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hitchmss

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Everything posted by hitchmss

  1. The way I look at this QOTW is more about my competency in being able to produce objects on the wheel, and not about when I made "good" objects, whether those be for sale, or in comparison to my other works. I also agree that it is more a measure of intensive, focused hours of practice than it is years of dabbling/making/etc. What I tell students is that in the beginning while learning to throw they are going to be "taking" what the wheel and the process gives them; yes they have input, but once things begin to go awry, they do their best to keep it from flopping, and call it good enough. The point at which they are able to sit down, and produce any object they want, in just about any (realistic) size they want, is the point where I consider them to have mastered the throwing process. For me, this took me about my first 8-10 years, and its been another 8-10 years since that point. There are definitely objects or sizes that challenge my skills, but it has become a process like breathing in which I dont have to think about it much, if any, and I just do. While I feel that I have "mastered" the wheel, I definitely do not believe that I have nothing left to learn from the wheel; it is a process in which I will continue to grow in my technical abilities for the rest of my life......i.e for now throwing 15#, 1/4" thick bowls takes relatively little effort, and one day I will be throwing 30# bowls with the same ease. However, many have noted the other exhausting lists of skills that need to be honed to make "generally admirable" work, let alone work that is designed well for its utilitarian purposes; form, surface, glaze chemistry, eutectics, equipment handling, studio management....all these "broad" categories take years/lifetimes to hone.....it took me about 4 years, maybe 200 firings of my gas kiln to truly understand and with relative precision how to predict how each zone of the kiln will react....the next new kiln, will take me likely as long to learn its nuances too. It is these challenges which keep me excited about ceramics. In my area there were a couple of potters who would at shows share a double booth, and would hang these 10' tall banners of themselves with the words "Master Potter__________", yet they both made pots which were adolescent in their maturity at best; while yes, they may have put in the 10,000 hours, a master potter it does not make. I know Ive spent well over 10,000 hours practicing the art of walking, yet I aint bringing home the bacon with my vertical posture!
  2. Your work will (hopefully) always be getting better, so waiting until you have good work, is not a good idea. Take good images now of the work you have now, which you consider the strongest; It may get you into shows that you didnt think you could get into. Better shows means hopefully better sales, which means hopefully faster growth rates. Some shows will look at your image submission histories and if you use the same images every year, they may rank you lower. Ideally you should have a new set of slides (including booth) every year....granted, Im using the same images I shot in 2017, but dont count on one set lasting you more than 2-3 years. Its just a part of the business expenses and plan on saving work that you want to photograph, and set a date every year which works well for you.....photo day should allot as much effort and motivation as a show.
  3. More copper does not = more red. I fired at cone 10 redux for my reds, so my experience may not be as applicable at 5/6 ox. However, if you are seeking those bright, fire engin'ish color reds, then adding more copper will yield a more green color than a bright red. If you are having trouble getting consistent reds across a pot, then adding more copper may bring that consistency in check....copper volatilizes at a low temp, so if you dont achieve reduction at the proper temp, you will burn off the copper needed to produce the red colors. Again, Im creating a reduction atmosphere at a certain temp, whereas you are using temperature to convert SiC into a localized reduction atmosphere; without having much experience with oxidation copper reds I cant say that the same principles apply from ox to redux. Do a line blend and post your results here. Most of my copper reds have tiny amounts of copper in them (relatively).
  4. Im kind of with Mark on this one; we dont have a place to compost here at home, so when we do, it has to get toted to an offsite location, which means it needs to be something more durable than pottery, which is.....a cheap ol plastic 2 gallon bucket. I personally think clay/pottery has its limitations in comparison with other media/materials made for the same products; I love a handmade mug, but use my yeti travel mug every day....stainless steel, boring as heck, but doesnt break, and works well. For a while, and still kind of do, I thought about making food storage containers, like tupperware, from ceramic....seems awfully cumbersome and inconvenient, but oh how much prettier and enjoyable. Two things came to mind when reading through the other responses; to make a vessel big enough that its more than a one day use (if thats what you want), then the potter must have an efficient use of their clay; a 5# empty, quart sized container would not be fun to lug around. 2, wet hands (often in the kitchen) and slick glazed sides mean handles are a must....make em ergonomic and meaty...big lug style handles, at least 1-1.5" off the side of the pot..near the rim, so the thumbs can hook over top easy. I personally would do a thrown, more cylindrical style handle; grab it in a fist, and pick up; a shallow parabola with a lip/ridge at the upper point to catch in the hand. Also, in the interest of containing smells, and making a "durable" lid to be beat around, what about a non ceramic version? Thinking like some kind of plumbing rubber end cap, like the kind youd get with a hose clamp for sealing off pipes. They come in numerous sizes, are flexible/could fit around oblong/out of round pots, and as long as the fit isnt too snug, would lift off relatively easily....i think? Just an idea! Ive been toying around with making airtight seals on lidded ceramic objects either with brush on tool dips, or cast in place silicones....initial tests were ok, but need a lot of improvement.
