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Building Camilla - The Idea - August 2011

Building Camilla - The Idea - August 2011

In August 2011, Powdermills Pottery had only Margory the kiln - an 85 cubic foot cross-draught, anagama-type wood kiln. She is an ideal size for firing the fruits of a whole winter's pot-making each spring. However, having received a commission for little pots for the Duchy of Cornwall that needed firing in the early autumn of 2011, I decided that a smaller kiln was also needed, to allow a quicker turn-around time for such commissions.

As the first firing was to hold pots commissioned by the Duchy of Cornwall, and it was payment for these which would just about cover the cost of kiln materials, I decided that the first little kiln should be named Camilla.

The kiln site

The kiln site

I decided to build a kiln 'play area', where fun could be had building temporary kilns in response to whatever's needed, then dismantled, rather than making a more permanent kiln structure. The new site would therefore need a level base on which kilns could be built, and space for storing materials such as kiln bricks, shelves, etc, with fuel supplies nearby.

A scrap of land behind Marjory's kiln shed seemed a good spot to build Camilla, but was rather overgrown, and in need of clearing and levelling.

Preparing the Base

Preparing the Base

First the site was cleared of shrubbery and plant growth by wielding a chainsaw and strimmer. The chosen bit of land was on a slope and very lumpy and bumpy, so the first task was to make a level terrace.

Having made a proud purchase of a new toy - a pick-axe - I set about making a 2 inch-wide level channel on the lower-most side of the slope....

.... I then placed a 3.9m scaffolding board on its edge into the channel, shoring up the downhill side of the board with granite and bricks to make sure it stood firm...

I decided how wide I wanted the terrace to be, then, using the pick-axe which I now loved, dug out the uphill edge of the terrace. Any granite dug out was added to the pile shoring up the scaffolding board...

Using bits of broken kiln bricks that had been saved for this very sort of thing (allowing myself a smug moment while I considered the virtues of not clearing the yard of such stuff), the holes in the marked out terrace were roughly filled in...

'All-in' ballast was then used to fill up the site and raked flat, to form a soft level terrace.

Building the temporary kiln (Camilla)

Building the temporary kiln (Camilla)

I created a hard base by placing concrete blocks onto the gravel terrace, making sure they were level - (marvelling at how that bloke Tommy on Ground Force made it look so easy),

I could then start building a box using the kiln bricks on top of the concrete blocks, which would be the kiln's body. As with all the kilns built at Powdermills, Camilla was to be a cross-draught wood-fuelled kiln.

As the box progressed, I made stoke-holes in the side of the box - one at the front, and one half way along. Camilla would have her fires stoked-up through these holes.

The roof of the kiln was made by placing large kiln shelves across the top. The last 12" at the back of Camilla were left without a lid - this was where the chimney would leave the kiln body.

To protect the concret blocks from the heat inside the kiln when firing, sand was placed inside the kiln body to a depth of about 9"...

At the back of the kiln, a honeycomb wall was built from bits of refractory bricks and kiln shelves. When firing, the flame would pass from the main body of the kiln through this wall, and up into the chimney....

Lastly, the chimney was built up. The first of the metal straps around the kiln box is also seen here (a second will be added towards the top of the kiln box) this gives the structure a little strength, and helps stop the walls being pushed outwards by the pressure of the fire.

To pack Camilla, I will lift off the kiln shelf roof and load her from the top. The kiln shelves will be replaced, covered with ceramic fibre and a thick layer of cob to help with insulation.

I estimate that, if you have all the materials to hand, and nothing else on to distract you, a Camilla kiln can be built in a day.

Firing Camilla

Firing Camilla