Friday, February 4, 2011

Going Ghetto: Firing Cone 10 Reduction in an Electric/Gas Hybrid Kiln

This week I've been scrambling to get the month's orders finished in my shop so that my family can get down to Florida for  some much needed kayaking, fishing and general loafing around on sand.  My oldest boy, Jack, is already 3 and he's never spent an hour out of the mountains--the poor kid.  So, while working around the clock these last few days, I decided to make a little video documenting the firing of what I call my "Ghetto Kiln," an electric kiln modified into a gas/electric reduction kiln.  

Here's the Back Story
carbon trap shinos fired in ghetto kiln
When I had first bought my shop 10 or so years ago, I was making my living mostly selling a mid-range production line of marbled earthenware. Though that work sold very well, I saw the establishment of a retail shop as an opportunity to jump beyond the rigid "production line approach" to pot making.  I wanted to return more to exploring new ways of creating and firing clay.  I fired mostly wood back in my college days and definitely longed to get back to that process.  Unfortunately, the acquisition of my shop and a new 30 year home mortgage put any ambitious kiln building projects WAY on the back burner.  Right around that time, I read about Nils Lou's early tinkering with electric reduction in his Art of Firing, and decided to give that a whirl.  For his electric reduction trials, Nils was using ITC refractory coatings to protect the elements in little test kilns and then he would introduce a tiny buzz burner through a side hole in order to reduce the oxygen in the chamber.  I decided to scale that same idea to larger kilns.   But in my mind, this wacky electric reduction stuff was only a provisional situation that would buy me some time until I could build some "real" kilns out in my yard. 
carbon trap shinos fired in ghetto kiln
And that would have been true.........if the firings hadn't been so good.  And reliable.  And CHEAP!  Ten years later I am finally focusing on building that big 'ol ground hog kiln I've always wanted.  I can't wait to be off the grid and have more of the communal aspects that are part of firing with wood. But I'm still hanging on to that versatile little hybrid of mine.  It's just been too great of a kiln to give up.  If you're interested in a more technical conversation about this process, feel free to drop me a line.

I've tagged on a short clip here that was part of a documentary about one of my fellow "Ghetto Kiln Voyagers," the great Beatrice Wood.  She fired low fire lusters and got her reduction by inserting pieces of wood through the spy hole.


  1. hey nick, cool vid.... that is a greatl idea.. I only have gas but it seems quite an economical way of getting a reduction firing...

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  3. hi
    im hooked on the idea, but theres no vid! on the hybrid kiln