Monday, November 30, 2009

Front Door Mock-up

This afternoon, I bricked up the doorway to see where I wanted the peep holes to be. Tomorrow, I will put the door sheet metal up to measure where to have peep holes cut.

I counted 75 hard bricks in the door and I still need 3 or 4 more for the very top. The plan is to have one row of hard bricks nearer to the inside of the kiln, and a row of soft bricks as back-up. I have an angle-iron frame that holds a piece of sheet metal to be lined with kaowool insulation that will fit over the doorway to seal the bricks.

Tomorrow I'll be working on the chimney. Looks like I'll spend over twice the price I've been paying for a bucket of mortar to get 1 bucket at a business in Roseburg. I cannot justify the time/gas to drive to Portland to get very inexpensive mortar. All the other times I picked up mortar in Portland (at least 6 buckets, so far) I was going to Portland - over 2 hours away - for other reasons. I better not need more than one more bucket to finish the chimney!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lower chimney mortared

Today, I mortared the lower part of the chimney. You can see the way the sides are stair-stepping in - that is the corbel.

I'm almost out of mortar. A trip to Portland will be in the next couple of days to pick up another couple of buckets of mortar. I'll not be caught short the rest of this kiln - I'm getting 2 buckets of mortar!

There is enough mortar for a couple more rows. Each row is fewer bricks for another 15 rows or so. No rain is forecast for this next week, so only short daylight and cold keeps my worktime outside short. And I thought it was tough grinding bricks in 100 degree weather just a couple of months ago. This high 30's is brrr- cold to work in.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stoke Hold Doors finished

Wow - it's been more than a week that I posted a blog. I was in Medford last weekend for Clayfolk annual Holiday Show. A good time and a chance to meet again with many pottery friends.

Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving was a big kiln work day. Howard came over and the stoke hole doors were assembled - they are such a cool design. They will work very well, we decided, after seeing them put together. The design is very similar to one I saw in Daniel Rhodes The Kiln Book. I have great admiration for someone who can take a photo in a book and transform it into something that really works.

I purchased 4 - 6' lengths of threaded rod for the stoke hole doors & chimney. Shorter pieces are needed for different places on the kiln, so we took measurements to decide what lengths to have cut from each threaded rod. Claude did the metal cutting & brought the pieces back so the stoke hole doors could be installed in the afternoon. In the photo on the right, that is threaded rod at each end of the horizontal arms connecting the corner of the kiln and running vertically through the stoke hole door. The door can then pivot at each threaded rod.

Photo on the left shows the upper sheet metal (with kaowool insulation underneath) on the front & side outer walls. Howard screwed the sheet metal in place, while I held the pieces. The top peep hole was marked in the upper back wall sheet metal, but Umpqua Sheet Metal closed early before the holiday, and will not be open until Monday, Nov. 30. I still need another large piece of sheet metal for the main door.

This morning, Thanksgiving day, I was at the kiln early to cut bricks. I had picked up the brick cutter at A-1 Rentals yesterday morning, but there were too many other kiln things to do while Howard was here. It took awhile to get the feel of the brick cutter, but once I caught on to it, I cut every broken edge brick I could find. First, I cut bricks for the chimney, that I had marked ahead of time. As the chimney gets corbeled in (decreasing the width of the chimney by 3/4" each side per row), there is not an even number of whole bricks to fit a complete row. Bricks have to be cut to make a snug fit. Second, I cut the good partial & half bricks I had set aside. Last, I scoured the grounds for most every brick with a ragged edge to cut it smooth. These bricks will be of use later on with smooth edges, no matter the size.

The brick cutter is a big & heavy piece of machinery. It took 2 of us to unload & load it back up to be returned early tomorrow morning. I'll be pouring wine the next 2 days, and unless the winery also wants me on Sunday, I'll be mortaring chimney bricks that day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

(More) Brick grinding

This morning, I emptied the electric kiln of bricks and refilled it with the last batch of 40 bricks (that's how many I can fit in with air space between). The bricks seemed easier to pick up, and I wondered if my arms were that much stronger already. Then I realized that the dry bricks didn't have water weight included. To confirm, I put them on a scale. A wet brick was just under 8.5 pounds, and a dry brick was 8 pounds. I just looked up and found a gallon of water weighs 8.3# (pounds). If you work it down, .5# - which was the difference in weight of the wet & dry bricks - is 2 cups or 1 pint of water. That's a lot of water in each brick that was baked out.

