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192 Jim Boone Rd
Bakersville, NC, 28705
United States


The central information hub for Michael Kline Pottery, a small one man shop of pottery making in the mountains of western North Carolina.

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The Best of Sawdust and Dirt

A record of the goings on around Michael Kline Pottery!

Filtering by Tag: wood klin

Beat-up Old Kiln/Beat-up Old Potter

Michael Kline

As the title of this post implies, this potter is feeling like his kiln, a little worse for wear. Ironically, throwing the pots, working the clay doesn't dry my hands out as much as wadding pots and loading the kiln. Wadding the pots is hard to do with gloves on, and the frequent washing (to remove the layer of wadding and glue from my finger tips) is hard on the skin. Handling the silicon carbide shelves and all of the craggly kiln furniture doesn't help much, either. Then throw in a few times that I grab something hot during the firing with the hole-e glove and you get really dry and hypersensitive hands. My hands feel a little like the skin of this kiln!

But with that whining aside, the firing of the wood kiln went fantastically well. The crew was awesome, the peanut M & M's flowed and the meals were plentiful! John Simmons and Kyle Carpenter were on hand to help finish the kiln after I spent the first 9 hours stoking solo. We missed my Ichiban Stoker, Alan Gratz. Alan was on book tour promoting his new novel, "Fantasy Baseball"! John Simmons was the closer, stoking the kiln for the final 4 hours, while Kyle assisted with the new and improved salting system. It would have been impossible to do this myself. I should also thank my wife, Stacey, for all that she has had to put up with this last week or so, and for her constant support (and fine cookin')!!

And now for the abbreviated Index for 37:
  • Dry wood and a gusty wind helped the kiln climb fast and we finished in 12.5 hours
  • We used half the wood than usual
  • We used a bout 30 lbs. of salt where I usually use 20-25.
  • The kiln was loaded with 300 pots
For now though, it's waiting. I'm trying hard not to have high hopes or great expectations and I'm squashing any paranoid fantasies with the excitement of seeing a kiln full of new pots!

In other News: I'm taking some down time these cooling days to catch up on all the projects that need attention. One of these projects is wring the Spring Newsletter. If you want to receive it go to my email sign up page and sign up!

Unfortunately last weekend's contest didn't happen due to the attention needed to load and fire the kiln. And next weekend's contest will not happen because I will be away selling pottery in Hickory, NC.

So we will hold a 'leave a comment' contest mid week when I unload the kiln, I promise! Look for it!

35 Unloaded

Michael Kline

Here are the pots unloaded from the kiln. I'm still busy getting the site set for the sale and haven't got to look over the pots carefully. But my impression of the kiln is good. No kiln blues this time! I'll be shooting preview pictures to put on Facebook and Sawdust & Dirt, as well as a brief e-newletter special edition! Let me know what you think!

Thoughts and Highlights

Michael Kline

The kiln the afternoon of the firing.
As you can see, the kiln is in need of some serious maintainence!
That will have to happen before the next firing.
More about that to come after we open the kiln and get an assessment of the latest cracks.

It became a cold wet day. A chill to the bone for most but for those around the kiln it was just fine. No better place to be on such a day.

wood adjustment station
While not counting our chickens before they hatch, the firing seemed to go as usual except for a couple of snaffoos. The big one was the wood being cut a little long! doh! So I set up a table and a jig to cut the wood to the correct length while Alan kept up the stoking.

Another potential problem was the grate system. Before I start to load the kiln I always check the iron grates (3" schedule 40 black pipe) with the slam of my square edged shovel. This usually gives me an idea how solid they are. They all seemed fine when I did this, but about halfway through the firing, they started breaking in half. The snaffoo on my part was not having any back up grates. I usually have a few around for this very need. So we just kept stoking! I adjusted the dampers and primary air to make up for the stokes laying on top of the coals. It seemed fine! Maybe I can save my $$$ and go without in the future. But I think it worked only because we already had a pretty big pile of coals by that time in the firing. Going without grates in the early part of the firing may not work as well without the coals.

the "golden key" being stoked

Kyle Carpenter came by to visit the potters of Snow Creek Road on the big firing day! As an honorary fireman, we gave him the key to the kiln. And he stoked it! All the while he was brandishing his new DSLR. I was hoping to distract him enough that he might forget it and leave it behind, but no such luck.

Here's Alan (aka the big cheese) Gratz pulling a salt ring at the end of the long day.

Evelyn came up for a visit and did some reading from her new set of books. I think she decided to read her "Dragonology " book for the firing! After shivering and wimpering about the damp cold and wind, we set her up next to the chimney. Since there's no insulation around the bricks it's a pretty cozy place to be.

Here is a pot I'm hoping to see throught he spy. It's at the top of the kiln. I placed glass on all four handles that I saw slumping onto the pot around 1500°F. It was pretty cool. Then it started to run around 2000°F.

And now I sit here and wait it out. I'm about to head out to run a bunch of errands. But before that I'll walk up to kiln again and check the pyrometer and maybe pull the dampers out. Maybe I can get a snapshot through the spy bricks. If I only had that hi temp camera that I could lower into the kiln to get some sneak peeks!

Righteous Wood Kilns vol. #3

Michael Kline

The kiln at the Penland Barns built by Shawn Ireland.

The girls and I were taking a walk behind the resident artist studios, the "Barns", at penland this evening and I was struck by the simple beauty of Shawn's kiln and its shed. I shot this with the camera phone and I will have to go back and take a better picture of it with the Fuji camera.


Michael Kline

Spy openings with thrown spy plugs in place.

Joe Cole asked about my spy "plugs" and I sent him some pictures. I thought you, readers of "ye olde blogge", may be interested as well. After all the pictures are handy and inquiring minds want to know. The word spy,[ME, circa 1200-1250], has an intriguing allure, doesn't it? Well I guess you could say peeking, but spying is what we're doing when we look through one of these. We're definitely on the lookout, we're definitely keeping watch of the fire, the pots, and the cones.
The open spy.

The main reason that I made these spy plugs is that when I built the arch form I decided to use 3" PVC pipe to create the voids in the form to be poured with refractory concrete. Since I was looking at Mark Peters' kiln as a model I did the same thing he did. I also thought they looked cool, too. I later found out that it was hard to find a single soft brick that could be cut to form a plug, and that gluing two bricks together didn't work after trying for the first firing. So for the second firing to the present I have used these thrown plugs. I don't remember what clay I mixed up, maybe fireclay, but I do remember putting a little bit of alumina in the mix, as well as sand, and a little sawdust.

Side view showing the plug handle.

After throwing the plugs I decided that a nice pulled handle would make it nice for pulling the plug. I have seen these types of spy plugs with a flange around the top edge so that it can be handles with a nearby stick, but that seemed too complicated, I guess. I love pulling handles so that is how I made them.

The spy plug showing divets.

I decided to use a drill to make divets so that the plugs didn't weigh so much, and then I filled the void the a little ceramic fiber. Once a plug broke during a firing and I scrambled to find something to use in its place. There happened to be a tumbler nearby that didn't make it into the kiln and I used that in the pinch. As a matter of fact I think it's still in the kiln in an unused spy hole.

I digress.

Since then I've made a couple of extra plugs to have around in case another one broke. But it hasn't happened.

I guess that's it. If you have questions, I'm happy to answer. Just leave a comment and I'll try to get back to you. If you haven't registered with my commenting service, Disqus, do so and you will be alerted by email. Your email address won't be made public. Thanks for reading this obscure post.