Monday, January 5, 2009

Barrel Firing Prep

The only time I can do a barrel firing safely here is in winter. The rest of the year the fire danger is too high. So I am preparing to do one within the next month. Here's the list of supplies I need for my barrel firing.

Dry Wood
Wood Shavings and/or Sawdust

Rock Salt
Baking Soda
Copper Carbonate
Red Iron Oxide
Miracle Grow fertilizer
Dried Fruit peels
Copper Wire
Sisal Twine
Chore Boy Scrubbers
Extra Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

Soft Cloth
Nylon Brush
Paste Wax
Rubber Gloves

While I was at the coast last week, there was a storm the first day. The next morning I noticed a bunch of seaweed (kelp) had washed ashore so I gathered some. I also found some dry avocado wood which is a soft wood but the price was right. I am still looking for some dry hardwood which doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I'll be calling local cabinet shops in hopes of picking up some wood shavings and sawdust. Maybe they'll have some scrap wood. I'll get some straw from my local feed store. I suppose a farmer or two will contribute some dry manure.

I have James Watkins and Paul Wandless book on Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques, but I found a couple of articles on the internet too. Ceramic Arts Daily has a great article Successful Barrel Firing by Paul Wandless. Follow the links on this page for some more information from James Watkins ceramics class.

Meanwhile I'm making various pots, then I'll bisque them in preparation for my barrel firing. I've also invited several potter friends to join in on the fun. Stay tuned for more as the month goes by.


  1. That sounds like great fun - can't wait to see the results!

  2. this is soooo cool, I dream of making a little backyard fireplace with pizza oven and kiln chamber!

  3. Hi Judy, I'm looking forward to it.

    Hi Gary, I have always wanted to make an outdoor bread/pizza oven too - like the ones you see made at the straw bale seminars - every time I look for a class it's not at the right time. I never thought of combining the food and clay cooking in the same oven - but why not - what a great idea.

  4. Yay, Judy! I'm so glad you're going to be able to barrel-fire soon! Your list looks great!!! Dried cat food is good too if your kitty cares to donate.

    One word of caution if you're getting sawdust from cabinet makers...we did that too and found tiny curls of melamine in the sawdust (from the laminate.) If you have any pallet makers nearby, that sawdust is usually pure.

    I prefer cow pies myself but charcoal also gives great results. And how lucky you are to have a fresh supply of seaweed!!!!

    Best of luck on the firing! And I anxiously await the results! Whatever the firing brings, I know it will be incredibly enjoyable! So pure and so primitive!

  5. Thanks about the melamine - seems to me I remember they used it in the interior of my cabinets - I will check with a local custom woodworker I know and there is also a local mill too - thanks so much.

  6. I like seeing this process, from the pots you are making, what you will be burning, to seeing the barrel itself. Looking forward to more pictures of preparation and the actual firing. Videos?

  7. Hi Barbara, I know my camera will do a video, I guess I should take this opportunity to learn how. I have several friends coming over when we schedule the firing and perhaps one of them can take the video or show me how. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try and take photos of the process along the way too.

    If all goes well I'd like each pot to have written documentation beforehand of how the pot was prepared i.e. banana peel or copper wire or aluminum foil, etc. If we get some good results then maybe we can "somewhat" duplicate the look.

  8. how I wish that CA was closer! I'd love to see your barrel firing. Ours is tomorrow night. A group here at clayworks in Charlotte, NC like barrel firings so much that we try to do them once a month. :) I think it's good therapy. take care... happy new year!

  9. Oh Amy, I wish you were closer too. I would be there in a second. I got some scrubbies at the grocery store today and some fertilizer, I am slowly gathering stuff for the firing. What I am making in clay right now isn't quite what I thought would go in the barrel - we shall see. I am off on another one of my tangents again. Not sure how my faux bois will do in a barrel firing - I might try them though - they might look great with that kind of finish. We shall see - I can't wait to see your next firing. Be sure and post lots of photos.

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