To the original poster:
I, too, have been always unhappy with my handles, and they have always had some of the same issues as you - too thin at the top, too much smushing and working.
I've spent the past few days absolutely immersing myself in handles. Obsessing about it, really. Staring, studying, analyzing photos of handles I love. Watching gobs of videos. Reading so many words of advice.
And practicing. I only pulled maybe 50 handles in the past two days, but the ones near the end, the ones I just attached - they're the best handles I've ever made, in about seven years of trying. They're certainly nowhere near where they need to be - but they're the first I've ever made that don't make me angry!
It really can be done. And I really do think it's not just about practicing. Analyzing pots as I drifted off to sleep, dreaming about that perfect handle, visualizing it before I headed to the workshop ... All of it is working. It's working!
Oh my, all the help I received here in the planning, purchasing, moving, building, firing of this thing! Am I ever thankful for this place.
Thought I'd share just a bit here. Details are on my blathering blog.
This is Big Anthony. I think his chimney is too big. But he works just fine.
I'm single-firing, and the process took about 21 hours, freezing cold to Cone Six.
He stalled at about 1950°F, and I fired the rest of the way with the addition of wood - which I'd planned to do, anyhow, for fun. Just didn't realize I'd have to do it.
Learning is a process, right? I completely screwed up the reduction I was hoping for; I only had four soda ports, located between the firebox and the shelves, and didn't get all of my soda introduced (near the end, the metal wand from the garden sprayer shot out of the sprayer, laying squarely in the firebox); and I accidentally crash-cooled it. But I still got some great teaching results, considering this was the first time I'd ever fired any non-electric kiln beyond a couple test propane/soda kilns.
I learned a lot - ohmyword, so much - from this firing. So much about firing this kiln, and firing kilns in general, about slips and glazes, placement of pots in the kiln, what my brain can and cannot compute on no sleep ...
In any event, it worked! I'm forever thankful for all the help I received here. It worked!
This one has [Alberta Slip Clay + water, stick-blended into a slip] brushed on while still on the wheel. Clear Liner Glaze (from Mastering Cone 6 Glazes) liner, poured in at bone dry.
(Wait. This is the part where I defend myself by stating I really do know how to take proper photos of pottery. And I promise to prove it - at a later date.)
And this one was dipped into the same slip (so it's much thicker) when bone dry, with Bone glaze (also from MCSG) poured in at bone dry. This one has that tiny bit of soda on the right - I'd love to see how this slip looks thick like this but with lots of soda.
Oh hell, I don't know which slip this is. It's out in the shed, in my notes. But it did do something! Only where thin, though. Also brushed on when the cylinder was still wet.
And this one was just dry, but with the liner glaze.
If you were next to a port, you got hit. Otherwise ... Not so much.
I'm not too sure on the actual cone I reached in this firing, because one set was too close to the flame and the other was too high to bend. But it did seem more even than the first. I still have no idear what I'm doing with regards to reducing, so no clue on whether that was semi-even or not ...
Because I'm fairly insane, what I took away from this firing is: I need a different kiln. I want no part of this updraft system. I was a crossdraft, damn it! A want a single firebox! Big, so I can throw in lots of wood! And I want it now!
So I spent the next two months obsessing over such an animal. Then last month I brought one home. I'm hoping to move into its permanent home tomorrow ...
Oh! I feel so much better - as though I've actually learned a bit in the past few months of kiln-construction-information-cramming. Because my reaction to your suggestion, Mart, was, "But don't I need a bag wall to even out temp? If I were the flame in your drawing, I would just come in, turn left, and go straight out the flue - who needs to go all the way to the top?" and "I want to put wood / charcoal in this thing - I can't have the burners coming out holes in the bottom, getting all clogged up. Also, I'm going to have a hard enough time securing the things horizontally sans welder; I have no idea how I'd stand them upright."
I'm glad to see the bag wall only need be one brick high. And here I was going to go 13" high.
Just allow plenty of room around and combustable roofing and use metal falshing as you stack will be hot.-You can use hard or soft brick up to the roof -then hard brick in the weather or a stainless steel salvage pipe??
Is there a magic height at which I can switch to stainless steel pipe? (As I'm hoping it's less expensive than Canadian-price brick.)