How To Safely Fire Clay At Home

How To Safely Fire Clay At Home: Kiln-Free Successful Techniques

Looking for a new hobby but don’t know where to start from? Do not get discouraged if you are passionate about pottery but don’t have a kiln at home. There are still many ways for you to fire pottery and fix the glaze. How? Well, by using alternative methods.

Although the process might take longer without the proper pottery kiln, it is not impossible. As a matter of fact, many people prefer to use these alternative methods. This is especially true for DIYs projects done with children.

But let’s not linger too much on the introductions. There are different ways to fire pottery at home without using a kiln. And that’s a fact. So, that’s why I will give more details throughout this article.

This being said, check all the information below and find the top option for you.

First Things First – Some Words About Safety

As you probably already know, firing clay calls for high temperatures. This is why you need to ensure that the whole process is safe and you protect yourself from possible dangers.

Therefore, wearing protective equipment, like gloves and aprons, is essential when working with clay.

A word of advice: Be exceptionally careful in cleaning up all the mixing waste.

For instance, you can use a dust collector during working time and a dust mask to avoid inhaling toxins. Don’t forget to clean the mixers evenly by sponging out and sweeping the floor when you finish the work.

Professionals recommend that clay pottery enthusiasts use fire-rated gloves so their skin is well-protected. And I couldn’t agree more.

You should also make sure that your clothes are kept away from any heat opening or hot oven surface. Last but not least, never insert metal components or any part of your body into the heat sources.

Firing Pottery At Home – Best Methods To Try

There are many different ways you can learn to fire your pottery without using a kiln. Every person will find a specific option based on their pottery-making process and the type of clay they use.

But before you start to fire pottery without a kiln, it is essential to know precisely what you are doing and what precautions you should take. Otherwise, the pottery may crack.

That said, let’s move on to the best techniques you can use to fire clay at home without using a professional kiln. Browse through each section and decide which method suits your needs.

Firing Clay In The Kitchen Oven

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to fire clay at home is using your oven. This method will not suit firing ceramics on commercial scales, but it is perfectly suited for beginners.

A kitchen oven is a great choice, as it lets you play and discover the ideal temperatures and techniques before investing in more professional equipment. However, this method has some downsides. And the most common one is given by the temperature. What I want to say here is that normal kitchen ovens cannot reach the highest temperatures needed for glazing.

In other words, the temperatures your oven can reach will suit only certain types of clay (like salt dough). Because, yes, the finished product might be brittle. But let’s find out more.

How Domestic Oven Works For Firing Clay

Remember that you will experience temperature limitations if you use the oven technique. Consequently, you can fire only certain types of clay at low temperatures. If you have thicker or larger projects, you just need to place the final product into the oven for somewhere between 1 and 3 hours. It really depends on the size your project has. However, you should always remember that it is essential not to overfire clay in the oven. If you do so, the result might not be the best one.

Anyhow, after the pottery has cooled off, you can start painting the object using acrylic paint. Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, you may not glaze the clay pottery into a classic oven because this process requires higher temperatures.

The Basic Steps Of Oven Firing

You do not need too many skills to fire clay into the home oven. The process is pretty basic; just follow the proper steps:

  • First of all, touch the clay pot to ensure it is dry. This step is mandatory; otherwise, the result might be, let’s say, unsatisfactory;
  • Take the pot and place it on the middle shelf upside down. You might need to adjust the rack to have everything well aligned.
  • Some people prefer to place a baking sheet under the pot. This is just an extra step, and it’s not mandatory.
  • Set the oven to 325 Fahrenheit degrees, and bake the pottery for around half an hour.
  • Turn the heat off, then remove the clay pot with protective gloves.
  • Decorate everything if you feel so.

Using the home oven is the most basic technique you can apply, way more straightforward than many other more in-depth types of firing. Moreover, it does not take too much effort, you don’t have to work with incredibly high temperatures, and it is easy to heat everything.

Raku Firing Technique

You can use the raku firing method if you don’t have a kiln. Consider having a stew or biscuit fire too. These are essential for fusing the glaze for the clay object and designing the pottery with stains, some underglazes, and different decorative works. However, you must consider that bisque firing is the slowest option of them all.

You may also need a pit area and a large tub or an alike item.

Important! Start the fire and keep an eye on it until it reaches the hot temperatures you need. This process requires a lot of attention, and it is not recommended for beginners or young children.

Raku firing technique is ideal for unique designs of clay pottery.

Tip: You can create outstanding pottery projects with raku by adding sawdust, seaweed, animal dung, or woodchips.

How To Use Raku Step by Step:

  • First, you need to ensure the working environment is safe from fire.
  • To raku fire clay, you need to create a traditional bisque fire. Set the barrel next to the fire, then place the pottery inside the hot area. Barrels will allow you to access some openings.
  • Leave the pottery inside the barrel as much as it needs. Remember that this step requires a lot of time because you need to slowly heat and boost up the fire. The barrel works like a kiln. Therefore, please make sure that the fire is strong enough to melt the clay;
  • Remove the clay pottery from the heat and fastly dive them into cold water or sawdust. Don’t forget to wear safety gloves.
  • As soon as the clay has cooled off, you may use a cleanser to get rid of the carbon from the glossy surface. This step is not imperative, but it helps the pottery regain its shine. Allow the item to dry in a safe area.

This might be a helpful video for those new to this technique.

