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Planning A Glaze Kiln Load - How Much Planning?

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I think most people like to be as efficient as possible to maximize the output of kiln firings, whether that is energy-consciousness or simply good economics.  At school where project sizes vary greatly, once the glaze shelves are full it is a pretty good indication that there is enough material to have a full load. On the personal, private studio scene, that probably works pretty well...but I find myself taking better notes on just how many pieces of a certain size equal a full shelf.  That information often guides just what I am making, long before I get to the glaze firing...for example, I know that 8 mugs of a certain size make one full shelf (see below) so I tend to make mugs in batches of eight.

 

So, how much advance planning do you do before loading your glaze kiln?  Do you use the full-shelves method? Do you plan your making/production based upon some formula from previous experience based on your kiln capacity? Is the process random?  What kind of planning falls into the "best practice" category?

 

kiln-load.jpg

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Like pretty much every thing else in my life, I do things rather nilly willy. If there's room for it, it goes in. If not, it waits until the next time I have a full load on the racks. I do give priority to those pieces that have a deadline: Christmas, birthday, anniversary gifts or whatever special occasion is looming before me.

 

The first Saturday in June is the date of our annual town flea market. I'm hoping to get my sales feet wet for the first time with my pottery, so the next couple of months are going to be ridiculously busy for me by my standards! I must be out of my ever lovin' mind! :wacko:

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Nice mugs a lot of detail work and design put into them.  I think I have been firing by Skutt so long I have a load schematic in my brain.  I do pay attention to the height of the pieces and if I have a tall or odd ball piece I may save it for another firing.  I usually have a couple of pieces that won't fit, I always pack my kilns full.  Denice

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My approach is more like Paul's. I will even redesign a pot in order to make tighter packing in the kiln:

 

http://www.goodelephant.com/blog/seven-bowls

 

And now that this particular design fits seven-per-shelf, I make them in multiples of seven. I have quite a few other examples of this, most of my kiln packing is based on this.

 

This is another reason why I don't like wholesale very much. Wholesale orders don't allow me to decide my own quantities, and the kiln loads are never as tight.

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I am lucky to work out of a studio that has two kiln techs who load and fire two cone 10 reduction kilns each week. they have a system where each piece can be given a label for the glaze such as shino or copper red so they can put it in the best spot in the kiln for that glaze  i.e.  there is a "red zone". one of the kilns reduces more heavily that the other so you can specify which kiln. Its a giant puzzle every week but they get great results. they are really tuned in to the magic of high fire. no label- they load it wherever it fits.  rakuku

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My approach is more like Paul's. I will even redesign a pot in order to make tighter packing in the kiln:

 

http://www.goodelephant.com/blog/seven-bowls

 

And now that this particular design fits seven-per-shelf, I make them in multiples of seven. I have quite a few other examples of this, most of my kiln packing is based on this.

Mea, I'll join you in a "snort with nerd laughter"...good to know that others allow their kiln to impact the design of a piece.

 

-Paul

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I am fortunate that I always have a lot of student work in the studio, so there's always plenty to choose from to get a good tight load. So if I just want to fire  bunch of big jars that don't fit tightly, I can always fill in with small student pots. I think if I was firing alone I would try to plan it all out better, with a good variety of pieces.

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As a production potter I only load what fits best in any given space. I seem to have leftover glazed ware or green ware more often than not after loading.

I like to always have stuffers at the ready-more the better.I do not mix tall forms and small forms on a shelve unless its stuffers.I load all shelves by height.

I do not use a tape measure as after so many years  of loading you know what will fit and what will not. I tend to fit as Paul did all one form on a shelve or at least all the same height forms. Efficientcy is the key factor. I know how many of most forms fit on a 12x 24 and always am thinking about that as a benchmark. for example 5 butterdishes and 4 small mugs fill a glaze shelve with two sponge holders. This all comes second nature after lots of time doing it.

I never write it down or give it much thought it just comes natural after lots of doing.

mark

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I like to always have stuffers at the ready-more the better.I do not mix tall forms and small forms on a shelve unless its stuffers.I load all shelves by height.

mark

 

@Mark C., one man's stuffers is another's fillers *grin*.  I'm waiting for some one from academia to step forward with a technical term like "capacity enhancement components" (just kidding).

 

-Paul

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"Technical" terms enjoyed while in college, from Real Live professors:

Thingy

Doofer (Newfie word for wadding)

Whatzit

Moosh

 

I use the "full Supersrore grocery bin" method. Seven full bins is a tight pack in a 10 cu ft electric for bisque at the arts centre I fire at. Wide bowls will skew this "measurement". I try and vary my sizes and shapes so they compliment each other. I have two forms of mug, one quite round, and one convex and squared off so I can stack them really tightly. I find this satisfying and entertaining. Some days it doesn't take much.

I have odd bits and leftovers too.

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  I love those college-era technical terms. 

I would bet that forum members would jump on an opportunity to dust-off some of those terms in a separate topic.  My favorite term, actually one of a large collection of college-era acronyms, is one that I still use when loading a kiln with the advanced clay students at school: S.L.O.I.D. (has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?) and it means Space Left Over In Design.  SLOID is an empty shelf area between large/odd shaped pieces where @Mark C.'s stuffers go (and where my fillers go).

 

I'm going to borrow Doofer from you...it just sounds so much more sophisticated that Wadding. *snicker*.

