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Member Since 04 Oct 2011
Offline Last Active Yesterday, 09:56 PM

#113285 Just How Old Is Too Old For A Kiln?

Posted by neilestrick on 16 September 2016 - 10:21 AM

There is no age limit. Kiln bricks can sit for a hundred years and still be good as new as long as they have stayed dry. If the bricks look good and aren't turning yellow or dark- which happens when they've been fired a bunch- then they're good. The wiring can get brittle over time, but that's cheap to replace. The contacts on the sitter itself can also corrode, but you can always pull it apart and clean it up. I've worked on kilns that have been fired weekly for 40+ years that are still good.

#113142 Sponge Holder Pricing

Posted by neilestrick on 14 September 2016 - 03:09 PM

$8 is way too low for something that has to be cut and smoothed. You should go at least $12.

#113128 Sponge Holder Pricing

Posted by neilestrick on 14 September 2016 - 12:47 PM

There is a sweet spot in pricing where quantity of sales decrease but profits do not. The goal is to find the point at which you're making the same money but working less. One of my friends found that he could raise his prices 30% and still make the same average profit at shows, selling fewer pots. He was super happy because he is technically retired and just making pots to keep busy an make a little extra money.


I had no idea this thread would take on this much life, but here we are on page 2. Lots of great info! Thanks, all. For now I think I'll stay at $17. Maybe next Spring I'll try $18 if it seems like people are in the spending mood. This year has definitely been better than last year, so hopefully the trend will continue.

#113032 Sponge Holder Pricing

Posted by neilestrick on 13 September 2016 - 04:48 PM

The benefits of a sponge holder over a little flat dish are that the sponge is held vertically, and up from the bottom of the pot. This way it isn't sitting in a puddle, and it can dry out. This helps to prevent bacteria growth and keeps the sponge from getting funky so quickly. IMHO, it is one of the craftiest little objects a potter can make, and I don't necessarily mean 'crafty' in a good way. There's just not a lot you can do with them to make them exciting. I feel like a sold a little bit of my soul when I started making them, but so many people asked for them that I finally had to cave in. This past weekend I sold 18 of them at $17 a pop- that's $306 at a little local show with a $130 booth fee. It's a measurable percentage of the profits from the show. So I just suck it up and make 20 a week. I've got it down to 5 minutes total contact time with each piece from start to finish, so the hourly rate is really good. Folks like that they can get a matching soap pump and olive oil bottle, too. Oil bottles take a little longer, maybe a minute or two more, but I charge twice as much for them, $36. The hourly rate on those is probably the best of any item I make. They take a lot less time than a mug, and I can sell them for more. The public just doesn't get what it actually takes to make each piece.

#112968 Seeking More Technical Understanding Of Firing To A Cone

Posted by neilestrick on 12 September 2016 - 09:13 PM

If you've got a little baby test kiln, it wouldn't cost much to put it on hold at cone 1 for a week with a cone pack and some cone 6 glazes in it and see what happens.

#112948 Orton 4.0 Controller Read Out

Posted by neilestrick on 12 September 2016 - 03:05 PM

It's done. If it won't reset then it's fried. Not worth repairing, either. You'll spend $150 minimum on shipping and labor. Get a Genesis to replace it!

#112945 Seeking More Technical Understanding Of Firing To A Cone

Posted by neilestrick on 12 September 2016 - 02:51 PM

In my experience, cones and heat work do matter when it comes to glazes, but only once you get the melting started. I have done a few tests with firing 2 cones low and holding to achieve the desired cone (cone 4 with a hold to get to 6, cone 6 with a hold to get to 8). Several of my glazes did not melt much at all, several looked a bit underfired, and several looked the same. Those that looked fine were the ones that I know have a wider firing range than the others. I know this from the times my kiln has put up and error code and shut down early. I know those that were not melted have a much narrower firing range for the same reason. In general, my glazes that are higher in frits tend to be fine when holding to achieve cone, whereas those with little to no frit need to hit a higher temperature before the hold time has an affect. So yes, heat work matters, but only once the glaze is melting.


It would be interesting to do a really, really long hold to see if the glazes would eventually melt due to heat work. I once helped with an anagama firing where we held at 1850F for 5 days, just burning wood to build up ash. At the end of 5 days cone 5 went down, still at 1850F. It would have been interesting to have some mid range glazes in there to see if they would melt.

#112941 Throwing On Bats. To Cut Or To Not Cut?

Posted by neilestrick on 12 September 2016 - 02:36 PM

If the bat is absorbent enough, you don't need to wire it. If it's not absorbent, do wire it. Personally, I wire with every bat other than plaster, because even with wood/medex bats I will get cracking due to the high shrinkage rate of porcelain. With plastic and other non-absorbent bats you need to wire it right after throwing, and again as it approaches leather hard.

#112788 Adding A 2Nd Medium To Booth

Posted by neilestrick on 08 September 2016 - 02:08 PM

I'm always leery of people who describe themselves as an 'artist', because more often than not it means they dabble in a lot of different types of art, but aren't a master of any. This is how the public will view a booth with two different mediums for sale. It dilutes the quality of each. Folks who excel at a particular type of art general describe themselves as such, such as a 'potter' or 'painter' or 'fiber artist' or 'graphic designer', or something that defines the specific type of art that they do. Also, a lot of juried shows just won't want want to deal with two mediums. If you could somehow work out the marketing as 'handmade items for the home', rather than 'pottery' and 'wood', it may be more successful, but you would have to really work it well. It would also help if there are a number of items that incorporate both wood and clay.

#112714 Convert From A Sitter.

Posted by neilestrick on 07 September 2016 - 09:26 AM

Ho do you plan to mount the controller and protect it from the heat? If I were you, I would build an external control box that you can just plug the kiln into. Much less wiring, much less work, better for the electronics. 8ga thermocouples in tubes is a great way to go.

#112663 Kiln Elements Sagging, Is This An Acceptable Fix?

Posted by neilestrick on 06 September 2016 - 04:49 PM

Just let them lay on the floor. If you can, pin them to the floor with a U shaped element pin. Just don't let them touch the bottle shelf. Raise the bottom shelf a bit if needed. When they are worn out and need replacing, replace the bricks, too.

#112396 Older Kiln Not Reaching Temp

Posted by neilestrick on 01 September 2016 - 02:11 PM

Does the sitter have a backup timer? If so, was it set long enough for the firing to complete? That timer does not control how long a firing takes, it just shuts the kiln off when it gets to zero. You'll have to set it high and figure out how long a firing actually takes, then set the timer to about 1/2 hour longer than the expected time on subsequent firings. If there's not a timer, you'll need to put it on high and see if all the elements glow after a few minutes.

#112376 Where Can I Find Soda Glass?

Posted by neilestrick on 01 September 2016 - 09:52 AM

If you can't find someone who supplies premixed powdered glass, you can probably find a frit that will work.

#112330 In A Rut?

Posted by neilestrick on 31 August 2016 - 03:07 PM

Start looking at pictures of pots. That's what always gets me jazzed up about making again.

#112314 Clear Glaze Forms Bubbles At Edges & Rims

Posted by neilestrick on 31 August 2016 - 09:27 AM

If another clear does the same thing, then we can probably assume that it's your colored slip/underglaze that is the issue. Chances are there is too much colorant in the mix.