Phone Book Kiln
When it comes to material selection for your next kiln and you want to try something a little experimental then Chris Southern is your man.
After the 'wood kiln' experiment a new idea was needed and fuelled by the ever present cup of tea his genius came up with phone books. It was also around that time of the year when Telecom issue the new directory. Although the idea was born it took until November 2005 before we sourced a sufficiently large pile (200 odd books), courtesy of AUT. The timing of the firing also tied in well with the Auckland Studio Potters usual Guy Fawkes extravaganza, a tradition that ensures new mayhem each year.
The design was simple, a tunnel leading to a hole in the roof as a chimney. The roof was patterned after the Minnesota Flat Top kiln, the walls a traditional stretcher course. We built it on an insulation brick base, a layer of fibre, then a wooden table top. We loaded it with an assortment of pots, mostly stolen from students as none of us wanted to sacrifice our pots in such an uncertain beast. Luckily our big gas burners had just returned from an overhaul and could provide the required BTU.
We lit up at 8pm and after an initial gentle start to try and save the cones we soon cranked it up - blowing up the cone pat and depriving us of any chance of figuring out the temperature. The fire soon took hold everywhere and filled the chamber with flame. We hoped that the tension on the roof would prevent it burning too quickly, however the force of the paper charring and expanding slightly slowly dragged the roof down into the chamber - over the course of about 1 hour. The walls and chimney stayed in remarkable good shape throughout the firing and even after it was all over had only charred about 1/3 of the way in. The problem area was around the burner as so much air and heat around that area meant that it collapsed first. It was difficult to reach any high temperature as the kiln choked with so much fuel. In the end the highest we got was about cone 05 (1050 degrees C). We gave up with the burner when we realised that just pumping air into the kiln produced a better spectacle. Slowly the kiln disintegrated and fell apart, the pots inside remained unharmed and Peter Lange reached in with a pitch fork to retrieve them. Why he bothered I don't know as a more disgusting bunch of blister glazed work you would be hard pressed to find.
So all in all I great success as a spectacle, a dismal failure as a kiln.