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nancylee

Lots of questions about soda firing!!!

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Hi all,

I came across the work of Gail Nichols and other potters like Tom Coleman and fell in love! I love the oranges, and the different color combos. I know a few things I have been able to pick up - that Gail’s technique is tough on kilns and not done too frequently, and that flashing slips are used in some soda firings, but before I buy Gail’s  book, I think I need to understand soda firing better.

I searched here and came up with a bit, but not much, so are there any good resources for beginners to learn? Basic questions: to get the variety of colors and kind of cratered surface like Gail and Coleman get, are different slips put on, or does the fire and soda do that? So e potters have dark spots or geometric shapes on the surface - are they painted on with glazes?  I understand you can use glazes with soda firings - are they the same as cone 10 reduction glazes? 

And one last question - what is this big metal thing these people use to build a soda kiln? (Caution for office dwellers - loud music on this video.)

thank you for any help for an inttigued beginner!

nancy

 

 

 

Edited by nancylee

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(And one last question - what is this big metal thing these people use to build a soda kiln? )

I assume what you are calling metal is the plywood form the kiln is made from. This is a catenary arch form-you hang a small chain and trace the arch onto plywood and cut that out x two and that makes the ends that one covers with  more plywood. This is the form which the bricks are laid against . Just get a copy of any kiln building book like Lens kiln book -This will explain what you are seeing.

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I highly recommend taking part in a few firings before going full bore into doing it yourself. Building and firing a gas kiln takes a certain amount of experience and knowledge, not to mention time and money. Find someone near you that has a soda or salt kiln and see if you can assist in their next firing. If and when you decide to actually build your own kiln, search the forums here for information on building a gas kiln. There are a lot of zoning rules and technical info to research before you begin. You don't have to build something very big, a small box kiln would work very well, but you'll still spend a couple thousand dollars on bricks and burners.

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The best soda firing book I have read is "Soda Glazing" by Ruthanne Tudball, University Pennsylvania Press, 2001 ISBN:0-8122-1571-0 ( http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/1934.html ), and yes,  I have -- and read -- Gail Nichols' dissertation and her more recent book --   
Soda, Clay and Fire -- along with literature and books on soda firing by other authors.  Nichols was chasing a particular point of view for a PhD. and therefore, she focused on how to achieve a single interesting, and not necessarily easy to achieve, effect.  Tudball provides  a wider coverage of the soda firing genre.  

Due to kiln limitations (a standard updraft soft brick natural gas reduction kiln) I use various unsaturated aqueous solutions containing sodium ions (for example: borax, soda ash, TSP. … ) as a selective spray coating on bisque ware (think spraying glazes) of various clay bodies fired to at temperatures from cone 5 to cone 11.  A general buff stoneware, treated with the spray, will show flashing effects similar to soda firing when fired in normal gas reduction firing conditions. I believe the technique will work at cone 3, but I have not tried it. [I mention cone 3 because I know our home-made fiber Raku kiln that will fire to cone 3+. Therefore, with some tweaking, a small well built fiber 'Raku' type reduction cone 3 kiln could be feasible. Also because cone 3 soda/salt firing is mentioned as a firing target for commercial ware in an JACerS article from the mid-30's].  This aqueous solution application technique puts the sodium specie where you want the effect to be  and avoids wasting reagents on the kiln and "other" objects in the firing.  Mixing baking soda powder with acrylic medium and painting the mixture on bisque ware will also produce a soda glazing effect.  Thickness of the baking soda can do nothing (very thin) or produce a glob of ugly, and maybe runny, glass (too thick).  [I abandoned  this application approach before finding 'just right'].  The experiments were fun, and did no damage to the gas kiln.  If conducted carefully, experiments with a soda aqueous solution application technique might also be conducted in an electric kiln; I have no idea what the color effects would be in a truly oxidizing environment. 


LT

 

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8 hours ago, Mark C. said:

(And one last question - what is this big metal thing these people use to build a soda kiln? )

I assume what you are calling metal is the plywood form the kiln is made from. This is a catenary arch form-you hang a small chain and trace the arch onto plywood and cut that out x two and that makes the ends that one covers with  more plywood. This is the form which the bricks are laid against . Just get a copy of any kiln building book like Lens kiln book -This will explain what you are seeing.

Yes, I guess it is wood! Thank you! I’ll check out the book. 

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7 hours ago, neilestrick said:

I highly recommend taking part in a few firings before going full bore into doing it yourself. Building and firing a gas kiln takes a certain amount of experience and knowledge, not to mention time and money. Find someone near you that has a soda or salt kiln and see if you can assist in their next firing. If and when you decide to actually build your own kiln, search the forums here for information on building a gas kiln. There are a lot of zoning rules and technical info to research before you begin. You don't have to build something very big, a small box kiln would work very well, but you'll still spend a couple thousand dollars on bricks and burners.

