‘Anagamania’ -15- 穴窯築き : 小さな窯 (2) Mini-Anagama Completed

Sim Taylor was extremely kind to send me the images of his “Chiisana Kama” (mini-anagama) designed and constructed by himself, which has just been completed. (Gas)

Dear Gas,
Anagama Complete. Sutema constructed, front and rear checkers cut and positioned and Chimney rebuilt; I have become drawn to building again loving the simplicity but focused upon the accuracy of hand to spread muck, level bricks and construct. This turns my head off, with the job demanding my full attention…hours pass. I wonder if I’m so attracted to this activity because I played with Lego as a child?

The alterations did not go smoothly, much due to a lack of time and bricks (I ended up rummaging old piles of discarded kiln bricks and needed to cut many Heavy bricks with my Angle Cutter and HTI’s with hand saw, to square them up) I studied your Plans and amendments to my Sutema designs. Our telephone conversation was the most important guide, as the best plans/designs are always open to interpretation and dependant upon one’s experience and therefore I gained much from our discussion obtaining details and corrections to some of my Kiln Knowledge.

I built the Sutema in the same manner as the kiln; as an added extension. The Sutema is divided by 2 walls. The dividing wall from Pot chamber has two 6’’x 2.5’’ flue holes, jpeg-8, at the base. These flue sizes will determine the entrée air inlets, ‘what comes in must go out’ (Fred Olson, 1983).
My Question here is: do these Flue holes need to be larger? My feeling is they do need to be larger, if so I will take out the 2 small side supporting Bricks and allow the central brick to support the 1st Sutema Wall. This will then make the two Flue Holes 6” x 3.5”.
The ‘Hachi-no-su’, second wall was a lot more complicated to decide upon its structure. I first built a simple 6 chequer exit but felt this was too open. On close inspection of your drawing I changed this to copy your design structure. This interpreted resulted in an 8 chequer exit, jpeg-7.
I’m not sure if my interpretations of your drawings are correct? My reasoning for using an 8 chequer wall was in considering that the gases entering the Sutema would be held back with a more complicated design and this would keep the flame back in the Pot chamber.
The inner Sutema dimensions are 33 cm in Length and with the Endou length of also 33cm, before entering into the Chimney base. The wall and Arch thickness is 9 ‘’.
The inner wall is made from good Super Heavy brick and outer wall built from left over odd sized Super Heavy bricks (I’m at the end of my original fading stock of Bricks).
The mortar used was a slackened down general plastic Clay and applied with a minimal layer aiming to place and wedge brick upon brick.
The Arch was made by constructing a wooden former, jpeg-5. Then I built a Bonded Arch using HTI Bricks, jpeg-6. I have used HTI’s in both of my small Anagama Kiln Arches because they are very light and so, will not push out the vertical side walls of the Kiln from the angle of their thrust, jpeg-6. The Arch was insulated with left over HTI’s and 50/50 ball clay and sharp sand, jpeg-12, to make an over-all thickness of 9”.
From my talk with Svend in April I was drawn back to his idea of placing air inlets into the sutema. I have done this and these are equally spaced in the Sutema arch. The air inlets will act as passive dampers to slow the rate of flow. In future firings I will experiment with these and, as discussed with Svend, they may possibly aid the combustion of waste gases and so effect the amount of reduction? jpeg-9. (I beleive this is a discussion for a futuere date)

In one of my previous correspondents I had calculated that according to Fred Olson (Principle of Kiln design, 1983) I needed a larger Chimney base cross section. So I have changed this from 9’’x 13’’=117 cubic inches, to 13’’x 13’’= 169, jpeg-4. This dimension stays the same for 15’’ vertical then tapers over another 15’’ vertical to a final 9’’x9’’ Chimney section, jpeg-11. I have also built in a larger Passive Damper at the base of the Chimney which can be blocked off if needed and following our discussion I have put in a main Damper in the Chimney.

