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Member Since 08 Sep 2012
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#126118 Filling The Kiln With Tiles

Posted by Benzine on 03 May 2017 - 08:57 AM

Three weeks should be more than enough, unless the tiles are really big, or you live in a very humid climate.  


More specifics will help others suggest possible solutions.


How big are the tiles?


You are firing to 1080, I'm guessing that is Celsius?


What kind of kiln and kiln controller are you using?


Are you doing any type of Candling?


How exactly are you arranging the tiles?


For my classroom kiln, I do a relatively slow firing, to make sure those student projects (Of questionable construction) survive.  My program is 50 degrees F until 200 F.  Hold for four hours.  Then up to 900 F and hold for an hour.  Finally up to Cone 04.  With this program, I've had very few issues.  


I've never made tiles (Other than glaze test tiles), but I've fired plenty of slab constructed items, boxes, relief sculptures, etc.  I have had issues with some of them cracking or exploding, which I have solved by firing boxes upside down, or on stilts.  I've fired really large slabs on coils to avoid stress build up during expansion and contraction.  Some use a layer of sand for the same reason.


Best of luck!

#124926 Firing Electric Kiln On Its Side

Posted by Benzine on 06 April 2017 - 08:28 AM

Since you cannot fire the kiln on its side, find a way to support the sculpture while it is upright.  You could make a stand out of the same clay body.  A flat slab the same length and width as the sculpture, with support wedges on the back, so the sculpture sits at a slight angle.  That way it would fit, but not have the full weight of the sculpture pushing on itself.  


You could also use crumpled newspaper stuff in the back.  This would help transport the ware into the kiln, but obviously the supports would be gone, once the paper burned out.


You can lean things against the kiln walls, but it's not ideal.  Personally, I'd go with my first suggestion.  A custom support would work best.  I've done it for myself and my students on a number of occasions.  

#124880 Qotw: Is It Craft Or Is It Art

Posted by Benzine on 05 April 2017 - 04:34 PM

I live in a house that is nearly one hundred years old.  It's an Arts and Crafts style home, coincidentally.  


I have done some work and repairs to it, building decorative columns, to match the rest of the house.  So I've done some masonry work, some wood work, etc.  Doing all of that has made me respect the tradespeople, who do those things professionally.  There is the same level of skill in doing those things, as anything that I've done as an "Artist".


Also Marcia, that vase is excellent!

#123498 Qotw: How, When Or Why Did You Start With Working In Clay?

Posted by Benzine on 09 March 2017 - 10:31 PM

I was first intrigued by clay, when I was a child, and watched my Dad work on a sculpture.  I liked the smooth look it had, and the way it could be molded.  Fast forward to High School, where we got to do a quick coil-building lesson.  I enjoyed the process, though we didn't get to keep our finished project as my High School, didn't even had a kiln.  (It had a kick wheel that sat outside the Art Room, and was so weathered, that one kick wouldn't even get you a full rotation...)  I got to touch clay again Freshmen year in College, with a Three-Dimensional Concepts class.  Once again, we didn't get to fire and keep the projects we made... Though I did actually smuggle mine out with  me, and fired it years later...  I took a Sculpture class, thinking I'd get to do more clay work.  I enjoyed the class overall, but sadly, no clay.  I finally took a Ceramics class my Senior year of College.  I had a great instructor, who was an adjunct, and also taught at a local public school.  The class went from being something to pad my teaching repertoire, to an area of Art that I continue to thoroughly enjoy and focus on.

#123085 A Couple Of Odd Things That Occured In My Bisque Firing

Posted by Benzine on 01 March 2017 - 10:02 PM



I have had the same clay body turn out different colors, depending on its shape, how I stacked everything, etc.  I am not an expert, but I believe this is due to gases coming off the clay body.  It should not affect anything during the glaze firing.


In regards to the phantom chip, I would guess that the chip was started, before loading and just not visible.  Then when it was fired stress built up, and was released at that point, launching the chip towards the inside.


Ceramics is awesome.  So much science going on.  And if none of that can explain it, just blame the Kiln Gods...

#122607 S-Crack

Posted by Benzine on 20 February 2017 - 07:20 PM

If it was mine, I'd probably just remake it.  If it was something large or elaborate, that was just decorative, I might keep it.  Otherwise, try, try again.


I will attempt to mend student projects, with nearly any defect.  Not only does it make me better at repairing wares, but students don't have the time, nor skill level to remake a project.  And to them, they have so much time, pride and effort into making that one piece, in the beginning, telling them to remake it is pretty devastating.  

For any type of crack, I do tell them, that they are not functional.  Eventually, the crack will get worse and fail.

#122533 Does Anyone Use Continental Clay As A Supplier?

Posted by Benzine on 19 February 2017 - 10:43 PM

Thanks for the response Roberta.  


I have also tried the Buff Stoneware.  The second district I taught at, fired mid-range, and used that.  So I kept with that same body.  It threw well, and I don't think there were any glaze issues.  I say that, because I know more now, than I did then.  I don't recall there being any big problems.  I did use clear with it, and don't recall issues, but it could be that I didn't notice.  


I will say, I made a couple of mugs for my brother, with that clay body.  One of the handles broke a few years later just from handling.  I do wonder, if it was a defect from building/ drying/ firing that didn't fully fail until years later.  Or if it is an issue with the clay not being properly vitrified at Cone 6?


