play) and had to turn the kiln off early. I am not sure how close it got to the right temperature. My 05 and 06 witness cones survived unscathed but the ware was within the bisque range so it must have been close enough. I had a teapot, 4 cups and 7 bowls. I did loose one bowl to cracking but I believe it had been weakened by handling before the firing.

For the glaze firing I gave myself all day to get it done. I was aiming for cone 5 so I set the kiln for normal speed, 2150°f, and put the time at 12 hours, which is the longest it will go. After 8 or so hours I started using my shade 10 welding goggles when looking in the peephole to check the cones. After 11 hours the #4 come had bent over completely. By 12 hours the #5 cone had bent to 90° (pointing at 180° for those of you who love polar coordinates) so when the timer went off (sounding like a kitchen egg timer) I shut everything off, and went to bed. I unloaded the next night.

Finished Teapot and CupsI fired the teapot, the 4 cups, and one bowl all with the same Laguna Clay forest green (ms-4) glaze. The glaze all melted nicely and the kiln wash on the shelves saved me from the sleight drips I had on one of the cups. The application was a little spotty because I did not have enough glaze to dip the pieces and had to apply it with a brush. There was a fair amount of flow of the glaze and the lips of the cups came out a bit thin but nothing to worry about. I got a little pinhole-ing of the glaze and clay sagging on a bowl that was on the bottom shelf so I may need to be careful what I put down there.

The teapot and two of the cups are a donation to an auction held by a charity called More Than Me that a co-worker of mine works with. I am proud of the way they came out and I hope that it can bring in a good donation.

All in all a success!

Wheel Trouble

Last weekend a good friend of mine loaned me his Shimpo electric potter’s wheel. I was stoked to get started and after a quick run to Home Depot to pick up a couple of bolts to set the table attachment up, I was ready to go! Unfortunately, I got half way into my third bowl when the wheel stopped turning. I scraped my half made bowl off the wheel and began investigating it. After chasing down voltages with my Volt-Ohm meter, I believe that a component on the controller card has burned out. The voltage going into the switch looks good. The voltage going into and out of the bridge rectifier looks good. The voltage going into the card looks good but I only get ½ volt DC coming out of the card to power the motor. I searched the internet for a replacement card but was not able to find anything.

I finally emailed the manufacturer and for $280 they are sending me a new card. This has been a very frustrating experience.


I bought a used kiln off of craigslist. It is a bit small and old but it is a perfect starter kiln. It is a Cress electric kiln and can go to cone 8. This will be a change from everything I have done before. I have never had my own kiln and I have never fired a kiln (gas or electric).


My new (old) kiln

Now I am getting a 220 V line put in so I can fire my work at home. I will be borrowing a wheel from a friend and getting some cone 5 clays and glazes from the relatively nearby Laguna clay company. I hope to be able to begin making work by October.