About the time I was finishing off the rebuilding of Petra’s kiln last year an email arrived from the Otago Potters Group asking if I would head south and build a kiln for them. A bit of discussion around kind of kiln and how it could work as a workshop followed. Essentially they wanted the same design as I had built for Petra – an oil fired salt/soda kiln.
A few months slid by as designs were finalised, funding obtained, materials ordered and then suddenly I was on a plane heading south just before labour weekend. We had 6 days to build the kiln with a willing and able team of volunteers from the club. Luckily a shed and concrete pad had already been built, which made the construction job easier given the variable Otago weather.
We started by making a level insulating pad from clay, vermiculite, sawdust and sand. Then laid a course of common brick over the top. Whilst this was getting underway others shot off to locate steel, brass fittings, sand and more tools. The arch bricks were a bit of a surprise, not the taper I expected, so we reverted to the old school way of laying out on a floor and figuring it out.
The club members soon self organised into various job teams, some laying bricks, others checking level and square, or mixing mortars, making lunch or cutting bricks. Kiln building is like any building in that it can take a while to get past the foundation and floor, the walls positively seem to shoot up in comparison. When it came time to fabricate the steel work it was harder to find jobs for everyone, that and the nasty turn the weather took didn’t help.
We had lots of help on the last full day with laying the arch, finishing off the walls, insulating the roof and applying adobe mixtures to the roof and chimney. The chimney as about a third built and there is enough bricks and mortar on site to complete it, just some flashings around the chimney needed.
A couple of members who took part in the kiln build also attended a firing workshop I held in Petra’s kiln earlier in the year, so they have a good idea of what’s involved and a good log to use as a starting point for the first firing.
I left after giving a list of the outstanding tasks to the group. The major items are the diesel tank stand and pipe work, the burner construction and finishing the chimney.
It’s exciting when a pottery club embarks on a kiln building project, it can enthuse the members and offer interesting new ideas to pursue. It will be the only stoneware firing kiln at the OPG and could function as a great community asset that brings members together to share in firings.