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" Woden" - Wood Fired Kiln - The Twenty-first Firing!

This page records the Twenty-first firing of the Woden kiln in November 2017. It is an archive of photographs taken before, during and after the firing.

No alterations were made to the kiln before this firing, except the addition of a kiln shelf construction added to the top of the tunnel from the kiln to the chimney, which worked very well as a pizza oven.

There was a problem with flames getting into the chimney without first taking a tour of the main chamber and maybe external air being sucked into the chimney. These fault will be check before the next firing.

Menu for sections on this Page:-

Making Pots

Loading Pots

Firing Kiln

Unloading Pots


Making Pots - October 2017


Prototype goblets - thrown for Bill's daughter's wedding in 2018.


Sample urns for cremation ashes. The flat round knobbed things are the lids!


Close up of urns

Collared urn

Collared urn, with rope applied decoration - more was then added around the shoulder of the urn

Urns drying

Urns drying out before going in the kiln. They are to be fired in the wood fuelled kiln without first biscuit firing and without any glazes applied so the colours will be due to the effects of the wood ash and the reduction of the iron oxides in the clay, which will darken the colour, in various amounts according to the intensity of the reducing atmosphere in different parts of the kiln.

Loading Pots November 2017

Steve applying battwash to protect the kiln shelves

Steve, earning his NVQ Level 1 in applying battwash to the kiln shelves - which protects them from attack by the ash and enables stuck glazes to be chipped off more easily.

Stve glazing

Steve applying glaze to some of his pots. Failing to achieve NVQ Level 1, because he spilt too much glaze and used too much blue glaze!

Helen loading

Helen loading her sculpture

Urns loaded

Bottom of back of firing chamber, loaded with urns and Birgit's bowls.

The collared urn lids have been placed on top of the urns, with the rim of the urn coated with release wash - 9 parts alumina Hydrate and one part china clay.

Back almost loaded

Back of kiln almost full.

Steve's deathmask book ends

Close up of Steve's deathmask book-ends.

Back loaded

Back of chamber fully loaded, except for a few little fillers, test pieces and Steve's mystery objects.

front loaded

Finished loading the front section of the kiln. Cones positioned. Maybe a bit too tightly packed?!

Bill with first brick of the door

Bill with the first brick of the door.

Pallet breakers

Pallet breakers and sawers. Many thanks to Martin with his chainsaw.

The stock wood fuel is now a mixture - start with Kate's logs overnight; then old shed supporting timbers; then heavy pallet sections; then lighter pallet sections; then roofing batten acquired from a skip by Bill.

Just in case, a couple of propane gas bottles and burners will be on hand to boost the final temperature push, if the team is unwilling to carry on beyond midnight!


Firing Kiln - 25th November 2017

lighting up

Lighting up time! 1700hr

The preheat was started at 15.30hr - ahead of usual time.

A chilly still evening.

log in box

log in box

Kate's logs beginning to burn - each takes about an hour to burn away. Bill slept in the car for each of those hours overnight, getting up to put another log in each firebox.

This image shows the support for the logs, a kiln shelf prop, with a smaller one inside, usually vertical between shelves. Unfortunately one broke and fell out of place, making stoking slightly more difficult and also opening up a gap from the firebox into the slot leading to the chimney - a short cut for the flames, which reduced efficiency.

During this firing we tried hard to burn the pallet wood on its edge, which allows the flames to burn both sides at once and allow air rise between the pieces. If flat they tend to smother what is burning below.


Around about midnight, all's well, after a pint with the landlord. Time for intermittant sleep.

The temperature is kept about 250C for most of the night, drying out the kiln, shelves and pottery.

From 0400hrs to 0800hr it was encouraged to rise to 350C.


Morning has broken!

A very fine day, if a bit chilly - 2C on car thermometer.

The stoking continues, getting a quicker rise up to 800C by 1030hrs.

Steve's offering

While Bill went off to get some more food and stuff from home, Steve was left to tend the fire. He also made one of his "Death Masks" as an offering to the flames.


The digital read-out from the top thermocouple probe at 1130hrs. Well on schedule.

This cheap Chinese piece of kit is well out of calibration - a reading of at least 50C below the actual temperature. But we quote actual reading throughout these archives.


Facing the flames

Steve's offering facing the flames. Unfortunately it subsequently cracked up, because it was heated too quickly. It's spirit passed into the kiln?!