  5. Lots of what I would have shared has already been touched on. Shooting your own work is a skill set which takes a lot of practice to master, and if you like fancy equipment, it can be quite expensive. However, for relatively little money, you can make all the diffusers, reflectors, backdrops that you want. Shooting glossy round surfaces is going to be difficult all the time and the issues are exactly what you see, and what you DONT want to see. Hot spots, reflections, glare etc. This all comes down to moving your lights to the right locations, and diffusing them correctly. I also like to have the only light in the room being the ones that are on the pots; 3-4 lights min., 1 overhead, two from the sides, and a 4th where I need it positioned per pot. Lights get aimed at the pot so that you can reveal as much of the 3d surface as possible..i.e. dont point them all at the pot from the front....maybe 1/3'rd of the side, 2/3'rd the side, slightly forward from center, high on the pot, middle, low.....Tripods make this very easy, but clamp on lights and chairs/ladders make it easy too. SLR's are wonderful because you can take a million pics for the same price; take a pic, check the image, adjust the lights. After doing this for about an hour on the same kind of objects (convex vs concave) you will get the hang of it. Reflectors can be made from scrap cardboard and spray painted any color you want; the color you choose will impact how the colors in your pots reflect....choose wisely. Dark cloth on the table surface can help suck up reflected light too. Pick the right color of bulbs for your work too! I dont know cameras at all, so those who do know how to use all the fancy settings would be better at this; a friend told me that for anyone who's camera illiterate to just use the "landscape" or "mountain" mode on your mode selector dial. I like a gradient background, but some dont. The all white, and vibrant image look is seemingly to become a more hip way to shoot images...gradient backgrounds sometimes seem old and sleepy in comparison. If using a solid color background, try making a LONGER background which curves upward; it will give you a softer change in shadows and will help to provide depth to your images. Use paper backdrops, not fabric....unless you iron the living hell out of it...too many wrinkles. Posterboard is bordering on the thick side for paper backdrops, but does "curve" nicely....rolls of construction/craft paper work well. Get a backdrop which is going to be at least 12-18" wider on each side than your widest work....you can almost never have them too wide. Grouping numerous pieces in a image is generally a No no. Many shows will reject you automatically for images like that because you didnt follow their directions; one work per image...read directions for each show...they do vary. No props in jury images; if the jurors cant tell what it is without the prop, then you should be using another artwork to apply...."are we jurying the prop, or the artwork....which is which...?" If you dont have photoshop, take your images to someone who does, and knows how to use it. Everything from cropping and rotating, adjusting color balance, exposures.....you can fix basically anything. Take your images in .tif format, or the largest file size you can...gives you more data to adjust. Read up on application requirements for image sizes; Zapp will want images a certain size and any bleed areas to be black. Others differ. I took my own images for a while, and even though I would do my lighting and setup the same as a professional photographer friend of mine, my images were never as good. He says its experience, I say its a $15k camera. Anymore I just go to him and pay him to do it for me. Last time he took images for me we shot over 150 slides, and he charged me about $700, which is DIRT cheap for quality images, and if the odds of you getting into a show, and making your living, go up by paying someone who is a pro, then do that. Ive paid nearly $80/slide...too much. When this friend of mine finally kicks the bucket I plan on finding someone for no more than $60/slide, fully edited, copies on numerous formats provided.
  6. Hey Keith, you can send me a PM to my email hitchmss@gmail.com, or you can call me. Contact info is on my website. Ill have new work ready for sale in about three weeks or so!
  7. I hope I didnt come off as riled up....well maybe a little. Even though I love number crunching, (right now looking at 2018 total expenses/income and crunching numbers), and I think that can be a very accurate way of coming up with evaluations of certain "things", when it comes to handmade pots, that specific attention to details/numbers can be very helpful in determining your COST in a mug, but should not be a huge factor in deciding retail prices...as you saw, $7 for a mug.....god bless, Id be a truly (even more so than I am) starving artist! Numbers only get you so far, I think the best evaluation is looking at your market, and your competition. Thanks for the comments about my work! 20 years of hard work!