Although I have built additional devices into Chiisana Kama I am reluctant to use the Sutema Passive Dampers and Chimney Damper on the first firing. Instead I will fire the Kiln purely using the addition of the Sutema. As agreed and talked about in our telephone conversation too many devices altered and changed when firing an Anagama can be confusing to the kilns over-all performance; making too many changes could make the kiln erratic and stop the Kiln finding its natural pattern. Future Firings will experiment with the additional Dampers.
So with alterations done wood will arrive this week and sawing, stacking begins for a much awaited 2nd Fire.

I am really honoured that you would like to visit my Anagama Kiln. And I would, also, very much like to meet your friend James Hazelwood. James has previously contacted me regarding my reference in the forthcoming book on ‘British Studio Pottery Marks’. I much appreciate the difficulties and determination James has undertaken with updating this catalogue and would like to meet and thank him in person, he sounds like a good man.

Unfortunately there is under lying news…You asked to visit ‘soon’ and this I would urge you to do soon. Weston Quarry is run by a Civic Society and recently new members have been voted in. This new Committee is less interested in the Arts and there is talk that the Artist’s Workshops will be closed for refurbishment or a change of purpose maybe made on the Workshop/Studios. So me and other Artists maybe given notice to leave. At present I am facing, in the worst scenario, Firing Chiisana Kama only once. My time over the last 4 weeks has been much distracted by this news and I have had to work on ideas to try and persuade this Committee that an Anagama kiln is a rare feature and could be used as a positive community project and attraction for Weston Quarry. There is a meeting this Thursday that starts the first of many new Changes. I will have to present my proposals soon.
So I am making work and need to stay motivated. Recently I have been attracted to the idea of ‘Landscape’. I am making large Clay slabs, similar to my older but smaller ‘Table’ forms. My aim is that this form will record the flames flash and will capture an accumulation of fly ash achieving a Landscape scene that reflects the woodlands that I observe and study when walking. This Work has been developing slowly over the last 5 months. Bringing these ideas together with Chiisana Kama’s potential will be challenging but a needed vision (in these troubled times) for a positive 2nd Firing.

Look forward to hearing from you and Thanks again.

Congratulations! Sim.
I like your “chiisana Kama” with ‘Sutema’ very much and it looks much better. The proportion of Sutema (the front wall flues and the second wall honeycomb “Hachi-no-su”) seems just about right to me. I believe (also hope) it would work better and you will see when you fire it soon.
I also agree with your decision on the passive dampers completely. If you can perform wood-firing without (not too much) adjusting dampers, it means your kiln design is good and working fine.
My ‘Moby’ has no chimney dampers at all. Yet, strangely enough, my latest ‘Moby’ has two air inlets with movable bricks around the same position as your “chiisana Kama” has. I have no intention of using them unless I become desperate. Almost all of my anagama didn’t have proper passive dampers as I mainly relied on natural reductions, so I won’t be able to give any good suggestion about passive dampers and forced reduction to you. You should ask Svend about these questions.

Sim, I really appreciate your information of the “Chiisana Kama” kiln project, moreover your generous contribution will be beneficial to all wood-fire enthusiasts.

Looking forward to meeting you some time very soon. (Gas)

Posted in anagamania, kiln-building (kamatsuki) | Tagged , | 1 Comment

‘Anagamania’ -14- 穴窯築き : Anagama Design 小さな窯 Mini-gama

I have a few pyromaniac friends whom I haven’t met yet, but I feel like having close friends who have been trying something very similar to achieve.
Not many potters are brave enough to talk about a failed wood-firing. Here’s an exception. Several weeks ago, I received an email from Sim Taylor with questions for his small anagama. He attached a photo image of his anagama and it was the ‘smallest wood-fired anagama’ I have ever seen. I rather liked his idea of the very small anagama and our email conversation has started. (Gas)

Thank you for the insights into your Kiln Building which has led to much visual inspiration and motivation in my own practice. Over the last year I have also been planning, drawing and building my Very small Anagama (Chīsana kama? )Would that be correct?). Only lately have I found out that you have also been on the same venture. I wish you well in your final stages of building and we wait in the anticipation of your 1st Firing. Early tomorrow my Anagama will have its first firing. I feel very excited but also quiet and peaceful in mind contemplating this 1st Fire. If you wish I will let you know the outcomes and very much appreciate your opinions.

