The firing crew were Artemis, Brigitte and Svend. It was started slowly on Thursday morning and was slowly heated up with gas; at 4pm, the temperature was 200C so gas and hardwood were used. It was switched to just hardwood at 6pm. At 8pm, the temperature was 495C.
Brigitte worked the 10pm to 2am shift on Thursday evening then Svend took over until 6am Friday morning. Reduction started during Svend’s shift. Both Svend and Brigitte worked a 6 hour shift (6am to 12am and 12am to 6pm) during the day on Friday; Artemis joined the crew at 6pm and from then on, it was 4 hour shifts until Sunday evening at 6pm when Artemis had to leave. Svend and Brigitte carried on with the last part of the firing until 22:30 on Sunday evening.
During her shift on Friday, Brigitte switched from the main chimney damper to the passives because thick black smoke was coming out of the chimney and she was worried that it might disturb the neighbours who were working their horses in the field nearby. The smoke changed from sooty black to grey and became thinner.
Svend had ideas about shifting wood and restacking somewhere else as one of the stacks was bowed. This was going to be Svend’s and Brigitte’s job on Monday after the firing but it never happened as they were both knackered.
The heatwork itself was easy. Svend had some hardwood that had started to rot so he decided to use it to build a big ember bed to cover some jars that were placed in the firebox. This made the end of the firing very difficult as the ember bed was huge and it was depriving the back of the kiln of oxygen which was preventing the temperature to rise at the back. Svend and Brigitte had to riddle the embers a few time to help the wood burn down.
The end of the firing was extremely hard. Temperature would not climb in the middle nor at the back; it seemed that the team had lost the momentum. They had to restart at the front and wait to reach 1300C before attacking the sidestokes. In the end, they had to fire the back of the kiln first, sidestoking with softwood and continuing towards the front until the cones were down. Temperature was uneven, one side being hotter than the other; in the end Svend decided to stop when cones 11 were flat at the back and cone 12 was bending on one side.
The firing graph
Wood firing keeps me on my toes. This firing was no exception. It went exactly according to plan until the last day when we started the final stokes and the kiln began to choke on the ember bed. In retrospect, the problem was two fold. I deliberately did not put a grate in and I used mainly hardwood in the firebox. I wanted embers falling back over the pots in the front. That worked beautifully, except that because of the hardwood, the ember bed grew out of control and made it difficult to reach a high enough temperature at the front and deprived the kiln of oxygen for side stoking.
At one point, we left the kiln for an hour to allow the embers to burn down and took the front back up to temperature, but again, the ember bed grew out of control again and we lost the impetus for the side stoking. We then switched to very light side stoking and after many hours, the kiln suddenly took off and we were able to finish the firing.
Much of the front of the setting had been buried in embers and was underfired but very close by were some of the best pots I have ever had. All those embers meant copious amounts of ash on the pots and heavy reduction. What would I do differently ? Introduce a system of mouseholes and not use so much hardwood. But the truth of the matter is that good pots cost.
More photos in the next post