  8. Worth the $ for the ITC. Extended the life of our IFB kiln to 650 firings. Goes to cone 12 on $60 of propane in 8 hours with a single wall construction + 2" of fiber. Amazing coating! Apparently the designed of ITC used to paint a thick 1/2" layer onto plywood and fire a plywood kiln to cone 10 without burning the wood....never seen this myself, but heard it from a many a folk....maybe just talk...
  9. Thats some pricey clay; I pay $16/50#. Are you saying that $7000 investment in both a wheel an a kiln will produce 5,000 objects, for a yield of $1.40 per object made? Ive had my wheel which cost me less than $1k and has made well over 30,000 pots in the last 15 years; kiln is the same..spent less than $1k on it, and its bisque fired more than 25k pots....gas kiln cost $7k but last kiln which cost the same was fired 650 times before needing rebuilt...each kiln load is between $3500-8k in inventory value.
  10. If your business is SO big that you encompass such a wide market, you can approach pricing in the manner you describe; if you go by this method you will have an item that will be greatly overpriced for many, many markets, but because your marketing reaches a million or more humans per year, you'll sell enough work to justify pricing set in this manner. For most potters, even the really good ones, our markets are generally quite small....art/craft shows, galleries, and the "online" markets. If I priced my work truly based on what its "worth" like you say, then Id be the one potter at the show with $50 mugs, where everyone else's generally max around $35-40; the market is not big enough to find those "white whales" which will yield me a great enough profit, and quite quickly Id be bleeding my business. Sure, there are those that change their prices when they are selling work in TN, vs CA, but I generally think of this as a poor business practice. I spent $200k on 5 years of out of state tuition for my college degree; 20 years of making pots thus far is the reason why I can charge $24 for an item that took me 15 minutes of hands on time to make, but I surely cant be tacking on a "cost of education fee".....I see a lot of newbies "selling" mugs that are gorgeous $60-100 pieces of artwork because they just got out of the MFA program and they have an inflated sense of self....I dont think this style of pricing works well for most, unless their living expenses are nil. Is one who receives an MFA automatically considered a master potter, and thus demands "master" prices? Does 10,000 hours of slapping mud to a wheel head determine greatness and thus great prices? Do you only "charge" folks for the years of your education where you actually started to make good work? My associate JUST retired after practically 60 years of making pots (from playing "potter" as a child, getting a BFA & MFA in ceramics, teaching for 15 years, and finally a full time potter for nearly 20) and he sold mugs that are cheaper than the ones I sell. It'd be wonderful if I could add a dollar for every year of experience to every pot that i sell, but doubtful Id sell many $40 spoon rests, let alone another 20 years of making pots and asking $60 for a spoon rest. Its admirable that you've tried to consider every real cost that goes into making pots, but in my experience, you have to take half of what you consider a factor in determining price as just the cost of doing business. IMO the market is what determines your prices; a friend of mine is a mediocre potter (IMO) in LA who sells berry bowls for $100+ that would never budge at any of the 20+ midwest/eastcoast/southern shows that I go to every year.
  11. As far as I know there are no companies commercially producing a flameware clay body. There may be smaller outfits, but Laguna, Standard, Axner, etc to my knowledge dont carry one. Id be willing to bet money that implying that their clay body could go on the stove top would make them way to susceptible to claims when the pots fail. There are commercially produced Micaceous clay bodies for sale, but they are pricey and still not made for the stove top, per se Find a flameware clay body recipe and mix your own. This will allow you to tweak to your firing range anyways. Flameware clay bodies are very difficult to get glazes to stick to (during firing either shiver/crawl). Some good info on flameware clay bodies and glazes in the book "In the Potters Kitchen". Lots of testing for flameware pots; not only do you need to insure glaze safety, but also that your pots can take the extreme hot/cold/hot/cold cycles. Pots with food going from the fridge to a stove top immediately, or to a hot oven. No prewarming the oven with pots inside. Taking pots that are hot on the stove top and adding cold ingredients to them (imagine one trying to deglaze(not in ceramics, but in cooking terms) a pot with cool wine...). If you imply to your customers that the pots can go on the stovetop, they are going to treat them like their metal pots and pans. Best to test for what is "normal" use, and also for the "idiot" use would be. Pots made for the stovetop will also need to be designed for this use; minimize sharp corners, make as even walls as possible, durable/comfortable handles.............Lots of design features to consider. Much admiration to those who can make both beautiful and truly flameware vessels....ive only come across a few flameware pots, and never a flameware potter.....im assuming they are like unicorns.
