Building a Kiln

A story has to start some where and this one starts in early March when  Kevin Crowe and I arrived at the Penland School of Crafts to meet the 17 students and assistants who had enlisted in our kiln building boot camp. I’m not sure if any of us understood what a challenge lay before us! Kevin and I had come to Penland 10 years before to do a similar thing and, while we worked hard then, it was still a reasonable task. This time we had several additional challenges…a different (and bigger) kiln and crazy bad weather and a deadline to meet as Kevin could’t stay for the entire session.
We worked morning, afternoon and night for most of 8 weeks and by the time we left we had built the kiln and filled it and fired it twice. I’ll be posting plenty of photos as the days go by. 
The old metal frame from the last kiln was still standing when we arrived.
There has been a two chamber, wood burning kiln at Penland for at least 20 years. Those kilns were intended for relatively short firings (24 hours). This new model has the same 2 chambers with a small anagama chamber on the front. We fired for close to 3 days for each firing. The first time we used the local poplar edgings that are commonly used in the area. Not the ideal fuel for ash build up. Still, that first firing was excellent and the second time, with better fuel (a mixture of pine and hardwood chunks), was even better.
This is most, but not all, of the kilnbuilders.


The cold weather was the immutable challenge. Most days the temperature was below freezing…the wind often howled…it snowed…it sleeted… the water in the wet saw froze…!
Hot tea was vital for survival!

Starting the tube.
Floor of the salt chamber and chimney.
Glaze and salt chamber floors shaping up.
Jason and Kevin work on the firebox in the tube.
Exit flue and chimney. 
front of firebox
Next installment: Walls!

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