Thanks, Neil. I’m not building anything now, and I found someone who,does soda firings and I’m going to go participate? If I love it, I do have room to build one - i didnt realize how expensive it would be!

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2 hours ago, Magnolia Mud Research said:


The best soda firing book I have read is "Soda Glazing" by Ruthanne Tudball, University Pennsylvania Press, 2001 ISBN:0-8122-1571-0 ( http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/1934.html ), and yes,  I have -- and read -- Gail Nichols' dissertation and her more recent book --   
Soda, Clay and Fire -- along with literature and books on soda firing by other authors.  Nichols was chasing a particular point of view for a PhD. and therefore, she focused on how to achieve a single interesting, and not necessarily easy to achieve, effect.  Tudball provides  a wider coverage of the soda firing genre.  

Due to kiln limitations (a standard updraft soft brick natural gas reduction kiln) I use various unsaturated aqueous solutions containing sodium ions (for example: borax, soda ash, TSP. … ) as a selective spray coating on bisque ware (think spraying glazes) of various clay bodies fired to at temperatures from cone 5 to cone 11.  A general buff stoneware, treated with the spray, will show flashing effects similar to soda firing when fired in normal gas reduction firing conditions. I believe the technique will work at cone 3, but I have not tried it. [I mention cone 3 because I know our home-made fiber Raku kiln that will fire to cone 3+. Therefore, with some tweaking, a small well built fiber 'Raku' type reduction cone 3 kiln could be feasible. Also because cone 3 soda/salt firing is mentioned as a firing target for commercial ware in an JACerS article from the mid-30's].  This aqueous solution application technique puts the sodium specie where you want the effect to be  and avoids wasting reagents on the kiln and "other" objects in the firing.  Mixing baking soda powder with acrylic medium and painting the mixture on bisque ware will also produce a soda glazing effect.  Thickness of the baking soda can do nothing (very thin) or produce a glob of ugly, and maybe runny, glass (too thick).  [I abandoned  this application approach before finding 'just right'].  The experiments were fun, and did no damage to the gas kiln.  If conducted carefully, experiments with a soda aqueous solution application technique might also be conducted in an electric kiln; I have no idea what the color effects would be in a truly oxidizing environment. 


LT

 

Thank you for all of this information! I have a lot to learn and read about! Exciting technique! I can't wait to learn!  

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Doesn't have to be that expensive.  I see kiln bricks from catenary arch kilns on Craigslist fairly often, usually includes burners and everything for a couple hundred.  If you buy the bricks new it's going to cost a fortune.

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I built a castable one like the catenary in Ruthanne's book. I have also fired with her. She sprays in dissolved soda ash. I would recommend learning to fire a kiln and the go to soda.  Firing soda has more temperature fluctuation in between applying soda into the kiln. We fired the soft brick kiln at La Meridiana back in 2000. That kiln lasted over a decade. They must have been high alumina soft bricks. They have rebuilt a new one again with soft insulating bricks. 

 

Marcia

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Building a catenary arch support isn't difficult. Figure the size you need ( base it around the shelf size you'll be using). Get a chain , mark the dimensions height and width and nail the chain to reach those dimensions. Spray paint 3 pieces of plywood. cut it out with a jigsaw. Build it well. install on site raised on shims  that afterwards it will drop the form and slide it out of the form.

Marcia

 

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Nancy i agree. attend a few firings before you get a feel for what you want. 

everyone i've noticed does their firing differently.  before going for a firing see if you can meet and talk to some of the people who have fired in the kiln. 

there is the book knowledge and then there is the actual experience.  keep the book knowledge for yourself but go by any guidance (from solid sources) you get from the soda fires you will attend. 

forget how you want your wares to look. just do some testing intially. do some glazed, unglazed and slip look. 

i was all gungho in the beginning. until i actually took part in the firing i didnt understand it. i had lots of book knowledge..  

just go and have fun. talk to the folks around you. actually sign up to help during the firing. you will learn so much from the people around you. look at their pots. trying nothing where they put things in the kiln (so help with loading) so you can understand what flames touching - got soda, too much soda, etc looks like. 

soda is my favourite firing. all my own favourite pots that i made came out of the soda kiln. bringle blue  and yellow slips were my favourite with colour, flashing slips and honey lustre glaze (i think Pete Pinelle's recipe but not sure) .

