First Bisque Firing… Uh Oh.


Last night I tried my first biscuit firing. I had made a few small egg cups, a mug and some tester discs for my glazes. Everything seemed ok and I was set for a 7 hour firing, including an extra hour on the dial. I was home and started the kiln low then ramped up slowly every hour at first then two hours. However when I went to check on the kiln at the 5th hour, the light was off and I couldn’t hear anything. It was still hot but I didn’t think it was working. I left it another hour and when I cam back the handle was cool enough to touch. Something had gone wrong!

I tried to turn the kiln on and off but nothing was responding. I checked the cone and it hadn’t bent at all, so it hadn’t gotten anywhere near 1000 oC. I’m guessing it’s something electrical.

It’s frustrating. I’m away this weekend and I’m not sure what to do. I could open it up, but I’m not sure what I’m looking for. SB said she has a good kiln guy, perhaps I’ll call him and see if he can diagnose whats wrong.

If anyone has any tips or knows of online resources to help diagnose kiln problems please let me know! The stumbling block I’ve come across is that it is an old kiln and most things online are far more modern. Mine doesn’t even have a programmer!

Frustrating! But the price you pay for a cheap second hand kiln I guess.

PG x


Not one but TWO kilns!

Well hello! Avid readers will remember that very recently I was looking at the pros and cons of secondhand kilns. Well let me tell you this past weekend I found myself buying not one kiln but two!?

Top loading electric kilns regularly sell on eBay for £250-800 depending on the size, make, condition and accessories etc. On Gumtree they sell for a similar amount. Being the dedicated bargain hunter that I am (albeit an impatient one at times!) I regularly checked both sites for good condition kilns for sale.

You can imagine my excitement then, when I saw a Cromartie kiln listed for £100! I looked at the timing of the posting on Gumtree and new I was in for a chance – it had only been up an hour or two. I immediately messaged the seller and we arranged collection for the coming weekend – woohoo!

Beloved and I dropped Little One off with her Granny and drove on over to checkout the kiln. I must add that in the week leading up to this, I read as much as I could find online about kilns, firing and buying kilns secondhand, so as to avoid buying a complete doozy.

As it happened the seller was clearing a house and had an entire potters shed to clear with not one, but TWO kilns, tons of kiln furniture and literally hundreds of porcelain moulds. He wanted £100 for each kiln and would throw in the kiln furniture for free. It was such a bargain I could hardly contain myself! Even Beloved got excited!

One of the kilns was the advertised Cromartie kiln:

And the second was a smaller, but in better condition Olympic kiln:

We shook hands on the deal, money was exchanged and the kilns were loaded into the car. I was unsure which kiln to keep but I was certainly keeping one of them and I knew for a fact that I could sell on one of the kilns and make my money back instantly.

I took a look at the kiln furniture and had a good think about storage and use etc. As I don’t have a studio I’d need to find a space not only safe to store the kiln but to fire it too. As it happens we have an outdoor toilet in the garden that has turned out to be the perfect space for both storage and firing!

After taking all of this into consideration I decided on keeping the Olympic kiln. I took a few photos of the Cromartie kiln and popped it on Gumtree for £300. My experience with Gumtree is that people will negotiate down considerably and so I priced the item high, but it wasn’t up there an hour before someone offered to pay full price and pick it up the next morning! And sure enough, they did! Not only did I cover the cost of my kilns but I made £100 which I shall be using to buy cones to fire the kiln and a couple of pots of glaze.

It goes to show, it’s well worth waiting for a bargain!

Now I just need to get to grips with kiln firing… If anyone has any links or tips, do let me know!


Yesterday… all my troubles seemed so far away!

Yesterday I began working on a cup for my Khmer inspired tea set and a desk tidy for my beloved.

I started with the desk tidy and things started to go wrong pretty quickly! I tried to level the edges and that was going ok so I turned the lower dish over to create a bit of a foot and this is when it went wrong. To be honest, there just wasn’t the thickness. As I took away a little from the uneven edge, I opened up a hole. GAH! I tried to patch it in, but as I worked on the dish, it became clear that it was simply too thin and uneven.

