Manabigama – LeVeL

Well…. Joe Frank did it.  Scott helped create a form and Joe Frank poured castable and concrete to level both the firebox and the kiln.  It, apparently, is now level and we are ready to begin building up, up  and away!

A Level Firebox

Firebox is now level.

Wooden form will eventually come off and we will begin bricking up the floor of the kiln.  The firebox is poured castable on hardbrick.  The kiln itself has concrete.  The firebrick will go ontop of the concrete.  Lets hope this baby lasts and lasts.  Personally, I have never poured anything but the keystone of a kiln (and used castable for the exterior).  Of course, to be perfectly honest, I have little experience building kilns.  I think I have participated in just one true kiln building class where we built a kiln from scratch.  So…. I just should keep my mouth shut.

Side view of Manabigama

Manabigama in construction - side view

On the right is the firebox (yellow brick = firebrick).  The wood frame is still there to hold the concrete/castable.  Next week we begin bricking the floor of the kiln!

We will have a wood kiln soon!!!!

I’ll keep you posted.

Manabigama Part 1

Southwestern Community College, here at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has begun to build their Manabigama wood kiln!

The shed has been up for some time, but the weather has not cooperated – especially at night when class meets.

Our first hurdle has been met – our slab is not level which means the concrete block that supports the chamber is not level. Our firebox turned out to be off and so the final cap block for the base will not allow for our row 12 brick to create a flush kiln floor.

SCC team checks the level

Britt is cleaning up, others check level and discuss

Before that, we were cruising along with concrete block and firebrick. Goldart and water make the mud to stick the bricks together.

Begin Manabigama - firebox

Firebox started for Manabigama kiln

Joe Frank McKee is our captain. Hopefully with him in charge, we will have a beautifully firing kiln that lasts and lasts and lasts. We are hoping to make this a wood/soda kiln.

While some bricked and bricked, Scott began mapping out the arch form. He is a carpenter and so will create the form. He also will help us level the kiln by making forms for pouring concrete. The concrete will level the kiln floor. Softbrick and firebrick will go on top to make the inside kiln floor.

Scott mapping arch form

Scott mapping arch form

So far, we have 3 electric kilns, one updraft gas kiln, one raku kiln and 2 test kilns (electric). Not too shabby for a community college!

Professional Needed

So not only do potters need to know how to use clay and manipulate it into fabulous forms, a functional potter must also know how to make these forms work right.  AND then there’s the glazing – that takes even more to learn.  Once we learn to make and decorate, off to the kilns to learn even more about how different temperature changes can effect the glaze.  Subtle changes in cooling the kiln or heating the kiln can make all the difference.  But I’m not done!  Now once you get something worthy out of the kiln, potters need to know how to market – and there’s a whole art to that I won’t get into – but I must say, photographing the work to look as good, if not better, in image than in person is another learning curve and essential to marketing.  This is where others may step in to help – and unless you know a really good photographer willing to give you a hand, the process could cost alot of money!

So I try to take my own shots.  This is one learning curve I have not even begun to climb – and it shows.  My photos suck.  I made a light box that hangs from the ceiling and holds 3 lights for brightness and is covered with a white plastic table cloth  to ‘diffuse’ the light.  I also have a grey backdrop.  My camera has a setting for white balance and I do use it.  Here are the results:


Too Blue!

Too Yellow!

Too Yellow!

As you can see, white balance in my set-up doesn’t seem to do it. No matter what I do, I get a variety of results that do not seem to be the colors of my pots:

Too Blue, again.

Too Blue, again.

Too Yellow!

Too Yellow!

Not to mention the fact that my camera is always a bit skewed and just a hair blurry….

I use a Canon PowerShot S2IS.

Without the backdrop, light, etc, here is a shot of the table with some of my firing results:

Table of pots

Table of pots