By the way the best way to approach this IMHO is to learn how to make work that will look the  best in a soda fire. i've only done gas soda firing, not wood soda fire.  ive dont wood salt and just wood firing and i make my wares different for both the fires. i put all my books away and stopped looking at others work and focused more on how other people's stuff came out of the kiln .

you will be surprised how much work soda firings are and how HOT it can be esp. when you are not spraying in the cool of the night. 

 

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On 9/27/2018 at 8:50 PM, preeta said:

Nancy i agree. attend a few firings before you get a feel for what you want. 

everyone i've noticed does their firing differently.  before going for a firing see if you can meet and talk to some of the people who have fired in the kiln. 

there is the book knowledge and then there is the actual experience.  keep the book knowledge for yourself but go by any guidance (from solid sources) you get from the soda fires you will attend. 

forget how you want your wares to look. just do some testing intially. do some glazed, unglazed and slip look. 

i was all gungho in the beginning. until i actually took part in the firing i didnt understand it. i had lots of book knowledge..  

just go and have fun. talk to the folks around you. actually sign up to help during the firing. you will learn so much from the people around you. look at their pots. trying nothing where they put things in the kiln (so help with loading) so you can understand what flames touching - got soda, too much soda, etc looks like. 

soda is my favourite firing. all my own favourite pots that i made came out of the soda kiln. bringle blue  and yellow slips were my favourite with colour, flashing slips and honey lustre glaze (i think Pete Pinelle's recipe but not sure) .

By the way the best way to approach this IMHO is to learn how to make work that will look the  best in a soda fire. i've only done gas soda firing, not wood soda fire.  ive dont wood salt and just wood firing and i make my wares different for both the fires. i put all my books away and stopped looking at others work and focused more on how other people's stuff came out of the kiln .

you will be surprised how much work soda firings are and how HOT it can be esp. when you are not spraying in the cool of the night. 

 

Thank you for that advice. I’m going to a soda fire next month! I’m very excited! 

Is there a particular clay 10 clay type I should get for soda fire?

nancy

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On 9/27/2018 at 1:28 PM, Marcia Selsor said:

Building a catenary arch support isn't difficult. Figure the size you need ( base it around the shelf size you'll be using). Get a chain , mark the dimensions height and width and nail the chain to reach those dimensions. Spray paint 3 pieces of plywood. cut it out with a jigsaw. Build it well. install on site raised on shims  that afterwards it will drop the form and slide it out of the form.

Marcia

 

Thank You for all that advice! I can see I have a lot to learn before attempting building anything!

nancy 

On 9/27/2018 at 1:28 PM, Marcia Selsor said:

Building a catenary arch support isn't difficult. Figure the size you need ( base it around the shelf size you'll be using). Get a chain , mark the dimensions height and width and nail the chain to reach those dimensions. Spray paint 3 pieces of plywood. cut it out with a jigsaw. Build it well. install on site raised on shims  that afterwards it will drop the form and slide it out of the form.

Marcia

 

 

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In terms of clay choices, if it's rated for cone ten, it will work, but it depends more on what effects you're trying to achieve.  Some people prefer to use more porcelain, or porcelaneous clays, because they'll sometimes flash pink and yellow, depending on the firing cycle, placement in kiln, etc, etc. They can also lean towards the grey or white side of the spectrum if they get hit with more soda, and varying degrees of reduction.

Others prefer stonewares for rich, darker surfaces with lots of soda build up, or for a toastier flashing palette.

Flashing slips containing things like small quantities of red art, or ingredients like Helmer kaolin or tile 6 are often used if you don't have a specific clay body to hand, or for contrast. Ask whoever you're firing with how heavy of a soda build up they want, and ask what effects they're trying to go for. See what they recommend for  materials.

 

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29 minutes ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

In terms of clay choices, if it's rated for cone ten, it will work, but it depends more on what effects you're trying to achieve.  Some people prefer to use more porcelain, or porcelaneous clays, because they'll sometimes flash pink and yellow, depending on the firing cycle, placement in kiln, etc, etc. They can also lean towards the grey or white side of the spectrum if they get hit with more soda, and varying degrees of reduction.

Others prefer stonewares for rich, darker surfaces with lots of soda build up, or for a toastier flashing palette.

Flashing slips containing things like small quantities of red art, or ingredients like Helmer kaolin or tile 6 are often used if you don't have a specific clay body to hand, or for contrast. Ask whoever you're firing with how heavy of a soda build up they want, and ask what effects they're trying to go for. See what they recommend for  materials.

 

Thank you, Callie!! I like the oranges, which I assume are the "toastier" side, and I like the more rough or pitted look, so I assume that is the stoneware for me!! Thanks! 

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