I procrastinated and swept up the studio, then went to my favorite job: grinding bricks. They weren't as bad as I originally thought and I cleaned 75 bricks before lunch. Yes, my arms were getting kinda rubbery. I think there are now plenty of bricks prepped for me to get going on the chimney.

Yesterday morning, I finished painting the kiln metal with primer. Today, I found some places I forgot and was able to salvage my paint brush from the trash for the last touchups.

In 2 days, I will head to Medford for the annual Clayfolk Holiday Show this weekend. There will be no work done on the kiln for a week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Painting angle iron

These are some of the angle iron pieces I picked up yesterday. They have been painted with primer and are drying in the pottery studio. Before painting, I rubbed down all the iron surfaces with steel wool. I figured one uses sandpaper on wood, and steel wool would do similar to iron.

On the lower left is one of the stoke hole doors. We are planning on putting soft bricks inside the stoke door frame. The 2 smaller pieces to the right of the stoke hole are door arms that will connect the top & bottom of the stoke door with the angle iron on the corner of the kiln. The door will then be able to pivot into position. It is really a very clever design, that Howard saw in Rhodes' Kiln Book. His interpretation is even simpler than the photo in Rhodes' book. I was wondering how the door was going to work, then when I saw the pieces, it only took a few minutes to figure it out. The long pieces drying on the newspaper, will hold the 4 corners of the chimney where it goes straight up. There are short pieces of pipe on these chimney corner support through which rods will go to tie the chimney together. It will all be clear when it gets put together.

It was quite cold today, but not raining. Too cold to paint outside. The pottery studio is getting crowded with kiln building items, as well as clay-making things that are always there. I'm heading to the annual Clayfolk Holiday Show in Medford in less than a week, so boxes of pots are already on the floor, also.

Wednesday, I loaded up 126 of the leftover arch bricks to trade them for more straight bricks that I need for the chimney. A fellow potter offered to swap some of the bricks she has been collecting for years for a wood-fired kiln of her own. When I got there on Thursday, I found her bricks were covered with fir needles, moss and leaves - there were even trees sprouting from some of the brick stacks. Upon examination, there was remnants of mortar on most every brick, but just very small amounts. Otherwise the bricks were in great condition. In conversation I found she had purchased these bricks from the same potter who had sold the bulk of the hard bricks I acquired earlier from another potter. Most all my kiln bricks had come from the same potter, now out of the business & onto other ventures. Thursday evening I went ahead & unloaded the bricks, as it wasn't raining, and I knew I'd be using the truck to pick up angle iron the next day. That's over 1000 pounds moved into and out of the truck - a ton of bricks that I moved today!

Twenty of the new-to-me bricks were stacked in front of the studio heater. It will take quite awhile to dry all the bricks this way, which needs to be done so they can be ground smooth for use. I was chatting with Claude, and he suggested I pack my electric kiln with bricks and dry them that way. Today, I found I can get 40 bricks into a kiln load, stacked with air space in between. A few hours later I learned that burning off organics in this method STINKS - ugh! The good news, is the electric kiln is in a garage, so it isn't stinking up the studio. I ran the kin on preheat for6 hours today, and that wasn't long enough to dry the bricks. So I programmed it to go on at 4am, and I'll check the bricks when I get up in the morning.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Metal Shopping

Steve, the welder had given Howard a list of materials he needed to fabricate the stoke hole doors, the main door and the chimney reinforcement. The list was emailed to me over the weekend.

Early Monday morning, I was calling around Roseburg to find the materials, and priced some of the items. Just before I left the house, I received a message from Umpqua Sheet Metal that my chimney cap was ready.

It was going to take at least 4 stops to get everything. First, I went to Claude's house a mile down the road. I had tried cutting a piece of rebar with a large pair of bolt cutters, but that was a joke. Claude had a metal cutting saw that did the job in a matter of minutes.

Next, I headed to the south end of Roseburg to purchase 4 pieces of 6' long threaded rod. I figured I would need washers and nuts, but forgot to count how many I had left from what I purchased earlier for the corner posts. 16 sets of nuts & washers will be needed, so I got 12 of each. Later I found extras of washers & lock washers, but I'm 2 nuts short. (I'm sure worse has been said of me - those can easily be picked up later.)