I wonder if their representatives would be able to give me a more spot on firing temp for the specific bodies?  They also don't have specifications, like some suppliers do (Shrinkage, absorption, etc.)  I just looked at a mid-range white, that lists firing range from 4-7.  But then it says that it has be successfully fired to Cone 11!

#122504 Raku Proposal For School

Posted by Benzine on 19 February 2017 - 10:41 AM

I do a yearly Raku firing with my Art Club students.  It's something to look forward to, at the end of our busy Fall season (Homecoming button design/ production and a Blood Drive we sponsor).  


I built my own kiln several years ago, with a trash can and ceramic fiber blanket.  I use a simple weed burner for mine, as that's all it really takes to get it to temperature.  

We fire outside the school, on a large concrete patio area.  I go over safety procedures repeatedly.  The LP tank is as far away as the torch hose allows.  The students unloading and tending to the reduction bins are wearing welding gloves and safety glasses.


Someone on these forums posted a method for building your own Raku tongs a few years ago.  I had already purchased mine, when I came across the instructions, or I may have tried to build my own.

Not to say mine don't work well, but the hinge bolt snapped on both of them, with only moderate use.  One of the times, I was going to grab something out of the kiln!  Luckily I had a spare set.  So I've replaced both bolts, with something a bit more dependable.


I love the Raku process, and the students really enjoy it as well.  My school hosted our Conference Art Show a couple years ago, and I had a Raku demonstration for an activity.  My students and I made little vases with the initials for the other schools stamped on them.  So each school had something to take home with them.  

The other instructors and students loved it.  


The only downside to Raku, it's the gateway process to other alternative firings.  There should be a support group...

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#122425 How Much Are You Willing To Pay For A Mug?

Posted by Benzine on 17 February 2017 - 09:32 AM

I would pay up to $50 for a mug I really liked.


I know there are plenty of people out there, who would be shocked at a mug costing that much, but I can appreciate what goes into making it.  So if I liked the size and style, I would have no problem paying out for it.

#120586 Mixing Dry Glaze With Clay Bodies

Posted by Benzine on 14 January 2017 - 08:37 PM

I have done that in my own classroom, by accident...


We often reclaimed/ recycled clay by taking dryer scraps, then hydrating them to a thick slurry.  We'd then use bone dry powder to work into that slurry to dry and thicken it.  (Note:  I don't do this anymore, because it was a huge mess, and a hazard due to all the dust it created).


Anyway, one of my student helpers, was told to grab a new bag of said clay powder.  We didn't find out until a firing, that they grabbed a bag of glaze powder instead.  The projects made with it, which was only a couple, melted quite a bit.  This was just during bisque, so only about Cone 04/ 05.  

As I recall, they didn't really stick to the shelves.  I just had a couple students, who lost a project, and gained my deepest apologies...

#119238 Check My Work

Posted by Benzine on 27 December 2016 - 11:13 AM

That BBC video was excellent, thanks for posting it!


They sure got that glass to look a whole lot like traditional glaze.  I like the addition of the tree sap.  It seems like their equivalent of liquid gum.

#119011 Wheel Speed When Trimming

Posted by Benzine on 23 December 2016 - 11:09 AM

It almost done a bit like mediation for me-I get in the groove.



I can relate to that.  I find trimming to be quite calming.  The sound of the thin layers of clay being removed is like white noise...



My approach to trimming is to take off a lot of clay very quickly... with the wheel rotating slowly.  Very sharp tools... kept sharp.  Instead of many multiple revolutions to get the clay off....... fewer revolutions.  Decisive cuts.






Coincidentally, I just watched a video of Japanese woodworkers yesterday.  It talked about how they begin every day sharpening their tools.  Doing so definitely makes their work a lot easier, especially considering all they use is no electric hand tools.

#118015 Clay Weight To Fired Object Ration?

Posted by Benzine on 07 December 2016 - 09:36 AM

Probably about right.  I've weighed some of the mugs I've made, just to compare pre to post firing.  My 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. mugs weight right around a pound after firing.


I guess that would make sense.  Water is heavy.  I guess that's one reason why ceramic artist order glaze as dry materials.  Why pay for shipping on a material that comes cheap out of the tap?

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#118014 Amaco Underglazes And Crawling Issue

Posted by Benzine on 07 December 2016 - 09:32 AM

I have been using Amaco underglazes in my classroom for years.  I have only had a couple issues with them.


One is an issue with application.  A student was trying to do drips with underglaze.  They applied waaaaay too much, and it cracked a bit, as it dried/ shrank.


The other issue is still somewhat of a mystery.  A student applied underglaze at the greenware stage (This is usually when I have students apply it).  After it was bisqued, some of the underglaze flaked off.  Before glaze firing, the student reapplied the underglaze.  It flaked off again, taking the clear coating with it.  We even tried again, to no avail.  Nothing would stick to those spots.  Posters here suggested that something got on the ware in those spots and continued to act as a resist.  This is definitely possible, and really the only thing that makes sense.  I even had a similar thing happen to a few jars I had made.  I don't remember having anything on my hands, when I went to underglaze, but it is possible.  I do remain cautious, when underglazing/ glazing ever since.


I would recommend thinning your underglaze or using less coats.  I treat them like watercolor in some cases.  Build thin translucent layers.


Best of luck!

#117542 Adding Low-Fire Liner To Glazed Stoneware Vessel?

Posted by Benzine on 30 November 2016 - 09:30 AM


The glaze has to fit the clay - another lesson in not rushing, how many do I need?


When does time end?


In my experience working with clay, and Art in general, the thought of "Yeah, I should have known better..." comes up often.