Monday, January 30, 2006

A Fresh Start

Every couple of months the pad of clay [to which I stick wooden bats on the wheel] dries out and/or gets uneven:the last one had a good run for its money,but finally gave out.A fresh pad- full of promise and potential,its significance somewhat like Leonidas combing his hair in the poem they made us learn at school.It's been a while since I sat down to some protracted throwing:as it happens,I have no clay at the moment [stoneware promised this week] and we're in the middle of a powercut.Still. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006


One of the nicer pieces from the salt-kiln:a tea-bowl by ex-apprentice Goldie,currently living in Jerusalem. Posted by Picasa

2 Tests

More from the salt:large slab is Jack Doherty's home-made castable recipe from Ayelet and Ezer,who are waiting to build a kiln;strip on right is a mix of equal parts of stoneware clay,alumina and grog.Jack's mix looks unaffected by the salt,the other test lightly glazed.That's the mix I planned to use for the lid of my little cast kiln...hope it'll stand up in the firing... Posted by Picasa

2 Buds

Maybe I'll grow to like these.They almost worked.The blue slip (standard 50/50 ball-clay china clay with just a dash of cobalt) works well when not thick.But I already knew that,supposedly. Posted by Picasa

Another classic in the annals of how kilns give you the slip.Tuesday's salt firing went suspiciously well- 12 hours from starting-to-load to close-down after crash-cooling.Pots in the front looked well-fired and salted by the end of the firing,although cone 10 was only just bending ,having spent 20mins or so after the salt to oxidise and raise the temp,while last (good) firing flattened 10.Rings were hard to extract,being well stuck down- initially we thought because of vaporised salt,then because of nearby melted cone 07- but looked good anyway;turns out that a small salt-filled pot had cracked,spilling salt over the shelf,sticking the rings- and,incidentally,making them look so good!On this (false) basis we stopped salting at 8kg (instead of 10),congratulating ourselves that the kiln was finally getting a proper coat of salt and requiring less to be thrown in,like the books say.So the top of the kiln was a bit cool (as I had thought during the firing),and the salt a bit thin.2 more kilos of salt and firing 20 degrees higher would have made all the difference.This dish came out niceley (despite some salt-drip on one corner- it sat in the flue under the bottom shelf.We used an improved wadding mix to support pots- last batch tended to take lumps out of bases when removed.This batch- I think 70 alumina 30 china clay-more or less what I use for batt-wash- seemed to work fine. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

I find it a constant and endearing feature of many power tools that,just as they are loosing their new-tool shine and stickers,their little (usually) plastic safety devices start to fall off.This happened this morning as I was effortlessly slicing soft brick for the second half of the kiln-mold using my excellent chop-saw:a veritable shower of nuts,washers and plastic guards.You can almost hear the tool sigh with relief to be rid of all these well-meaning encumbrances.It also happens with flame-failure devices and electronic lighters on kiln-burners.This particular instance of tool liberation yielded a promising bit of metal which,having completed the casting (and having reduced the quantity of bought castable from 3 to 2 sacks by assiduous use of fatter sliced brick and Archimedes' wonderful Principle),seemed to want to get together with a broken but beloved table-tennis bat handle and some brass wire to reincarnate as a knife for wheel-work,one of the potter's more intimate tools,and totally lacking in safety features.My new porcelain delivery is about to arrive-bye! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Reciprocating saw

Also known as a sabre saw.Also known (by Americans) generically as a Sawzall.A wonderful,versatile,rather aggressive tool whose uses I am still discovering:it's like a jigsaw on performance-enhancing drugs.Note that I blanked out the name- no-one gets free publicity on this blog![Not true] Posted by Picasa

Braced and trussed

Part 2 of the kiln,ready to cast tomorrow Posted by Picasa

Half a Kiln

Better,in some sense,than no kiln at all.Small hole is for thermocouple,bottom for burner.The burner port is cunningly angled so the flame runs around the wall,in theory.Is it too high,I wonder;I should cut a lower hole in the other side,just in case. Posted by Picasa


As I suspected,Googling "interesto-synchronicity",the title of a recent blog,reveals this as the only use of the term on the entire web.Hurrah for neology,and a big up to my fairy blogmother

Out of Line

I haven't really been following the "whale up the Thames" story [I saw parts of it while rushing by during the casting of the kiln on Friday afternoon],and heard with distress this morning that the whale is no more.I may be way out of line,and feel free to be outraged,but isn't this sad episode another example of Nanny-Stateism rampant? It seems to me that the whale was,as much as anything else,s/cared to death by the hordes of well-meaning boats and people who seemed to think that they had a better idea than the whale of what to do.Placed aside the ban on conkers in schools,it paints a dire picture of the current state of play.