Steve loading

Steve loading

Steve making another offering to the kiln. He claimed that this branch came from the sycamore tree at Tolpuddle, under which the martyrs met.

Steve sometimes gets a bit strange when overheated or undernourished!



A view at 1330hrs into the spyhole in the door, showing the two pyrometric cones. They should bend over when reaching the temperatures required to mature the glazes - 1260 to 1280C.. But this is still only about 1000C.

Bill stoking

Bill stoking.

1700hrs - about 1100C

Steve stoking

Steve looking

Steve stoking and looking, or is he praying?

Steve stoking

Or is he making a fashion statement in his new flame-proof overall (which he managed to burn through!)


Evening falls.

The temperature stabilises (i.e. gets stuck at the same level for hours!) between 1150C and 1180C.


Top of the door

The joint between the brick of the door and the arch had not been made very well and flames poured out of the gaps when the pressure inside the chamber rose - each time new fuel was put in.

There was a mat of ceramic fibre along the join, but perhaps the bricks above were not heavy enough to keep it pushed in place.

Nikki and pizzas

Nikki, attempting achieve NVQ level 1 stoking certificate on her first attempt at wood firing. Doing well.

The tunnel from the kiln to the base of the chimney had been converted into a pizza oven, by building a box of kiln shelves on top of it, with a couple of electric night storage heater bricks to provide a heat sink.

Richard and nikki

Richard and Nikki having a heated discussion about stoking techniques.

pizza cooked

Richard extracting the cooked pizza.

Richard stoking

Richard stoking

Nikki stoking

Nikki stoking

Bill looking

Bill looking at the thermometer again.


The cones, still upright.

Bill stoking

Bill stoking

Richard stoking

Richard demonstrating his ability to put his arm into the fire, or at least that's what it looks like from here.

He may yet get NVQ level 5 stoking certificate, if he can come up with a couple more plausible reasons for the temperture not rising further!


The pizza cooked very well, although the special plates (fired last time) needed oiling a bit more.

digital reading

Gazing hopefully at the digital readout, hope to see 1200C at the top and 1100C at the bottom of the kiln, at which time Nikki could crawl off home, her task acheived.




A surprise visitor was Laurence, who appeared out of the night on one of his walk-abouts from distant St.Ives. He came bearing news and advice.

On his suggestion we opened the main doors of the fireboxes to let more air in and get the fuel to burn - which it did and the temperature rose to 1200C, but then plummeted back down to 1150C.


Laurence dancing the Pallet Fan-dango - beaking pallets to earn a piece of pizza and cake!


Richard stoking

Richard stoking away.



Still gazing hopefully at the temperature. And wondering "why oh why"....


3 oclock


The bottom reading just reached 1100C.

top reading

The top reading ever was 1207C.

Cones at 4am

By 4am even Bill had got bored and with the cones just going over, time was called and the doors opened to crash cool the kiln down to 1100C.

crash cooling

With the door open the large pile of embers at the far end of the firebox still took a while to burn away, even after a bit of poking with a long pole.

That pile was probably not a good thing to have lurking in the kiln, as it reduced the air flow into the kiln at times and was not producing as much heat as fresher fuel, which at such high temperatures should vapourise without first turning to charcoal!

Top of door

The flames at the top of the door died away to a glow.

At 1100C the kiln was clamped up, the fireboxes blocked up. The shelf slid across in front of the bottom of the chimney and the passive damper bricks removed from the base of the chimney.



Unloading Pots - November 2017


Chamber door

Chamber door, ready to dismantle. Note very few black marks - so the flames were not able to escape through the gaps - we tried harder to minimise the gaps when building the door.

Top opened

Top courses of bricks removed to reveal well toasted pottery and a nasty looking accident where a kiln shelf had broken and pots fallen over - had this spread further down the kiln or was it just in that area?


Jo's dragon and leaves - nice and shiny dark surfaces

Top left

Top left of chamber - looking good.

Top middle

The middle collapse - only affected the shelf that broke and the pots below, but not too much damage.

Top fired

Top half unbricked

Front fired

The whole front revealed.

Amazingly well matured, except for the bottom layers.

Higher degree of reduction than usual, the pots are generally darker and the copper glaze has turned from green to red throughout the chamber, rather than just where close to the flames.

