A Good Outcome from Pit Firing

Great joy comes from a good pit fire day, which was the case this weekend. Here are the new pots resting on a shelf in my garage studio.  For those who might want to try pit firing, my method is outlined below.

Incidentally, the picture at the top of the photo is from a  painting by Norman Jensen, a Gainesville artist.

CAW’s method for pit firing:

  1. Use stoneware clay that will not crack under uneven heat stress.
  1. Throw your vessel, and then burnish it to a smooth surface during the drying phase.
  1. Bisque fire them to cone 06. My bisque-fired clay has a light tan to light rose color.
  1. In a 50 gallon galvanized washtub, drill ½ inch holes in the side and bottom, about 8-10 inches apart. Put 4 inches of sawdust in the bottom of the washtub then sit or tilt the pots into the sawdust, about 2-3 inches deep. Put a few teaspoons of copper carbonate and iodized salt on the sawdust around the pots.
  1. Place 12-16 inches of chopped-up boards on top. I use dry, lightweight wood (cut about 1x1x3 or 4 inches long). I want the wood to burn fairly clean and not smoke out the neighbors.
  1. Say your prayers or whatever spiritual encouragements you desire then light the fire and let it burn in open air. Do not move the pots until the ashes are completely cool and settled. Now Scrub them with soap and water and let them dry. I use a dry box and sometimes a blowtorch to speed up drying.
  1. Apply one coat of Future Premium Floor Finish (a clear finish) using small piece of cloth. Use just enough wet the pot, it does not require much coat material. Let that dry then rub the pots with steel wool to change the gloss finish to satin. Now admire your work.

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