Warning!

Raku firing is quite a toxic process that involves poisonous smoke. This process is really dangerous, and you should not use it with kids around.

Pit Firing

Popular known as “smoke firing,” this was the primary method for baking clay. Pit firing is ideal for natural pottery and glazing on it simultaneously. The technique can reach really high temperatures. I am talking about around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Anyway, this method allows the clay to stay there for around 12 to 24 hours.

Important! Make sure you never use the pit firing technique next to combustibles and choose an open environment instead.

You need a place that will ensure the pit stays safe and hot. You can dig a wide hole to keep the pottery and protect it from possible bad weather conditions, like strong winds or moisture.

The only downside of pit firing is that you might have difficulties creating consistency, and the pottery might become more fragile.

Using Pit Firing Step By Step

Using pit firing is similar to the raku process and involves creating a fire source in a pit (without the barrel). But let’s see the actual steps.

  • First, dig a large hole and place the pottery inside it. Some would prefer to use a traditional charcoal grill as the pit. It’s just a matter of preference, so do as you please.
  • Start the fire by using coal, paper, or wood chips (make sure there is no glue or paint on them).
  • Maintain the pit hot, somewhere around 2,000 degrees F. The clay must stay at this temperature for about 24 hours and not more than that.
  • You can pit fire the clay pottery before glazing it, then fire it once again. On the other hand, you can make both processes simultaneously.
  • Use some grabbing tools, like tongs, to remove the pottery from the pit after you can’t maneuver it anymore.
  • Set everything apart and let it dry.
  • Otherwise, you can leave the fire to burn out then remove the ceramics.

This inspiring video presents the pit firing technique at a more professional and industrial level.

The Microwave Kiln Method

Microwave kilns are easy and comfortable ways to fire clay. These kilns are small cylinder-shaped holders that fit domestic microwaves. Usually, they are made of porous insulating material. They contain two parts: the base (where you will place the potter) and a dome-shaped cylindrical lid on top of the base, which covers the clay.

Inside the container, a black-colored susceptor material coat is designed to attract and absorb all the electromagnetic energy from the microwave. The final result will be the heat. Most of these microwave kilns come are small in size and can suit smaller pieces of glass that will turn into jewelry and other small ornaments.

As a matter of fact, many potters prefer working on a small scale and using the microwave as a kiln to fire clay pieces.

This is how the microwave works just as a kiln.

Microwave Firing Temperatures

Microwave kilns can reach temperatures around 1650 F degrees, which might I say it’s actually a lot. However, this is general information, so you should check this aspect before using the microwave.

Firing Clay At Home In Brick Kiln

Another great way to fire clay at home without using a professional kiln is by making a simple sawdust kiln out of bricks. Truth be told, there are plenty of sophisticated kilns made of bricks out there, so why not make your very own? As a matter of fact, this is actually a very easy task, easier than it sounds.

All you need to do is use some bricks to build a pit above the ground simply. Rather than digging into the ground to make a large hole, you can use some old bricks and build up the wall of your new kiln above the ground. The design of the above-ground pit fire should be simple.

Making The Brick Kiln Step by Step

In the first place, you should determine the size of your projects. This is how you can determine how the brick kiln will be. You can first measure the size of the pottery. Simply put- the wider the pot, the bigger the brick kiln should be.

For instance, if you want a small brick sawdust kiln, the base should be two and a half wide and long.

Suggestion: It is wise to build the brick kiln on bare earth land, so you won’t need to set up a base.

Nevertheless, you should be aware that the fire from the kiln will burn the ground, so if you want more protection, then you can add a base made of a solid material.

Set up a base using concrete paving slabs, bricklayers, or hollow cinder blocks. Doing this will avoid the flames touching the ground and create a bit more airflow under the kiln. So now that you have the base, it’s time for building up the brick walls.

Are Shelves Useful?

You may top up the kiln with pottery and sawdust when the walls are made.

An excellent suggestion is to set up some shelves in the brick kiln as you build it. The best materials for future shelves are galvanized mesh or chicken wire. The main advantage of racks is that they won’t allow the sawdust to drop down while burning. Be aware that once the sawdust settles, the pots do too. So you can now protect the pottery from breaking by fixing layers of wire mesh.

This video explains how to build a brick kiln for firing clay.

Glazing Clay At Home Without A Kiln

Glazing the clay pottery is essential, especially for decorating these clay items. The glaze helps the objects stay stronger, durable, and easy to use. While not all the projects require glazing, you may be curious to find out how to glaze clay pottery at home.

So, if you have made clay pottery without a kiln, the natural glazing method may change the glazing aspect. Luckily, there are lots of alternatives. Make sure you read the labels first, so you can check if the glaze suits your needs.

You need glazes that are safe to use without extreme heat and are marked as ideal for decorative pottery. However, these glazes are generally not safe for storying food unless the glaze allows flux. As a matter of fact, most of these glosses need only a touch of heat rather than excessive temperatures.

Summing Up

That being said, can you fire clay at home without a kiln? In a few words, yes, you can; however, you might encounter some difficulties because of heat inconsistency. When using the domestic oven or microwave, it is hard to control the temperature, or the heat is insufficient to glaze the pottery. On the other hand, raku and pit fire methods might take too long to get the expected results.

Anyway, this can be done if you want to. Thus, choose the right method for you based on the space available, the size of your crafts, as well as the heat capacity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.