Although I (am a small Japanese) can’t get inside of it, the kiln looks very nice and should work fine. Your ‘Chiisana-kama’ could be ideal for Raku tea bowls.
I am just wondering what sort of temperatures you are aiming at. And I hope you stick to it for a while until you really feel that you need a slightly bigger one.
Please let me know the result of your firing.

Please find attached some images of my new small kiln.
I fired Chīsana kama two weeks ago and I am only now starting to collect my thoughts. In short the Kiln went up and came down! There are lots of questions I have regarding the kilns performance as the unloading revealed generally unsatisfactory results: celadon/shino underfired and Clay colours were bland. The kiln was very uneven in its temperature from 1300 C bottom front, 1280 C top front, Mid zone cones at 1240 C melted and back zones I feel hit 1200ish from the semi fluxed matt glaze surfaces. Much I will put down to learning, whether this is Kiln design, Firing methods, Clay bodies and human errors. I fired over 18hrs and the last 6 hrs were highly temperamental with little Kiln response when I explored different stoking methods.
I now question whether I should alter the kilns endou, lengthening the flue to enable the chimney to draw better and help even-out the pot chamber?(the chimney got very hot and took days to cool). Another thought revolves around raising the grate area so embers are allowed to build up to generate more coals, storing more heat in the fire box. I definitely know that I need to experiment with new Clay bodies and also concentrate on my stoking methods to better reduction. One area of relief is that I know the kiln was serious wet and has not dried out at all due to this year’s weather, the kiln location is also built close to a soak away (this was intentional to allow the kiln to become regularly damp to induce better reduction from water vapour).
I built my new Anagama hoping that it would be fast fired Kiln, enabling me to get to high temperatures and then to develop surface textures and ash melt. Due to time being divided between my duties as a Ceramics and Art Teacher alongside my practise as a Maker a fast fire kiln seams appropriate. Over the last 12 years my work has been predominantly Saggar fired, previously I had built and fired other wood kilns including 2 Anagamas. I now want to return to Wood firing to develop Koge effects on my Ceramic Forms and Shizenyu on my Tea bowls.
I now start the process of learning. I will fire again in April.
Any thoughts on Chīsana kama would be much appreciated, in return if I can help or assist in any hard work it would be a pleasure.
Thanking you and take care

I have a few ideas to improve your future firings. Your kiln seems to lose heat easily and not not holding it steadily. I used to have the same problems with my mini-anagama and raku kilns.
I would like to ask you a few questions first. I can guess the size of your kiln but it is easier if you give me the measurement of your kiln(s) or more photos from different angles.
Also I was just wondering if I could upload your email on my blog and give my opinions. There must be many potters and wood-fire enthusiasts with similar problems. I can only give my answers from my experience with my anagama firings. I didn’t have much of the problems you had from my anagama, . So I can ask ask potter friends through my blog, We may get other experienced wood-firers advice. If you don’t like my idea just let me know.

Thank you for your support and I much appreciate your suggestions to place my kiln problems onto your Blog site. This would be a great honour for me. I also agree with your comment that this topic could and would help other Potters with similar Kiln problems. In this context I see your request as a great opportunity for experienced and amateur wood firers to converse, discussing ideas, sharing knowledge and so building confidence.
I will gather information together and try to scan my Kiln Plans with measurements and accompany this with more photos (I will need to compress and resize photos along with scan designs this week at work (College) I am limited at home with a very old computer). As soon as I have done this I will send.
The ironic thing in this scenario is that my last kiln (mini type gama) see attachment) I called the Kiln Urbangama because it was built at home, in town). It fired in 6hrs to 1310 C. My new kiln was based on a similar, scaled up design!? Hopefully we can find out my miscalculations.

