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Monday, 2 March 2015

The long slow cool

After a day of torrential rain and the gales blowing today there was a (fortuitous rather than anticipated) window of rather gentle dry and often sunny weather, where the beginnings of Spring can be felt pushing through the hard shell of winter. What a great time to fire the kiln!
Andy came over to help (taking holiday from his full time job - thanks Andy) and on the first day Brigitte (who helps Svend Bayer fire his kilns) came up to the edge of the Fens as well.
On the whole it was a pretty cruisy first day - lit at 7am, red heat starting at the front at noon and kicking into reduction at 3pm. Once reduction is settled I aim for a good steady rise in temperature till cone 8's start going down throughout the kiln.
It is soaked overnight at this temperature, and typically cone 9's and cone 10's slowly tip during these shifts. The firebox area is not that big and, when the fire and embers are up close to the stack, the front tends to be a little cooler than the rear chamber. That was certainly the case this time, with cone 8 still not quite over at the front by 8am. Sidestoking is only to build up an ember bed mid-kiln and care must be taken not to heat up the back chamber too much.
Nudging the kiln back into a gentle temperature rise involves coaxing a heat build up in the front firebox until the wood starts crackling and the whole kiln seems to liven up. Six hours later and the temperature has risen by about 50 - 60C and cones 12 are down at the top and bottom of the back chamber. Despite my nerves cone 11 is well over at the front and cone 12 has started tipping. This seems quite acceptable. I quite like the very front being a little cooler than the rest as I often get some beautiful crystallisation and satin surfaces here. Back on to gentle stoking with small wood, right up the front of the kiln to keep the embers away from the stack, a one hours soak and it's a progressive clamming up, aiming to keep smoking to a minimum.
I love that time just after a firing, when it seems to have gone well and all the correct cones are down. It seems wrong to leave the kiln alone, so time for a few celebratory beers to toast the firing and to talk about the firing and pots in general.
The next morning it's still red hot inside the kiln + with aching muscles I braced the rising wind to walk the local fens. The long wait has started.

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