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Gas Kiln Firing Guide: Five Essential Tips From a Lifelong Potter

Hey there! As I sit in my studio this morning, sipping my hand-ground coffee and looking out over a new batch of pottery waiting to be fired, I can't help but reflect on the intricate dance of gas kiln firing. It's a delicate balance that, if not correctly executed, can turn a promising piece of clay into an irrecoverable disaster.


But don't worry - I've spent enough hours in front of the kiln to know a thing or two about the process. So, in between my ritual pre-firing clay offering to the kiln gods (I swear it works!) and my daily pottery tasks, I've taken a moment to jot down the top five things you need to watch out for during gas kiln firing.


1. Temperature Control is Key


Think of firing as a slow simmer, not a rolling boil. Cranking up the heat too fast can lead to all sorts of issues, from crazing to dunting, or even worse, a total meltdown (and not just for the pottery). Slow, measured increases in temperature are your best friend here. Keep a regular check on the temperature every 15 minutes or so, and adjust the gas flow as necessary.


2. Flame Behavior


In gas kiln firing, the flame can be a real chatty Kathy. If it's bright blue with a touch of yellow at the top, you've hit the sweet spot – the perfect balance of gas and oxygen. But if the flame's more orange than an overripe pumpkin, you've got either too much gas or oxygen. Get that balance back before it throws off your firing.


3. Watch Out for Carbon Monoxide


As much as we love our gas kilns, it's crucial to remember they can produce a fair amount of carbon monoxide - a potentially lethal, odorless gas. Be sure you've got good ventilation in your workspace, and always have a working carbon monoxide detector on hand. If it sounds, shut off the gas and let the area air out. No piece of pottery is worth risking your health.


4. Monitoring the Kiln Atmosphere


Your gas kiln can have mood swings between 'oxidizing' (excess oxygen) and 'reducing' (limited oxygen). Keeping a close eye on this atmosphere switcheroo is vital, as it directly affects the outcome of your fired pottery. It's all about understanding and responding to the mood of the kiln.


5. The Dependable Pyrometric Cones


Pyrometric cones are like the little helpers of kiln firing. When they melt, they're letting you know you've reached the right temperature. These guys are especially helpful when your kiln thermometer is having an off day (and trust me, they do). Place them strategically so you can view them through the spy holes.


There you have it! As I finish my coffee and get ready to start my firing, I'm reminded of the many variables and nuances that make pottery such a fascinating, rewarding endeavor. Remember, mastering the art of firing is all about patience, attention, and a readiness to adjust on the fly. Happy firing!

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