Rather than scrap it completely I cut away the wall and was left with the base. I thought about the techniques SB has been showing me with box construction and so I cut a 45 degree angle around the base of the dish and then re-worked the wall into a coil, scored both edges and used a little water to create the wall. This worked out pretty well and I have managed to save the desk tidy!

The taller cylinder had dried a little and so I scored the edges of that and the dish where I wanted it to stand and stuck it together. It didn’t look very sturdy so I made a thin coil of clay and added it to the bottom, smudged it in and cleared the join… and… I think… it’s finished! It needs to be fired and I’ll have a think about the glazing but I think it might be done! SB told me to keep them leather hard so I will endeavour to do that. Although where I am going to store all these things I have no idea. Our house is piled high with toys and ‘stuff’. Perhaps I can clear out the shed..

My cup! The body of the cup is going well, again its hard to get the thickness even and edges smooth but I think I’m getting there. My first hand-built mug so I’m happy enough – the handle however. URGH! Two failed handle attempts yesterday. I made one thick handle in the hope that I could get it down to size through the process of application and then carving the shape once it had dried a little – but the shape wasn’t right and then it weakened and thinned in one area so I just scrapped it.

The second handle I cut was much thinner and I left it to dry a little. I made the handle in two parts and then stuck it together (something I did for the jug adornment that was successful at the time). However I despite letting it dry a little, after I applied it to the cup it just sagged and no matter how much I reinforced it, it just became misshapen. Frustrating!

So. I have left the handle for the moment and will return to it when I have more time and have given it some thought.

Finally, I have made a bowl! We have a geometric shaped bowl (purchased from one of my favourite shops – Tiger!) which is smooth internally but has a lovely geometric outside shape. I thought this would make a great bowl so I rolled out a big lump of clay (on cotton – learning from my mistakes!!) It made it as even as possible but I also left it quite thick because I knew I wanted to push it down and smooth it over the bowl surface to get the geometric impression. I covered the bowl in clingfilm first – I needed too so that I could remove the clay from the bowl, but hopefully it doesn’t affect the internal impression too much. I laid the rolled out clay over the top and trimmed the edges. I left it to dry a little and then cut a foot into the bottom of the bowl. I haven’t turned it over yet as I don’t think it’ll keep its shape, but hopefully it has worked out ok! My plan is to let it get ‘leather hard’! The key word at the moment, and then remove it from the bowl. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long to dry – I need my fruit bowl back…


I’m also keeping all my little trimmed bits so I can make my own slip once I have a tub full – woohoo!

PG x

Cup & Desk Tidy

Hello! This morning I’ve had another play around with clay at home. Last night I started trying to roll out slabs at home but they kept sticking to the surface I was using  (an old shelf) and it was really quite tricky to create an even thickness across the clay. I gave up and started again this morning, however using a piece of spare cotton fabric underneath to help move the rolled out clay more easily. I still struggled getting an even thickness across a large piece of clay so I settled for a smaller piece and began making the taller tube part of a desk tidy.

Why am I making a desk tidy? I asked what beloved wanted me to make for him and he said desk tidy! If my beloved wants a desk tidy, he shall have one! (..It may take a few attempts and be a bit wonky, but he’ll get the end product, however it turns out!).

I started the base as a pinch pot but the clay was quite damp so I’m leaving it to dry just a little before shaping it properly.

I have decided to develop my Khmer jugs (that broke – boohoo) into a tea set! Well. A cup, teapot, sugar bowl and perhaps another jug with the adornment intact! I started on a pinch pot for a cup this morning but again making sure the thickness is even and texture smooth.. its no easy task! I have also been trying out my tools and they have been really handy so far – particularly making the foot (is that what you call it?!) of my cup!



Anyway, two little bits started but the morning fun is over. I might get back to them again this afternoon, I am also thinking of making my own slip – it’ll help with joining pieces together. I’ll let you know how that goes!!

PG x