Front middle fired

Middle section close up.

Caroline's gourd-like sculptures are looking well finished.

Bill's goblets look great.

The cones are not that bent at the very front of the chamber, but are well over at the hotter side.

half front fired

Half the front removed to reveal the back section.

Back fired

The back section revealed.

Bill's urns are looking really spledid, with some beautiful tones from the ash and flames.

Lidded urns

Bird's eye view of Bill's lidded urns.

All the lids were loose - treated with a wash of Aluminia Hydrate and Chione Clay 9:1.


Bill's urn field!

Steve's mugs

Steve's mugs

Jennie's classes wares

Jennie's classes wares

Sharon's wares

Sharon's wares.

Light oatmeal glaze, picked up ash speckle but not quite as well melted as some previous firings.

Steve's mugs

Steve's mugs.

Fiord Blue glaze, highly fluxed by the ash, so that it runs down the pots very attractively.

Bill's beakers and jugs

Bill's beakers and jugs.

Caroline's sculptures

Caroline's sculptures.

Glazed with a variety of found clays and ashes mixed into glazes.

Birgit's bowls

Birgit's bowls.

Wax resist spots and Shiny White glaze.

Bill's beaker

Bill's trade mark beaker.

Very pleasing toasted unglazed exterior and nice darked brown internally.


Jennie and Nikki sorting and checking the pots.

Deborah's bowls in foreground.

Bill's jug

Bill's jug.

Copper glaze, turned red by the reduction atmosphere.

Bill's Collared urn

Bill's collared urn.

Bill's jugs

Bill's jugs

Bill's Urns

Bill's field of urns.

Bill's assorted

An assortment of Bill's pots.

Peter's tall vase

Peter's tall vase.

Bill's urn

Bill's urn - lower in the kiln with less darkening reduction and shiny ash effect, but still very pleasing.

Bill's collared urn

Bill's collared urn.

From the top of the chamber, with heavy ash looking almost like salted glazed ware.

Bill's goblets

Bill's sample goblets.

Billed collared urns

Bill's lidded collared urns.

Lottie's pots

Lottie's pots.


Mark's vase.


Steve's bulbous vase.

Steve's jugs

Steve's jugs

Jo's dragon

Jo's dragon.

A really well made and decorated piece, which has been enhanced by the firing.

Steve's bowl

Steve happy with his bowl, copying Birgit's wax resist technique (but not so skillfully!)

Report and Conclusions

Back to top of page

A worrying firing at the time, with a struggle to reach and maintain a good high temperature. However the longer firing gave better reduction and shiny ash effects. There were few pots that were under-fired.

The problems with the chimney were mentioned at the top of this page. These may have lead to a reduction in efficiency of the chimney drawing air through the fireboxes. There were more flames than usual coming out of the top of the chimney.

The cones had gone over throughout the top half of the kiln and close to the flame entry positions. Trainee cone setter Nikki needs a bit more practice pushing the cones further into the clay stand, as a couple of them fell over rather than bent.

The wood fuel was a good mix, roofing batten and fence/shed panels together with the usual pallets and Kate's logs.

Everyone was very happy with their outcomes, with very few substandard pieces and some stunning objects.

Steve will be getting delusions from this firing's results and may become commercially active! Please support a struggling artist!

graph of firing

This a graph of the firing temperatures over time.

Note that these are the readings at the top of the chamber, they are out of calibration by about 50C, so 1200 maximum is actually 1250C =- as witnessed by the pyrometric cones bending.

Very slow pre-heat overnight; very quick rise in morning up to 1100C, then a period of "stability" when the temperature stayed between 1130 and 1190C for most of the night!

This was the longest firing ever done -starting very early and finishing very late. 37 hours long. However the starting early just meant the pre-heat was longer, rather than speeding up the whole timescale. The kiln is known as a "fast fire kiln"!

Firing logs

This is a slightly failed attempt at super-imposing the graphs for several firings, to show the trends.

Comments are very welcome - email Bill Crumbleholme

Thanks to :-

Kate V for her felled nicely seasoned logs.

Buildrite and Winterbourne Abbas Pallet suppliers.


The Landlord for support and encouragement.

Pottery Class members and other potters for help filling the kiln and then firing and unloading it, especially Steve, Birgit, Nikki, Sharon, Jennie and Richard. The NVQ certificates are in preparation!