The 1/2" steel pipe I needed comes in 20' lengths, but all I wanted was 5'. I was sent to a welding shop around the corner so I could get the shorter piece I wanted. Did I want the 1/2" measure to be on the inside of the pipe, which was the standard way it is referred to, or the outside of the pipe. Well, that was not on the list, so I thought for a moment and went with the standard of 1/2" being the inside measurement. I'm guessing that 1/2" rebar or threaded rod will go through the pipe. (But another instance of my learning more about materials I never imagined I would want or need to know.)

Last, I drove to another part of town for angle iron. 2 of 20' lengths cut into 2 pieces. But they were overhanging the bed of my truck by a lot. I should have thought of that earlier, I know full well the bed on my truck is 6' long. The man was very nice & tied fluorescent orange plastic tape on the end of the iron. He also wired the pieces together in 2 places so they wouldn't be moving around in the truck bed. The iron was hanging over to one side, as well as quite a bit behind the truck, as it was in at an angle. He was quite concerned about my driving through town like this. So I assured him I would stay in the right hand lane all the way and not try to pass anyone on the freeway, either. I had at least a 30-mile drive to deliver the metal supplies.

On the way out of town, I made one last stop for the stainless steel chimney cap. It is not large or complicated, and not inexpensive either. I wanted Steve to be able to at least see the cap, in case it would make any difference to what he was doing. Apparently not, so I brought the cap home. Just another kiln part sitting around until it is needed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sealing the Arch Bricks

What I have done here is put mortar on the edges of the arch on the inside (left photo) and the outside (right photo) of the kiln.

You can see on the inside - left photo - that the seams of the wall were also mortared. Even though there is an entire wall of soft brick behind the hard brick on the hot face - inside - of the kiln.

I'm not concerned about putting mortar between the arch bricks for 2 reasons. First is that the arch will expand and rise when it is heated during the firing of the kiln. If the bricks were mortared, it would hold back their expansion. The second reason is even more basic: There will be a layer of 2" of kaowool, the space-age insulation material, laying on top of the arch. The insulation will butt up against the stair-step of frontwall and back wall bricks that sandwich the arch together. In the right side photo you can see part of the stair-step of front wall bricks.

Kaowool is an excellent insulating material. It does have some natural forces that will detract from its insulating qualities as time passes. First is that kaowool does not like to get wet. Besides the kiln roof, I am going to great lengths to make sure the chimney opening will not leak any rainwater. Next, is that kaowool is a lofty product that loses some of its effectiveness when it is compressed. I will not place heavy objects on top of the arch & kaowool in the mistaken idea that it will increase insulation. The other natural hazards I have found to be much harder to fend off. They include birds pecking at the insulation for nest-building material. Other country varmits as mice, rats and bats will leave their scat on the top of the kiln - yucky! I have only found dead pencils in a kiln after a firing, but have heard stories of finding skeletons of lizards and even a cat (it crawled inside during a cold night, before the door was bricked up).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Organizing Kiln Materials

While there was no thing done on the kiln today - a lot got set in motion.

Early this morning, Howard and Steve the welder, were over to take measurements. They measured for the front/main door, the stoke hole doors, and the chimney. All the places that Steve will fabricate angle-iron pieces for. There was a bit of discussion about the chimney, how far it will go up and the chimney cap. Had to make sure that all 3 of us were on the same page.

Early afternoon, I was picking up sheet metal pieces that were folded to fit above the sheet metal on the front, side & back of the kiln. The back piece still needs the top peep hole marked and taken back to be cut out. I also discussed the stainless steel chimney cap design with them, got a quote and ordered it.

Next stop was for sheet metal screws that will be used to hold the upper pieces of sheet metal & insulation in place. It took 3 stops, of course the big box hardware stores didn't carry what apparently are specialty sizes. A local hardware store had an incredible assortment of screws and fasteners. I will remember this place, and they are so nice to work with. Handyman Hardware in Roseburg, OR - gotta make a pitch for them.

And great news for me: Michael Fromme, thank you. She will trade me staight hard bricks for arch bricks. With luck, we can meet up together next week.