As asked I have taken more photos and also attached 2 drawn Kiln diagrams with measurements. I hope this provides you with enough information to give you ideas on why Firing was problematic.
Further Kiln information that may help:
As mentioned previously the Kiln is built close to a soak away that drains water from the Workshop Roof that the Kiln is located next to. This has made the kiln very wet. The Kiln has no shelter (a temporary shelter is put up when Firing).
The kiln is built on a 1 in 10 foot slope.
I’ve built the kiln from old secondhand bricks from old dismantled Kilns and also industrial Chimneys.
The Fire Box is completely built with Super Heavy Bricks, the Chimney is built from bottom to top with Super Heavy, Heavy, to red Engineering Brick. The interior of the Pot Chamber is constructed from HTI bricks. The Whole Kiln Arch is also built from HTI Bricks. Kiln floor uses Heavy bricks. The Arch of the Kiln has an Insulating Coat of 3 to 4 inches of 1 Ball Clay to 2 Sharp Sand.
The Kiln is fired on free Palette wood, mainly Pine with some mixed Ceder.
The Kiln has a grate and ash pit that is 9 inches deep to collect the Palette wood nails (that have not been discarded in wood preparation) This area also supplies ample preheated air.
The Kiln has a blow hole half way along the top of the Kiln, but this firing I used this hole for my pyro/meter.
Information on Kiln behavour when Firing that may help:
Pyro/meter used + Cones.
12 to 14 hrs preheating gained 50C.
2 hrs good steady climb to 250C
3 hrs gained 500C with no specific stocking method, lots of stream off Kiln.
After 7 hrs 900C gained by loading & half filling of firebox
920 C ish Kiln roars on stoking. 1st sign of Flame viewed through chimney spy hole.
9 hrs 1020C. Temp slows down on pyro reading. Top 1154C Cone bending. Bottom 1050C Cone down.
Needing to increase amount of fuel to get rise on pyro. Loading & 3/4 Filling of firebox.
10 hr Flame out of Chimney. Stream off Kiln stops
11hrs pyro reads 1085C. Filling 3/4 of fire box. Heavier wood being used to maintain embers.
Here after all pyro readings over next 7 hrs vary. Hovering around 1079 to 1119C.
Had instincted to start feeding wood under grate to block up front of ash pit to gain more ember build up in fire Box. Kiln responded and started to pulling better. + Blocking off 2 out of 4 primary air holes off.
12hrs 6 foot flame out of Chimney! thought this was not good!? and no temp rise in next 2 hrs.
14hrs started using more medium size wood and half filling fire box, Kiln responded and pyro read rises back into 1100sC. Chimney flame backdown to 2 foot.
15hrs 1240C Top Cone down.
Blocking remaining 2 air holes by half. Using more wood but load being used up very quick.
15hrs Fire box Colour Yellow White.
16hrs Between each stoke pyro reading drops from 1100Cs to 1000Cs and back up to 1100C! Fire Box Colour back to Yellow Orange.
17hrs Top front Cone 1280C down, Bottom front 1240C down. Middle Cone 1154C down, 1240C standing.
At this point I decided to End the Firing due to the difficulty and problem solving in Stoking patterns. I also wandered whether I had packed the kiln in such a way that I had restricted air flow? With so many questions in my head I assessed that it was best to Close the firing and evaluate the experience for a next Firing.
I thought it wiser to stop than try to progress with at times a too confused mind.
I much appreciate your warm support, and above all I hope you find this interesting.
Wishing you well

Your photos tell me that you have two locations for your own small anagama. Do you have 2 kilns or did you move your kiln from one place to another? Every wood-fire enthusiast wants a small anagama in the garden. I am sure your kiln design will become popular when some problems are solved.
I will write my thoughts for your ‘Chiisana Kama’ and upload my post very soon.