  12. Glad to see some actual proof and to hear that the soda vapor cleaned up easy! Thanks for posting! Id be curious to know, if you took that shelf, and put it in your ox/redux stoneware kiln, and fired it off, if there'd be enough soda vapor to flash the feet of your pots, and consequently if that meant there was enough vapor to eat into your IFB's? Would they come out looking like they have never been in a soda kiln, after one firing in a redux stoneware kiln....even though the "boils/buildup" of soda/salt have been scraped off, that residue is still there....is that just a interaction with the shelve's glass layer, or a deposit of salt? Hoping the middle "budget" shelf didnt crack the corner off during your firing!
  13. Id put the kilns where you can easily vent them, and run your electric to that location. Neither where you or your electrican circled a spot that I would put a kiln. If you have a door, or a window in the basement where your exhaust lines can run out, thats where Id put the kilns. Being that they are in the basement of your home, you really dont want to be leaving all those fumes/gasses in your house to be breathed in. Bisques are bad enough, glaze fires are worse. If you put the kiln in the center of the room you're going to have to step over, or run an exhaust tube/pipe to your exit, which means reduced air flows. Keep your exhaust runs as short as possible. Also, when exhausting/venting, you need to bring in as much fresh air as you are blowing out, so if you have a window on the opposite side of the house from your exhaust, open it while firing. Try not to locate your exhaust under a window that you might have open in the spring/summer which would bring the fumes right back inside. Otherwise, like others said, observe your combustible clearances, and there are plenty of ways to get an outlet close to your kilns.
  14. No kilns like water on them, electric kiln circuitry being more so. I have an outdoor grill cover which goes over my kiln (which is outside on a covered, but not enclosed patio) to keep any water from getting on it. I leave the bottom uncovered to get airflow so I dont trap a bunch of humid air around it either.
  15. The flashing occurs when the atmosphere in the kiln reacts with the clay in your body; i.e soda/salt vapor interacting with the kaolins. Some clays flash better than others, some none or little. To replicate that look I would spray light coats of colored slips/engobes on your pots; numerous layers and different colors will give you a more authentic look. Ash glazes over top will help replicate the look of fly ash, but apply it in a directional pattern to really duplicate that look as best you can. I might avoid spraying/applying too much soda on to your pots with the intention of getting it to flash; as those soda vapors volatilize they will impregnate the soft brick....a lot of vapor will lead to the early demise of your kiln. I doubt a light coat of soda on the pots would produce much vapor that would damage your kiln, but it likely also wouldnt produce the flashing colors you want. Ever fire a flashing slip in a reduction or oxidation kiln at any temp.....looks like pasty white butt. Get those alkaline fumes interacting with it and its brown/orangy/yellow deliciousness. You could try using saggars in your electric kiln to produce more "atmospheric effects". A really tight saggar might allow you to produce adequate soda vapor to flash, but also keep the fumes from escaping and damaging kiln.
  16. If you have access to a pugmill; run the wet clay through your mill, make your slugs about 14-18" long, and stand them on end around the studio for a couple of hours or until desired dryness. Being in that smaller 3" diameter you'll get more even drying than if you left it in its full block shape. Run back through pug mill to blend and bob's your uncle. You could go through and rotate the blocks like you suggest, but that just seems like a lot of un-necessary touching and manipulation. Wasting your time and energy just to dry out clay is nonsensical IMO....do as little as you have to. The "best" way to evenly dry out clay is going to depend on so many factors that this will be more of a trial and error deal. A fan blowing on them might skin them over too quickly if they are too thick. Sitting in the sun might do the same. Too thin and they may dry out too much on you, too thick and it may take forever.
  17. Like Liam said; there is a confidence in your depth and speed of cut which makes the results look better, than choppy, hesitant ones. Any tool you use to facet, including just a wire in your hands, is going to require a lot of trial and error, and you're gonna slice through some sides of pots until you get the hang of it. IMO a lot of faceted work looks a little choppy/chunky because there is a lack of fluidity to the marks; when I facet work (which granted, isnt much) I like to manipulate the pot after the faceting; not only does this create more "organic" looking facet lines, but helps to hide any goofy looking marks I made. For straight walled cylinders, try to position your hands/arms so that as you work from top to bottom, or bottom to top, that you're keeping the same depth of cut, by moving in the same plane as the pot. If you're sitting, and resting your elbows on your legs, there is a tendency to create curves and not straight lines. The same applies to curved pots, but you need to move in/out with the curvature of your pot. Its kind of a like a dance in some ways; once your body gets into it, and not just your hands/wrists, it becomes almost like an extension of your fingers and not just a tool in your hands. Might help to kind of shake your arms out, and limber up.
