Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 x 2 x 2

Arch construction is easier with two: 2 people; a 2 x 4; and a 2-pound sledge. Here's Doug tapping in a brick for a nice snug fit.

I was frustrated (so what's new?) because the charts in the Olsen book did not include a combination of brick for my span, which was 31". I know that is a weird span, and it ought to be 31 1/2", as brick are 9" long, but remember I had those weird-ass bricks. I had a little flexibility in the span, but the closest width on the chart was 33".That seemed like too much to fudge, as it would create turbulence in the flame, and with it inefficiency and probably a hot spot.

But I used the numbers suggested for the 33" span as a starting point to purchase arch brick, and then stood them in a ring on end to discover what combination of what brick got me closest to 31", without going under.  This worked out quite well, although, as it turned out, once I placed them on the form, I hat to switch out a row of arches for another row of straights, because they were much tighter with gravity pulling them together. 

I do have two "loose teeth;" Possible solutions include custom-cutting (or grinding) a hardbrick; stuffing the gap with a tiny sliver of softbrick, which I would glaze (shino) on the bottom; or..well, I guess those are the only options. I might try both: the sliver of softbrick up front where it will be (relatively) easy to replace if anything goes wrong, and a custom-cut brick in the back. 

I have the week of Labor Day off from the IPTOG, during which I hope to complete construction at long last. My to-do list looks like this:

  1.  Repair 'loose teeth"
  2. Build form to cast door blocks
  3. Mix up hot face castable and strike the blocks
  4. A trip to INFAB, probably in a rented truck, to get the necessary brick for the stack
  5. Mix up and apply insulating castable on top of the arch
  6. Build the stack. 

Wow, it looks more daunting all written out like that; but on the other hand it is an observably finite list, as opposed to the nebulous "all that stuff" label I had been applying to my remainig tasks. 

I should have cast the door blocks first, as waiting for them to dry will push off the first firing by as much as two weeks. Guess I should move them to the top of my list. 

Think good thougths for me, that Maine doesn't get clobbered by Hurricane Earl, and also that this week stays out of the nineties. Brick dust stuck to sweat is itchy. 

Arguing Eggheads

These s & P shakers will be in the first bisque, tentatively scheduled for September 5th, and then in the first soda firing, Sept. 10, unloading the 12th.

Problem Solved!

Since the Great Welder Meltdown that happened Independence Day Weekend, I have been dithering about how to get the welding done. Well: not just dithering. The plumbing; the stack; the arch form; I worked around the problem for as long as I could, and tried to work up my courage to call Augusta Tool Rental. Everyone kept telling me welding was easy, I'd be able to figure it out no problem. Still, I was intimidated, so I put it off and put it off. 

Last week a friend of ours was visiting, an elderly gentleman of Ivy League background. I showed him the progress I had made on the kiln and explained the obstacle: welding the frame. I told him I was thinking of just renting the equipment and figuring it out myself, at which he shook his head: "No, no, my dear. That's for the other folks."

"The other folks, Bob?"
"Yes, the ones who do that type of thing."

There was no use explaining to Bob that I have always endeavored to be one of those other folks, the ones who know how to do things, and anyway I realized that as wrong-headed and snobbish as the comment sounds, he was right in an essential point: there are people for whom 16 two-inch welds of iron bits would be nothing, no more difficult than throwing a board of mugs is for me. I knew welders existed, of course, but that was when the lightbulb went on that it makes no sense to struggle and dither when I could just get it done, in an hour. It's okay to have help.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Arch Nemesis

I so wish I had a camera! The arch form is complete, and it is such aa appealing object, itself.

I had one false start, when I decided I was very very clever and would avoid the tedious assemblage of slats by using a length of flexible hardboard bent over the form. Yeah, don't do that. The board is not THAT flexible, and tacking it down was almost impossible -- it kept pulling nails loose, and the flat sides weren't flat. Oh, for my camera! The result would have been funny instead of murderously frustrating if I had known I could share it.

Anyway the form is complete. Hopefully I will be able to get some shots of it before its duty is done.

Canoeing today, if the rain stops!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Things Stack Up!

Obstacles, obligations, and temperatures in the nineties conspired to make July a bust for kiln-building. No lie, the entire month was inchwise. And our camera went bye-bye, so you'll have to take my word  that it's August now and I am back on track. On the downside, I am bailing on a family vacation (well, half of it) to get there. I feel like a bugturd about it, but I was just so frustrated with everything taking priority: work, family, classes, vet appointments, gallery-sitting, everything.  All important stuff, to be sure, and most of it not optional, but at some point I had to declare that the kiln is important, too; otherwise it just won't happen. (See: Housepainting, three-quarters finished. )

Technically I got back on track yesterday, the very last day of July. I started building the stack finally, and while there is, predictably, some half-assery going on, I made good progress. Is it a bad thing if my tolerance for half-assery rises geometrically as this project wears on? I've reached the damper, for which I need a lintel brick that I don't have (natch), so I am going to build the arch form today, instead, and head to INFAB tomorrow. I need some more arch brick anyway. 

I was surprised to discover that INFAB doesn't sell skewbacks, so my choices are 3: have them shipped from Sheffield, MA (although, surely, now that I think on it, there must be another supplier of refractories closer than that: I can't believe that no one in the entire Boston metro needs kiln brick); make them out of castable (cheap and doable, but one more step in a project with too many steps already); or have INFAB cut them out of straights. So I guess I've got some phone calls to make, about pricing. I only need about 8, so how much can it be? 

Anyway. It looks cool and dry today, a perfect day to build an arch form. Feeling only slightly guilty, I will wave my family goodbye and get moving!