Just as I start to get frustrated with kiln progress, things turn around and look up.
This is not a project that I have done by myself. It has taken a lot of help from many people.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More bricks needed

The more things change the more they stay the same - or something like that.
Paul didn't make it on Monday, but did spend one hour on Tuesday, his last day here, grinding mortar from 8 bricks. The bricks that were easier to clean have been long done. Only the bricks that are more of a challenge remain. I spent a couple of hours grinding bricks on Monday, but only an hour today, Wednesday. Tuesday I did not work on the kiln. But I did send out a plea for more hard bricks to pottery organizations I belong to in Eugene & Southern Oregon. No one is knocking down the door to sell me bricks, yet.

On Monday, I took measurements to estimate how many more bricks I will need to finish the chimney. Howard had showed me how to do this: I had the chimney mocked up to the end of the corbel, when it will go straight up. From this point on there are 7 bricks needed for each row of chimney. With a tape measure, I determined I need 67" from the the top of the last corbelled row, to get through the top of the roof of the kiln shed. Each 2.5" x 4.5" x 9" brick is laid such that the 2.5" side is the rise part of the row. By dividing 67" by 2.5", I find I need at least 27 rows of bricks to clear the top of the roof. 27 rows times 7 bricks per row makes 189 bricks needed as a minimum. This will just barely clear the roof, I will need to build the chimney a few rows higher, just to be able to attach rain flashing. A stainless-steel rain guard will be fastened to the top of the chimney - just how is yet be determined.

I have put aside bricks needed for the bag wall, and door. Am currently drying out bricks to be ground that will fill the burner ports when wood is the fuel being used. I have enough bricks to be used as peep hole plugs.
Did some counting of the remaining bricks available: Can scrounge up about 100. Can clean perhaps another 20 or so. If I count broken bricks, I can include another 25 or so. But I'm still short.
In the meantime, I try to grind a few bricks everyday, so the job doesn't get overwhelming. I'm going stronger on making pots for the first firing. Even if the kiln was to get finished in a week, I have a few weeks of making & glazing pots before any firing can be done.

While dismantling the chimney on Monday, I placed each row of the chimney is in its own stack, so I can replace everything in good order. The last row of bricks corbelled in is row #21. Originally, I had planned to put the damper above that row, but found it to be too tall for me to reach without using a ladder. I would like the dampers to be more accessible than that, so needed to figure how much lower I could put them. On top of row #16 looked to work best: I could reach the dampers to open/close them, and there was still plenty of room to handle the kiln-shelf pieces from the outside even when they would be completely shut. Per Howard's advice, I worked out how I would indent the front & back portions of row #16 about 3/8". This would then serve as a shelf for the dampers to slide on, and help to keep them from warping.
Row #17 would be of "splits" (1.25" x 4.5" x 9"), which are nearly the same height as the dampers, and will allow them to slide easily in & out. Row #18 will have "lintels" (2.5" x 4.5" x 13.5") whose extra length bridges the 9" width of the dampers. I didn't have my camera out at the kiln site while doing these mock-ups. Will make sure these rows get photographed when I get to laying mortar on the chimney bricks.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Back wall all bricked up

On Sunday, yesterday, I finished bricking up the back of the kiln. I sealed with mortar the seam between the arch and the back wall from the inside. While inside the kiln, the seam between the arch and front wall was also sealed. For some reason, this small amount of bricks took much of the day. Besides not raining, it was not freezing, making it a good day to work outside.

There are still a couple of bricks to be added to the top of the front walls. This afternoon, Paul will come by and grind mortar from more old bricks. I moved about 20 bricks inside the pottery studio in front of the heater, since wet bricks only clog the grinder. This is not the most fun job, but a 'necessary evil' for someone who looked for deals on used bricks.

Once more bricks are ground, I will have a better count of how many usable bricks are left for the chimney. Besides the chimney, smaller amounts of bricks will be needed for the bag wall (inside between the firebox and stack of pots), burner ports (when firing with wood, these holes need to be bricked up), peep holes and a few more door bricks.

My piles of bricks in the kiln yard are going down fast. Today, I want to take down chimney bricks to see how the dampers will fit in. Also, I need to see how the better bricks remaining will work into the lower (the foundation part) of the chimney.