  18. I got ya! I was trying to imagine someone trying to brush a chunky flocculated slip onto a pot with any kind of precision!
  19. @tinypieces if you want you can use the @ symbol in front of a forum member's name and it will allow you to "link" or notify them that you are directing a comment towards them. I regards to whether or not its shivering or crawling, even if the edges are rounded, leaning towards a crawling issue, it might not be as easy as that to deduce. It could be shivering off (the opposite of crawling) and just melting into a rounded shape in the clear glaze you fired. Because its a "flat" surface, it would easily melt into the clear glaze and give the appearance of crawling. Id think that if you were having a "fit" issue (shivering/crawling), we'd see the same result almost everywhere. Whereas its sporadic; Im wondering if you are applying numerous coats of this underglaze, and you have thinned it down, that there may be TOO much water in your second/third coats, which are loosening(clay "ridges" become saturated with water, which decreases the "suck" that porous bisque has to wet glazes) the physical bond the first layer has with your clay. Then, either when the clear glaze is applied over top, you arent seeing the underglaze being "brushed" around, or it is peeling away, like crawling (even though its technically not a "fit" issue) in the firing, and melting into your clear.
  20. slips are basically clay bodies (like what you work with) in a suspension of water. I.e. thinned down, kind of like reclaim. Fishsauce is just a recipe, just like there are different clay bodies. A slip is designed to go onto leather hard or wetter/softer works; engobes are slips that are designed to go onto bone dry, or bisqueware. A stained slip is just a slip with color(ants) mixed into it. The best black Liam mentioned is a "color" mixed by the Mason Company, who makes Mason Stains. Flocculated is a little more complex, but essentially a flocculant is a material which causes the particles to clump together, like a FLOCK of birds. A deflocculant causes the particles to repel each other. Not sure about Liam's flocculated slips, but I use a deflocculated slip, which basically makes the water wetter, which means it will shrink less, which provides a number of benefits. A flocculated slip would be one that would benefit in the attaching of handles; a vinegar(flocculant) slip will help increase the bond between attachments. Its much cheaper than underglazes because YOU would be mixing the materials together, instead of paying a company to basically do the same thing. Its not rocket science, kind of like baking a cake. Does require some precautions regarding the dust and the dangers of working with raw materials (and colorants more specifically), but easily done. It also means you can mix "custom" colors that a manufacturer may not offer.
  21. If they sit in a dusty area for a long time, you might want to lightly blow them off with compressed air before loading into the kiln. Just a little air, not too much pressure!
  22. Your lid and floor are fiber? There are some electric kilns which have a 1" layer of fiber outside of 2.5-3" of IFB (insulating fire brick aka softbrick), however Ive never seen an electric kiln lid/floor made entirely from fiber. Can you post pictures so we can see the construction? It is possible to build a floor/lid for an electric kiln, but the work that goes into making a good one, may be much more than its worth to buy a new one, that is, if you can buy replacement parts for this kiln. Using a refractory mortar/cement is not like using a mortar on a floor tile in your bathroom; you have a very limited amount of working time before the mortar dries out, and wont bond to the brick next to it. IFB's are quite porous, and unless you dip/soak the edge of the brick in water you are going to mortar, you will find that by the time you get your sides coated with mortar, that it will have skinned over, and it wont stick to the brick you want to attach. Too much water on the brick and your mortar will be thinned out, too little water and it skins over rapidly....there is an art to it. There was a video I came across at one time which detailed a popular kiln manufacturer making their kilns; it was amazing to watch their workers assemble all the bricks needed for a floor/lid in a matter of a couple of minutes. I cant find the video, so hopefully someone else will post it, and it will give you a good idea of what kind of technique is required if you want to mortar the lid together. Aside from the working time of the mortar, having too much, or too little mortar between bricks can lead to a sloppy, and less than desirable job quite quickly. I would say that unless you have some very good confidence in your abilities to do this, to just buy new parts....may not be as cheap, but you will be happier in the long run. Now, it would be much easier to make a new lid/floor that isnt mortared together......However, while a lid, which doesnt have any weight being forced down onto it, would be fine IMO to be rebuilt without mortaring together, I might give some pause to doing this with a floor. The mortar locks all the bricks together, but it also has a downside too; because it is one homogeneous mass, it