Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Paris day 1

So I am feeding the addiction to the online world even on my holidays. This is a French keyboard, and of course the French have to be different and have to have some of the keys in slightly diffreent places. Please excuse any stray wierd letters that may creep in.

Today we started from the base near the Place Gambetta and went into the centre of town to the Sainte Chapelle chapel, advertised as a rather fine bit of Gothic architecture in the centre of town, and surrounded by the buildings which replaced the halls in which Julian the Apostate once ruled. Other parts of the itinerary included the St. Severin, St. Julien, Museum of the Middle Ages and more.

I will have time to write more some other day, with photos. Kiddy bedtime dictates I now shut down.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cephalothorax agogo!

While making the kiln, I took some photos of the three little visitors who had come to watch me build my kiln. I have never seen any these little guys in life before (I have seen many dead ones) so this was quite exciting.

Wood kiln II

The taking apart and rebuilding went to plan. I now had a kiln proportioned correctly on the length and width axis. The height axis was causing me problems, as using the two different types of brick made it very difficult to ensure that I had the correct ratio of firebox to chamber. Even so, at some point in the building I decided against the side opening for loading and unloading of the kiln for a number of reasons. The main reason was the odd proportions of the firebricks I am using, meaning that I had to lay two courses for each one in the plan to make the overall ratios of length to width to height fit. To avoid brining in weaknesses to the structure, I decided against exact doubling up of the bricks keeping the half-step building style going. The photos show the mock-up from the first day's efforts - to give an idea of the problem (four "half" bricks needed in the alternating layers).

I decided to do away with the side hole and make all the packing and unpacking from the top, which I would seal over with clay before the firing starts. Seeing as I had a number of firebricks left over I also increased the height of the chamber by one or two rows. Other than this, the kiln is built on the basic plan as given at sidestoke.

In this image the proportions are visible. I have replaced the normal bricks with firebricks for the grate to give a bit more room for the stoking process. I also like the idea of the sideways bricks in course 3. They should give a nice amount of air to the firebox - so it is not all bad that I did not have firebricks for the whole kiln.

My proportions are:
ashpit and firebox two courses high: 16cm each.
chamber is 9 courses high: 36cm

The chamber to firebox to ash-pit ratio in my kiln is therefore 9:4:4
The original plans call for a ratio of: 4:2:2

I am wondering whether this will make a difference or whether I should move a course down below the kiln floor, to make for a bigger firebox and smaller chamber.

My chimney is also a few courses shorter than the plan. If people think that I should lengthen it (with a metal tube or something) I will do so. It is meant to be 8 courses (16 of the half bricks) and it is only 6 (12 half bricks).

Finally, I have this back view of the finished kiln.

Feel free to make comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Woodkiln I

I have written in the past about my attempts to fire home made crude pots in the garden of my mother's house in Paloumba. The time has come to finally make the woodkiln that I have been investigating and planning for the past seven or so years. I have signed up to the woodkiln list on yahoo and I have bought a few books on the subject. The plan is to follow as much as possible the plans for the simple kiln on the Rosser site ( with modifications to take into account the fact that the bricks I have are not standard western house bricks (6:3:2) and are not all the same size. The other problem that I have is that not all the bricks I have are likely to stand up to any sort of thermal shock. The plan is to put these non-special bricks in the ashpit and the firebox, the reasoning being that the real heat will follow the airflow into the chamber and out of the chimney. The bricks I have are either standard fine-ware building bricks which are 18 x 8 x 6 and will probably collapse spectacularly when the fire is kindled and some proper firebricks which are 22 x 11 x 4 - a ratio of (6:3:1.09).

The plan was to modify the plan on the Rosser site, to take into account the two different brick sizes.

On the first day, I made a mock-up of the kiln proper - layers 6-14 out of firebricks, repeating layers 8, 9 and 10 to take into account the shorter brick height. This went very satisfactorily indeed and was a very big boost to morale in the planning process. One thing that came to light was the need for leveling the ground a little before starting the next day. Everything else looked good.

The next day we went shopping with a friend living in the village called Kalinikos who knows about bricks. Going down to the river which separates
Arcadia from Elis we bought a hundred of the standard bricks despite the protestations of the seller that they were wholly unsuitable for use in making an oven.

With the bricks in the back of the Panda, we returned home and put them in the garden ready for today's building effort.

Today, day three:

I cleared an area about the right size with the pick - to get all the grass and other plants up, then laid down a layer of the normal brick down to be my base. This layer was 10 brick widths long - to correspond to the 9 brickwidths of the firebrick which would be the length of the finished kiln. I did not take into consideration that 10 lengths of the short brick is shorter than 9 lengths of the firebrick. I then went on happily building row on row of the normal brick to make up the ashpit and firebox. I used the firebrick for the firebars just to keep some idea of the size of the firebrick superstructure in mind.

When the time came to put into place the first of the firebrick layers, the kiln floor - level 7 in the plan, I noticed the first major flaw in my work. I say major, because I don't consider the lack of horizontality in the brick courses to be such a large problem. As I was counting out the bricks to make my kiln floor, I got closer and closer to the edge, but there seemed to be no way to complete the placing of the bricks in the space I had set out. I had set out too few bricks in the lower courses and I was one half brick short of the planned kiln length.

Now, the plan is to take apart the front edge of the kiln, then flatten the ground in front of the kiln and relay bricks to allow the kiln to be made to the size in the original plan. This, for tomorrow, then.