Raku on a Winter’s Day

One of our friends asked about our raku firing process. Some of the steps are just like any other pottery process: think of the great idea, make something close to the great idea, and bisque fire it. The glazing process this time was only slightly different from the norm: 2 thin coats of a copper matte glaze, versus the usual 3 coats for most other glazes.


Getting ready for the actual raku firing today involved some extra steps.

  1. Unload half of the shed, including all the patio furniture you stored for the winter, to get to the raku supplies. This confuses the neighbors and makes them wonder if you’re having an unusual yard sale.

  2. Spend a minimum of 5 minutes fussing about how cold it is. Briefly admire how awesome you look in your fuzzy red hat.

    Baby, it's cold outside!
    Baby, it’s cold outside!
  3. Get out the instructions so you can remember how to build the kiln.
  4. Make about 15 trips back and forth, in and out of the house, getting supplies you forgot.
  5. Make 20 trips to and from the shed to get all the fire bricks, shelves, and stilts to set up the kiln.
  6. Load your pieces and start the firing. Rex was in charge of all things combustible, including running to the nearest gas station to get another tank of propane because we have learned from past experience.
  7. Prepare the metal cans with newspaper and other combustibles. Jen was firing some special, delicate pieces today so she was in charge of this. Plus she is picky.

    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
  8. Check the state of the kiln at least 4 dozen times.  Huddle around the kiln when you need to get warm.

  9. When all parties present agree the pieces are ready, put on your kiln-unloading gear. This includes a welder’s mask, leather apron, and Kevlar gloves. You won’t be recognizable, nor will you be able to hear anything, so plan to spend a minute or two shouting instructions at each other.
  10. Lift the lid off and get busy with your assigned task. Today, Rex was the unloading master, and Jen was the newspaper and can lieutenant. There are no pictures of this, since there were only 2 of us and no free hands to take photos.
  11. Burp the cans – take the lid off, fan it until the fire re-ignites, let it burn briefly, then cover again. Move to the next can and do the same thing. If thee can woofs at you, it’s even better. Note: do not lean over the can while doing this, as it is risky to the eyebrows.
  12. Walk away from the cans. You will want to look… don’t do it. Let the pieces cool down, and you can peek soon enough.
  13. You are already bored waiting on the cans to cool, so get out the router, a work table, and some wood you’ve been wanting to run through the router.
  14. Repeat step 4.
  15. Discuss how to use the router. Decide to read the instruction manual.
  16. Use the router together. Fuss about who is tilting the wood more. Decide that you are both under-equipped to use power tools. Make several attempts and decide your efforts are enough for today.
  17. Open the cans and see the awesomeness that has hatched. 2 pieces are pretty but cracked from the thermal shock. Breathe a sigh of relief that the others survived and are pretty! Pictures to follow soon…
  18. Go directly inside and take a hot shower, put on fuzzy pants, and take a nap.

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