does not expand/contract easily; this is why you see cracks in the lids/floors quite often. A "dry set" brick will expand/contract along each joint, but it REQUIRES the band to hold it all together; if your band is too tight, or too slack, it could lead to issues, as well if the band ever fails, you will have a pile of bricks. Only relying on the kiln's legs/support frame and the metal band to hold your floor bricks tight and flat, with a lot of weight from your pots and kiln furniture, might be a recipe for disaster. Ive taken lids/floors from kilns and replaced 1-2 bricks and the bands when needed repairing, and was comfortable dry setting these bricks. Repairs lasted many more years without any issues. If you do make your own lid from bricks, you will also have to cut it into its proper shape; factories use a automated router which operates at high speeds, and imparts little to no torque on the bricks/mortar. If you've never cut IFB's before, you will be amazed at how quickly the HIGHLY abrasive refractory will turn a sharp saw blade into a butter knife. If you wanted to use a high speed power tool so that you didnt impart torque to your freshly made lid/floor, and possibly knock the whole thing apart, be aware that you're going to need LOTS of blades for whatever your using, it will likely destroy the tool (the dust will eat bearings for breakfast), and is going to make a lot of not healthy for you, dust. If you want to keep dust down, and not destroy tools, and use a handsaw, you're going to need to take your time cutting out all those edge bricks....be careful to not break your new lid apart. If you do go this route, keep the old lid so you can use it as a template to cut out your new one. My suggestion would be to just buy new parts, and save your time for something else. Keep the old lid or floor, and slip it under your new floor....kiln will be a couple inches taller, which I think most folks appreciate a little more height (except for those that are vertically challenged), but it will also be a little more insulated, which might lower the cost of your firings by a smidge. It will help support the new floor too. Dont place your old lid on top of your new lid with the same premise in mind; the lid of your kiln creates a parabola/arc during the firing from the expansion of the hot face of the brick, against the cold face of the brick. Not allowing this curve to occur naturally, or as easily, will put excess stress on your lid, and lid banding. The floor of the kiln is less of a concern in regards to this, because you already have all the weight of the pots/kiln bearing down on it, so its having trouble moving already.
  23. Im going to go out on a limb and assume that the OP'er is making electrical pole/utility pole insulators; you can kind of see some more in the background. While I doubt that this crack would lead to its structural failure(appear to be 1"+ thick), Im guessing the OP'er doesnt want them at all. Id agree with Rae that based on where the crack is forming, that its due to the shape of the slot that has been cast into it. Id suggest maybe trying to compress this portion of your castings when they are leather hard, otherwise I think you'd have to redesign your mold/prototypes. It could be a firing issue/speed. Could also be a drying issue; if the rest of the insulator is very consistent in its thickness, this sharp angled, and uneven wall thickness area would be one spot that would be prone to shrinkage/drying cracks. Not sure what your climate is where you are, and how you dry work, but you may want to try slowing it down some, or evening the drying out. Are ALL of your insulators cracked in the same spot, or just here and there?
  24. Yes, many castable recipes will benefit from being fired to 04. I would avoid any recipes that call for portland cement in them; not likely many do, but the cement at hotter temps will degrade; as a cold face to a wood kiln it wouldnt normally see temps that would be an issue. You dont want to fire your saggar to total vitrification; a vitrified clay body has essentially formed a crystalline matrix which creates a glass like nature to the clay body. This crystalline matrix (mullite and cristobalite) are more prone to damage from thermal shock. Most raku and sculpture clay bodies are meant to be fired at low fire ranges (06-04) and not vitrify, which allows them to withstand the thermal shock they incur during most raku processes; other materials in the clay body recipe help with the thermal shock, but the lack of vitrification is a big benefit. When you "rap" it with a knuckle, it should "ding" but not "ting/ring" like a bell... it should sound like bisque ware. If you've got no experience with soluble salts, be aware that the fumes during firing are more toxic, and the handling of them during application requires more precautions. We've actually been discussing soluble salts on another thread here. There is a good book, which if I havent mentioned it yet, might be of great use to you. Published by Lark, its called "Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques". It covers different barrel/saggar style kilns similar to what you are doing, and a section devoted to soluble salts.
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