 

-Paul

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@Mark C. That is impressive. Even more impressive (to me) is what you demonstrated a few years ago with tumble stacking.  The topic here, however, is glaze fire loading...and I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that we can stack glazed pieces.  But on that thought...do you ever plan glaze fired pieces so that they are layered in the kiln  unglazed area to unglazed area (i.e. unglazed rim to unglazed rim)?

 

-Paul

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amazing, mark!

 

i find that my kiln is loaded when the available drywall shelves are filled.  single firing in WV with mostly flat things takes 10  21 inch round shelves.  bisque in FL (so i can take them back to WV for glazing) is in a shorter kiln with 6 rounds and one half shelf.  that half shelf allows half a shelf for taller things at the top of the load. 

 

i don't think about loading it that way, but glaze firings are usually set with approx $100 per shelf.  works out with the main shapes and fillers to fit every "corner" of the round shelves.

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@Mark C. That is impressive. Even more impressive (to me) is what you demonstrated a few years ago with tumble stacking.  The topic here, however, is glaze fire loading...and I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that we can stack glazed pieces.  But on that thought...do you ever plan glaze fired pieces so that they are layered in the kiln  unglazed area to unglazed area (i.e. unglazed rim to unglazed rim)?

 

-Paul

Paul

So keeping with glaze fire loading (see my stuffer post from yesterday for photos of these glaze loads)

I never have unglaze lips now-3 decades ago when I was doing planters/birdbaths and the like some I stacked them as you described but now all lips are glazed.

With the glaze loads I still stuff it full with stuffers . When I think I have filled every space I reexamine and can always add a few more. Just 3 extra sponge holders per shelve is $30 more per shelve and for me thats about 25-30 shelves per glaze load-it soon adds up to a trip to the tropics or in your case some indoor court Bball action in another state.

Under the bottom car kiln layer on car and in front door area is space which is cool but you can put cool glazed ware there.

My main point is with smalls you can always stuff a few more in.

Mark

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I've changed my specifications, for student projects, so I can fit them in the kiln more efficiently.  

 

Also, I sometime, rarely but sometimes, will stack glazeware.  I do low fire, in my class, so I just use the stilts with the pins, one facing down, the other facing up.  I don't do this often, and never on anything that would require a really smooth surface.  But there are times, where it does help.

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I'm a bit like Mia and Paul. I will make enough of certain height piece at one sitting to fill a shelf in a glaze. For wide bowls, the hardest to load in a glaze for me, I fill in and around with lower smaller thing that fit in under the rims of the bowls. Takes me forever to fit in the spaces but make sure nothing touches. Like Mia, I have sized new works to fit on a bisque shelf after figuring in shrinkage from drying, and have made pieces sized specifically to sit beside another pieces to fill a shelf tightly. I always have plenty of stuffers and littles for that reason. My goal is to get 2 full glaze firings from 1 bisque. There is a cabinet near the kiln where the glazed or bisque pieces that did not fit are stored until next time.

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there is a slight trick to loading a shelf if you are trying new shapes or sizes.  i use full rounds so i put one on my white tabletop and drew around it with a sharpie.  then i can put all the new things out and figure what will fit best where.  a yardstick laid flat over the tops of the appropriate posts shows how much clearance is available between tops and the next shelf.  this is only for practicing not something to do all the time. 

 

if you only have a few taller things, using a short post to hold a small item above the nearby pieces works great. triangular POSTS used this way can allow 6 or so extra small things to fit.

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I plan as I go, very much a straight ahead approach. Start with a randomly selected first piece and slowly work pieces in, removing if it is not working and trying others. I do take into consideration similar heights but most of the stuff is a similar height.

 

It's a new 3D jigsaw puzzle every time.

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I was noticing in the picture Mark posted how closely his mugs match up with his shelf post height.  I always have trouble ending up with to much empty space above my pots.  How close can a bowl or mug be to the bottom of the shelf above it?  I am thinking of cutting some taller post down to match mug height.

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I suppose I follow a pretty specific "plan" and I always "stuff" my glaze kilns.   We make and sell a lot of small pieces (stuffers) like spoons, crosses and Mississippi shapes.  I have strict quotas for shelves.  Each kiln load has 3  3 inch height shelves, 2 4 inch height, and 1 6 inch height shelf ... for a total of 6 shelves.  We always have enough "flats" for the 3 inch height shelves.  Items that require the 6 inch shelf  have 5-10$ added to price. (one time when I was posting here about this system it came to mind that the taller shelves should command a few dollars more) The 4 inch shelf items have $2-$3 added.   Every shelf must have an absolute minimum of $80 of wares.  And $20 to $50 of stuffers per shelf.  Stuffers add on average $150 -$200 per kiln.  With price increases most shelves hit $85 to $90 in wares now.  I've loaded these shelves so many timesI automatically know what fits.  We glaze an assortment of pieces to fill the kilns from the back stock of bisque.  We usually have plenty of  wares and stuffers to grab so a minimum amount of time is spent thinking about what to put where.

 

This shelf has $95 of wares.   And $49 of stuffers.    Most kilns yield $650 to $750.   (I noticed today all shelves have $90 plus dollars ... forum advice at work .. increased prices).  The "planning" is more of a set pattern now days.  

 

I have the mind set that kiln shelves/kiln loads are a  resource.   I've always been about resource management in business.

post-8500-0-88579900-1426611674_thumb.jpg

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@DirtRoads This is great information and an approach that others can replicate in some fashion.  I have seen others post about a kiln load yield/value monetarily, but this is the first that I have read of breaking that total load into per shelf values based upon size/height.  I give you high marks in the resource management department...thanks so much for contributing to this topic!

 

-Paul

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