Yes I do have 2 Kilns. Building Kilns started when I was 17 yrs, whilst at Art college I stumbled upon a book called ‘Raku’ this literally fired up an enthusiasm and long journey fascinated with Clay with Fire.
During my Art Foundation studies I built 3 Raku Kilns however later realised that I was far more intrigued with high fire and this started a love for building more sophisticated Kilns.
My passion was high but naivety made progression slow as I constructed my first down draft kilns at home whilst I studied Ceramics at Falmouth College in Cornwall.
By fortune, enlightenment came when I started my degree at Farnham College in 1989, under the guidance of Sabastian Blackie. Sebastian invited many inspiring Potters/ Ceramicists to enthuse his students. Two standout above others: Takashi Yasuda for this ability to observe and teach personally in his intense Throwing Workshops and Patrick Sargent who mixed/made Clay by foot and talked about Fire, building Kilns and walking in the woods and on hills before the inevitable solo 3 day firing. Inspired I was!
I left Farnham being able to Throw and with an understanding in Firing Wood Kilns. After my Degree, I built a 120 cubic foot Anagama with Burry Box inspired from our teachings and experiences with Patrick Sargent. This kiln fired perfect in 24 hours. I fired it 6 times but it took me 4 months to fill and prepare for each firing; eventually this did not suit my creative needs and thereafter I started building a smaller Anagama. Thereafter through circumstances I had to move away from Wood Firing and so for 12 yrs I’ve Fired with Saggar Techniques. I am now delving back into Wood Firing.
In answer to your question, I now have 2 Small Kilns. 1 at Home in our yard which I built 2 years ago inspired from Akira Yoshida’s minigama experiments. In Summer 2009 I set my students a Designing, building and Firing Minigama Project this was very exhilarating, see Youtube films:
Firing Minigama and Minigama Class Project 2009.
This event encouraged me to adapt Yoshida’s Minigama kiln and make my own fast fire Anagama with a small chamber of 5 cubic feet. This fires on wood to 1150C, then Charcoal and wood with assisted air to 1320C. The Kiln fires in 6 hrs which is convenient because neighbours do not like too much Smoke. Often, much of these wares are immature and so I also refire these Works. I have had some pleasing Hibuse wares at front and at the rear of the Kiln Shizenyu results, see attachments. I call this Kiln Urbangama because I live in a town.
This Tiny Kiln has led me to create my latest Second small Anagama now called ‘Chiisana Kama’. This Kiln is located in the town quarry 1 mile away from home. The kiln is a larger copy of Urbangama and has a chamber size of 15 cubic feet. I built this kiln because I needed a larger Pot Chamber to accommodate the size of my Ceramic Work, but also to inspire and encourage my students in the ways of Woodfiring. This is the Kiln I have had firing problems with and have sent though Images and plans. (the image of me is with my Urbangama Kiln)

Many thanks Sim for all your information. I have never receceived emails with details of othe potters firings. I am impressed with your sincerity very much.
When you sent me your email with a photo, I was surprised with the sise of your ‘Chiisana Kama’ as it looked smaller than 3 meters (10 ft) long. My initial thought was “Would it work?”. I have always tried to build wood-fired kilns over 4 meters on a slope. So your ‘Chiisana Kama’ [mini-anagama] was a quite new and fresh idea and if you make it work properly. You said that your chimney got very hot and took a few days to cool. That could suggest most of heat has quickly gone passed the pot chamber. The difference of temperature also show the hot frames might be runnig along the ceiling of the main chamber and that made the the big temperature gap between the tpo and bottom in the chamber. I could not see any proper flues at the back of the pot chamber and I didn’t like the look of the damper, if you don’t mind me to tell you.
With a small kiln, I would try not to have a big damper and definitely try to build a ‘Sutema’ [I call it ‘waisting chamber’ in English as Japanese word ‘suteru’ means to throw away, to desert, to abandon and to sacrifice] instead that may stop the heat and retain it in the pot chamber. ‘Sutema’ doesn’t have to be big and you can easily build it at the back of the main (pot) chamber with 2 walls with flues. It is like a small empty box (with 30 cm empty room between the 2 walls) where hot air lingers in there for a just while. As ‘Sutema’ gets very hot, some potters try to fire some pots in there by making a side doooron the kiln wall. I don’t recommend this for your ‘Chiisana Kama’. It is a waisting chamber and has to be sacrificed and waisted. If you still think you really need to have a damper somewhere why don’t you have it at the back of kiln some where on the chimney.
I do have some other ideas that may improve your firing a bit but you should not apply too many changes all at once. Try one change (one new idea) at a time.
You also try to fire your ‘Chiisana Kama’ as fast as possible. I understand that and it would be wonderful if you achive your aim with your short firing on your planned chart.
How long exactly you would like to wood-fire?
I do admire your challenging sprit. You might need to consider futher alteration for your firebox design or your way of packing ‘Chiisana kama’.
Use your common sense and wood-firing can be done with a simple ‘anagama’ but it is rather temperamental. Success only comes after many long days of tenacious work coupled with a good understanding of surrounding nature.
I really wish you good luck and all the best with your next firing.

