Wood firing is a long and labour intensive process but man is it fun! On an October Saturday morning, Halswell pottery began feeding the beast, a beautiful downdraft wood fire kiln. With around 100 pots stashed in its belly, and a year's worth of donated wood, it was only a matter of time before the beast started roaring with glee.
Members of Mount Pleasant Pottery Group were sprinkled through the roster to feed the beast and that we did. Bundles of fast firing pine were initially thrown into the fireboxes. One big log on the left and small pieces on the right. The idea was the big logs provided a steady heat while the small pieces sent the temperature up. It did not take long before we could hear the beast chugging down oxygen as it greedily devoured the wood. At this point, it was important to know how fast the temperature was rising, and without a pyrometer.. We had to do it the old fashion way, by eye and cones.
A quick peek into the belly of the beast and we saw it all. Flames licking pots, pots glowing bright red, cones bending to praise the kiln gods.. At about cone 6 (1240C), the fun stuff was put in. This included cedar wood, cabbage tree leaves, pine cones, pine needles and eucalyptus bark. These materials would crackle and pop in the firebox and send ash throughout the chambers where the pots were sitting. The chimney damper was closed to allow the ash to circulate through the chambers, enticing the ash to stick to pots, melt and form a glaze.
A total of 8 hours of nonstop feed was demanded to satisfy the hunger of the beast. It then took a further 24 hours before it slept, and we could finally open its belly to inspect what goodies were produced. I encourage more members to participate in the wood firing next year as the results are so much fun and liberating… e.g. no idea what we were going to get…
The Secretary and Members - Mt Pleasant Pottery Group.