Sunday, May 15, 2011

900 bricks in search of a kiln




This past weekend I became the owner of about 900 bricks - soft and hard - that were once a kiln. About 20 years ago, a Falmouth potter and her husband bought a kiln from Chris Gustin when he was teaching at the late Swain School of Design in New Bedford. (The Swain School has been gone for a long time, though its alumni - including my sister-in-law Marcy Dorchester, of Albuquerque - are still making art.) In any case, the potter and her husband parted ways some years ago and the kiln, which was broken down for transport, was never re-built.
I got word Friday from local potter Sarah Caruso that a stack of soft brick was being given away, and my offer to take it away was accepted. After stacking most of the soft brick in the back of my truck, I discovered that, as the owner said, "There are some hard bricks under there, too." An understatement. Turns out the hard bricks, at least 400 of them, had been turned into a dry-laid patio at the side of the house. So, much energy was expended over two days bending down, freeing the bricks from the earth and stacking them in the truck. Sarah was a great help with that, I should add. She's traded me her labor for kiln-space once there is actually a kiln.
Now I'm on the hunt for a plan that will allow me to turn the piles of bricks into a modest wood kiln. Or maybe a soda kiln. Or a salt kiln. ... I think I'm thinking wood, though. Or maybe salt/wood. Oh, I'm also hunting for a place to put the kiln, since we don't have the room here in Hatchville.
There are lots of plans around for kilns and I'm starting to look at some of them. I know some of you have had success with wood. Anyone have any good ideas for me?
The photos: My Tacoma, sagging under the load of about 400 of the hard brick; and the soft brick pile and half the hard brick at the side of the gallery; and signs of spring in the yard.

13 comments:

Tracey Broome said...

There are a lot of potters down here in NC that I am sure could help you with the construction. However, I am not one of them! I could help fire it once it's built though:)

Dennis Allen said...

Hey Hollis.I've got space and 500 arch brick.How do you feel about driving to Ohio to fire?

Dan Finnegan said...

400 hard brick x 7lbs. per brick =2,800 lbs, Hollis!!! Not bad for a half ton pick-up!

cookingwithgas said...

oh, what a lucky man you are....
the possibilities!
I'll have my kiln guy get up with you! SOON!

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, guys. Once it's built, Tracey, you'll hear about it. Dennis, I'm guessing Ohio's a bit far. Too bad, though, the arch brick could come in handy. Dan, I think I might have overestimated the number in the truck; probably more like 200 at that point. The others were already in the pile from the first load. Thanks, Meredith ...

TropiClay Studio said...

I'm just now looking for brick to build a wood - fire kiln out here on the high school campus. I am looking for grants, donations, etc., to build something small - about 10-20 cf?. Great find there Hollis!

Kings Creek Pottery said...

Oh, I'll be following this adventure with great interest. I also have a pile of brick from an old kiln that sits waiting for a new life...though yours is stacked way nicer than mine is!

Ron said...

Jealous!

Hollis Engley said...

Well, we'll see ... just starting to think about specific plans ...

imagine said...

You lucky man.
Why not build an "old fashioned" Olsen Fast Fire Kiln?
Fires in no time at all and is great for Salt/Soda firing.
I know I built 3 of them.

If you do then forget Tracey.
I'm your man for stoking. Mind you, I did have a lot of bad firings, and at least Tracey is "just down the road".

John Bauman said...

Mothers, tell Hollis
Not to do what I have done
Not to leave his bricks
In piles on the ground
In the House of the Un-built Kiln

(going on 17 years now...my salt kiln lies in "kit" form in a pile of fallen over stacks in my back yard)

Michèle Hastings said...

a neat stack of bricks is a thing of beauty!

William Baker said...

Hollis-
You gotta love ye olde pickup truck loaded down with bricks! And I am a sucker for wood/salt/soda. Sorry I don't have a spot for your kiln, just a few thoughts.

I for one tend to be a little suspicious of used bricks. I would be careful and consider using them only in certain places in the kiln. If they were from an old salt or soda kiln, I wouldn't use them anywhere inside of the kiln where exposed to full firing temp. If they happen to have been stuck in the ground for who knows how many years, also a little suspicious. I would dry one out real slow and then fire it somewhere safe in my current kiln just to see.

So many things to think of when designing the right kiln. I would start with this: do you want to build whatever you can using this pile of bricks, or do you want to use this pile of bricks to build the right kiln, whatever that may be?

Best of luck--Will
www.williambakerpottery.com