Clay + Fire + Soda Ash = Soda Kiln
As a BFA Ceramic Student,
I dedicated my focus to
learning how the soda kiln
effects a clay surface.
99% of my ceramics made
at UNC-Charlotte have
gone through the soda kiln.
This page features photos
and tips through the
process of loading, firing,
and unloading a soda kiln.
Warning: If you have never
run a gas kiln before please
consult your instructor
about the specific kiln
avaible to you and how
to use it properly!
After my kiln has cooled to at least 100 degrees farenheit, I remove a few rows of soft bricks and a few hard bricks to make a tiny opening for very hot air to escape.
For the first hour I leave the "kiln door" (brick wall) like this so my work can cool down even more before I completely un-brick the kiln door.
Unloading Process: When it is time to remove the bricks always wear proper gloves to protect your hands. Go slowly to make sure you do not bump, shake or put your own weight on the wall as you remove bricks!
In the circumstance that some bricks have been stuck together during the firing, grab a friend. Your friend's hands should be stabilizing the brick wall while you use a chisel and hammer to gently release the bricks.
Once I have taken down all the bricks I survey the stability of my stack and my ceramic work on the shelves. Sometimes small pieces were blown over during the firing.
For sculptures it is best to have a friend willing to pull the fired wadding off your piece. Make sure to do this over a table, but if your piece is very delicate I suggest using a pad of foam to rest your work on.
If the wadding is not releasing easily do not force it. I use a diamond tipped drummel bit to grind off stubborn wadding pieces.
While Removing the top shelves it is difficult to maintain your body's balance while leaning over to grab and lift the kiln shelf. Having a friend hold your hips while removing the top shelves will help prevent you from falling and/or dropping the shelf on your work. Move slowly and communicate with the person helping you. Good luck!
I unload each shelf in a specific order to ensure the safety of my work. I remove the row of support bricks closest to opening of the kiln first. Then I remove my work before removing the back row of support bricks. Have you ever dropped a brick on your work accidentally? Well I have!
When removing the lower layers of kiln shelves I distribute my weight over the shelf with one foot on the bag-wall and the other the edge of the kiln door floor. This makes it easier to control the shelf and maneuver it out of the kiln safely.
When I am done unloading the kiln, I use a chisel and hammer to remove wadding off the bottom of the soda kiln shelves. And then I cross my fingers as I slowly carry my newly fired work into the studio. Last but not least I make sure to thank my friend that took the time to help me! What took us 3hrs would have taken me twice the time to complete by myself.