Pit Fire Kiln 2.0

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I’ve been using, for the last two years, used stainless steel oil drums for doing pit firing in. It’s been OK, but space limiting.

In fact this last firing I tried to push the limit and had some of the pots be labeled underachievers. It was disappointing especially when I devote so much time to burnishing and making the pots shine.

So at the same time the metal drums that I started with are failing. The heat is making the walls flake, corrode and fall apart. So I said to myself, it’s time to build a new firing area, and I’ll pass on a new electric kiln, and build a permanent pit fire area. So I spend the morning drawing out kiln designs, measuring size, and calculating the number of brick I’ll need.

So I call Seattle Pottery and try to get a price on fire brick. I explain I need the hard brick and not the soft brick. The person on the other end hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about … we talk to another person and still get nowhere. Does no one know their inventory? Finally I get pissed and say I’ll drive down. Which I do.

Upon arriving I go and get the “hard brick” and walk it up to the front counter. There is no question really what is hard versus soft brick. There is only one, hard brick type … you could kill someone if you hit them with the hard, and might mess them up a little with the soft. I feel the anvil head I was talking to on the phone really did me a disservice by making me drive down.

So the first person I confront at the counter (who I’m pretty sure was the anvil) stated that they had many different kinds of brick, to which I said that for me there is no contest which one is hard. And I drop the hard brick on the counter.

So then she walks away from me and helps another customer.

So now I’m a little more pissed than I was before, but I still am giving the outward appearance of a zen teacher.

So another woman tries to help me seeing that I’m waiting and I say, “no thanks I’ll wait” … to which then the anvil disappears.


So I let the other person help me. She quotes me a price of $1938.00 for 352 bricks or a cost of $5.50 a brick. I ask, is there no discount for bulk? Nope, only on the soft brick.

I leave the store with a few squeeze bottles for slip trailing, and a sponge. Very disappointed.

Once home I recalculate what it is that I’m going to try to do … get it down to 226 bricks. I think OK that’s $1200 for a smaller space. Not happy, but I can live with it.

But before I do anything else I look online and find a sand and gravel place in Ballard that says they have firebrick. So I call. Yes, they do in fact have firebrick, hard firebrick, for $2.30 a brick.

I’m dumbfounded. My cost went from $1900 to $558.

The next day I drive to Ballard, buy all the supplies, and spend the midmorning driving back and forth transporting heavy brick. Once home I lay out the pad, and place the first course, and then build the walls up to a high enough level that I can still bend over and place pots in the bottom. It’s three times the space, but can be expanded if I want later.

Today was a good day.

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marc fredric gottula