The beginning of what looks like a busy week.On Friday afternoon I finally decided to start casting the kiln,despite lack of time before Shabat and pouring rain.Sometimes the time just seems right.Having previously lashed and lined the wooden mold,and inserted cardboard tubes at strategic points for a burner port,thermocouple and spy-hole/salt port,the actual mixing and casting didn't take more than an hour or so- I lined the outside with slices of soft [insulating] brick as I went up to save casting material,and,gratifyingly,managed to reach the top of the mold with 3 sacks [75kg] of castable- gratifying since I only bought 6 sacks,so can finish the 2nd half [maybe later this afternoon].The bill for castable refractory mixture came to a tad under 1000 shekels,which,apart from a burner,should be the only actual expense,the rest or the kiln being constructed from scrap materials.I have made up a batch of what I hope is home-made castable,from which I plan to throw a domed lid/chimney on the wheel,and maybe also bag-walls and shelves.If this all works out,the whole kiln could be made from home-made castable,further reducing the price.A couple of buckets of bio-diesel and we could be looking at almost-free firing.Sydney is under the weather,so no salt firing today [prob. Tuesday],and we are hoping to welcome #1 son Benjamin back from a year in Santa Cruz on Wednesday.Also fired the bisc on Friday- haven't unloaded it yet,but it looks fine.Getting the half-kiln out of its mold today was tricky- I'll try to post a picture for you to puzzle over.My new reciprocating saw is proving an invaluable tool,slicing through wood,metal and castable with gay abandon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

8 brushes & a slip-trailer

That's it for today- off to warm up by wood-stove.Finish loading tomorrow,give the kiln a good dry,probably bisc it Friday- possibly start the week with a salt fire? O joy! Posted by Picasa

Candidates for salt firing patiently waiting

for me to finish this blog and get some slip on them.Note Tibetan sprigging-more hybrid action.Back soon. Posted by Picasa

Footless and Fancy Free

Redesigned bowls for salt-kiln- I made them as wide-bottomed as possible,to waste less space in the kiln,so they didn't need a trimmed foot,being more like expanded cylinders than true bowls- as if anyone cares.By the way,if you want to contact me (since you won't be able to use "comments") you can find my email address behind "view complete profile" somewhere at the top of the page Posted by Picasa

Many a Slip

Spent the afternoon mixing up experimental slips for forthcoming salt firing. Posted by Picasa

For your information

This is what Eliav looks like these days. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Sydney has this vast store of ceramic materials (alongside his massive stocks of bricks,his extensive kiln-shelf collection and his stockpiles of unobtainable local clays),some of questionable identity- he showed me this test tile,for instance,of something he was pretty sure was alumina,fired alongside some real alumina- looks like the stuff on the right is more likely something in the feldspar family.We had a good laugh. Posted by Picasa

Double rainbow

Looking over the Hula valley,on my way back from Tel Hai this afternoon. Posted by Picasa

Wish you were here


Don't you? Here are some of the things students at Tel Hai are up to at the moment.We'll try to get individual pictures up on the students' (neglected) blog Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Slice of Clay

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

(Yet) Another Version

A different mold,also cut from wood with the trusty jigsaw.My friend Hilary in Wales claims to make everything with her router,whereas all I ever managed with my router is to give myself a nasty cut. Posted by Picasa

Another Version

Here's the dish that came off the amended mold... Posted by Picasa

Unexpected Outcome

...Which,translated into clay,looks (at first attempt) something like this:intriguingly,this method doesn't employ a mold,just 2 clay discs,one thicker and the other thinner,and was quite fun to put together. Posted by Picasa

Next Step

Are you with me? The smaller holes were the first cut;then I glued some thin ply underneath (to make the mold deeper) and re-cut the holes larger,giving me these sweet little removable dishes... Posted by Picasa

The Elusive Trilobate Dish

I've been trying to make a nice-looking divided dish for olives &c for years-here are the latest ideas,inspired by having all the wood-working tools out for the kiln/mold project,and a bit of spare wood.I though it has to be made over a mold,so set the jigsaw at a suitable slant and cut away.The first attempt had too much rim and held too little,so I re-cut the holes...in the course of which I had another idea of how to make the piece,inspired by the the unexpected shapes my re-cut produced (next picture,please)... Posted by Picasa


On last week's Tel Aviv trip to see Danny's show,I picked up materials to fix my sagging kiln,and also some sacks of ready-mix castable refractory.Yesterday I made this mold for a planned (well,semi-planned) small cast cylindrical top-loading updraft kiln for just about any kind of firing from raku to salt/soda,hypothetically needing one smallish burner and less than a small gas "balloon" to reach high temperatures.Strangely,my dentist's appointment yesterday was also to make molds (they were even semi-circular,like these-but somewhat smaller using an agar-agar-derived material to take the impression)in an attempt,probably futile,to put some sparkle back in my smile. Posted by Picasa


Most bakeries in this country seem to think that filo pastry around some apple filling is a strudel.I disagree (violently) so,despairing,yearning and frustrated,I made a batch today with proper strudel pastry,stretched so thin,as my mother told me the family maid in Berlin used to say,you could read your love-letters through it.It's a pity I can't record the smell from the oven...If you come by the studio in the next few days around tea-time,you might get a slice.Did you know,by the way that a Strudel (in German) is a whirlpool?Did you? Posted by Picasa