Gas Kiln Project – The begining

We discussed building a gas kiln for years. 

 In 2009, we built an out building to hold the kiln. Then we waited for time and money.

In 2011, it was our goal to build it that year. We got busy with other projects and demands on our time and nothing got done that year.

Then, we promised we would build it in 2012.  We finally got around to doing it.

It is my intention to document this building process, so other may benefit from our learning curve, mistakes and things we learned. 

We read all the books on building kilns we could find, visited our potter friends nearby who had built gas kilns and reviewed our gas kiln experience from the one we owned together with a group of potter friends in New Hampshire. That was a downdraft gas kiln purchased from Olympic.   

In May, 2012, we finally started working on building it. First we installed a gas line to the kiln building (and garage).   Using my backhoe attachment for my Kabota, I dug the trench from the house to the kiln and continued it to the garage since we plan on heating it was gas as well. (For those who do not know us, we have a natural gas well on our property which is common in western PA.) We will hook up the gas line to the kiln building without a low pressure gas regulator, so we will have up to 3.5 psi pressure. Normal house pressure is 1/4 psi.  Other than hitting the water line to the house and having to repair it, this part of the project went without any major issues.  

One humorous note is that when I went to back fill the trench after laying the HDPE gas line, I didn’t want the rocks on  that I dug out of the trench to damage the gasline so I used old issues of Dwell magazines to cover the gas line before filled the trench. 

 In case you don’t know Dwell magazine is an modern architectural magazine that promotes using recycle materials for building. Guess Dwell would approve we using their magazine to protect our gas line from rocks.

We now have the gas riser outside the building which we will plum up once we know the exact position of the kiln and burners.

It was now time to design the kiln.  If you never built a kiln and read  Fred Olson’s books on building it, it sounds like a bunch of folks get together on a weekend with some dude that says he has experience building a kiln and while they party, the stack a bunch of bricks like legos and by dark they have a kiln built and started to fire it. Well, I don’t believe in building before you know what you are building.  So, after reading all the material I could get my hands on, picking the brains of our potter friends, I set off to design our kiln. 

There is a lot that goes into a gas kiln design and this in itself is a topic of another blog entry.  I will only say now that there is a lot to think about and many decisions to make. Just to get a material list to order bricks, burners,  and parts, takes a lot of planning.  I will give credit to Joe Finch who wrote a book on Kiln Construction that was very helpful.  It was someplace in reading his material that I came across the free software from Google called Sketchup that I used to do my design work.  Without it, I would have spent hours hand drawing various versions of the design.  The photo at the top of this blog entry is a snapshot from that tool.

Using the initial designs, we started this weekend clean out the kiln building to make space for the kiln.  The plan is to build the kiln inside the building and have the chimney outside the building, connected with a channel.  See design snapshot below.   

The kiln needs to sit on a base. We and most potters use normal cinder blocks to form the base.  We used left over blocks we had from building our house in 2005.  On top of this we put a base of hard fire brick Rita picked up from a nearby glass factory. These bricks were tapered so laid two layers one tapered one way, the other the other way so the top would be level.  This will be our foundation for the kiln to be build on.

The next step is to cut the hole in the all for the flue channel to the chimney and to make a base for the chimney. I will need to cut the 2×4 wood stringers in the wall before I cut the hole in the wall and will need to re-frame the stringers up. I will also have to dig a hole for a footer outside where the chimney will go and put block out for the chimney base.  That is next weekend’s task and the next blog post.

We ordered burners yesterday and I need to make some minor design changes to order the brick. I have local friend who is a part time blacksmith who will make the angle iron brackets for the kiln.  Before we can order that, I need to finish the minor designs on the kiln so we can get exact measurements.

I will say that Jim at Larkin refractory and Ward Burners were very helpful in sharing information about kiln building .