My anagama firing is a long firing and usually takes 9 – 10 days. I believe woof-fire has its own nature and I don’t expect my kiln to behave as I hope, so I just wait until my kiln decides its temperatureto go higher. That is one of the reasons I stopped using Pyrometers and corns. I just try to enjoy the firing in the woods.
And if I have to make my pots wood-fired quickly and successfully, I would rather try to design and build a Fred Olsen type of kiln.

And there must be some wood-potters had the same problems and situations but managed to ovecome and now doing alright. Please let us know your experience.

I received another mail from Sim for the reply to my thoughts.

Regarding Chiisana Kama. Thank you for your time, thoughts and sharing of your Kiln knowledge and experiences supporting me with my practice. It is a rarity that people want to help others nowadays.
But in short I must say….. this is really exciting! Thank you very much for your suggestions.
It is interesting reading your ideas and ways to woodfiring, long firing and natural progression allowing the Kiln to find its own way, as different to my rather forced and crude ideas to fire fast. The suggestions you have made sound gental, positive and a passive means to my problem. Your great mentor Furutani, writes of ‘Sutemas’ but you have explained and expanded upon how this kiln area works by emphasising that it is a ‘waisting chamber’. I have always used, what is termed as, a ‘collection box’, an area at the bottom of the chimney that is slightly larger than the chimney cross section that acts in allowing flue gases to correct themselves before they channel up the chimney. But what makes sense is that a ‘Sutema’ is divided betwean two flue walls, It feels that this would create a back pressure and holds back the hot flames, building up heat in the Chamber. I like this idea. Am I right in my undersanding ?
I did started my own calculations.
A few days ago I started this e-mail to you:
28 March 2014.
Dear Gas,
You said to me that you think that the irregular temperature is due to the Kiln not holding heat and on this basis I keep thinking I should focus upon slowing the kilns draught down to keep the fire more in the Kiln, so either:
Lower the chimney from 8” to 6” ?
adjust chimney and exit flue dimensions in relation to fire box size?
With these thoughts I have gone back to Fred Olson’s kiln principles to try and make sense and calculations (I say try because my Math is not that good).
Olsen says that the Fire box should be 10 greater than the chimney cross section, 10 to 1.
My Firebox is 1320 square inches divided by 10 = 132 square inches = 11 1/2” x 11 1/2” Chimney section. My chimney section is 81 square inches or 9”x 9 ” Chimney section. Therefore it appears that I need to rebuild the chimney to be larger from 9”x 9 ” to 11 1/2” x 11 1/2” ?
I am not sure whether these small adjustments will be affective, although I guess because the kiln is Tiny then the ratios will also be very small.
In addition I also am wondering whether I should alter further Exit flues? The dimensions are as follows:
Exit Flue =9” x 11”, into Collection Box (at base of Chimney)= 13 1/2” x 9”, which tapers into Chimney = 9” x 9”.
Here, I could alter the Exit Flue by removing the Damper Gate. This would make the
Exit Flue slightly bigger = 9” x 14 1/2”, into Collection Box remaining the same = 13 1/2” x 9”, which tapers into adjusted Chimney = 11 1/2” x 11 1/2”.
Do my culcalations make sense or am I really off the scent? (here ends the 28 March Email)
So I have had lots of thoughts and am now motivated to work on this challenge.
In answer to your questions I need to fire in 24- 36 hrs max’ because the kiln is located in a public space and I need to limit smoke down to a minimum. My plan is to fire fast to Stoneware Temperature and then soak to mature ash melt and matting.
I also agree with your thoughts on not liking the damper. The Damper was placed in originally to act as a way to alter the exit flue dimensions, not as a devise to prompt reduction. (In my 2 previous Anagama’s I have never used a damper- I have only used dampers in Downdraught kilns)

I would say here that I feel greatly honoured with your interests in Chiisana Kama. I will take your advise to build a ‘Sutema’ between the chamber and Chimney, as I can feel and visualise this solution above others.
Can I send you a drawn plan on a Sutema design for your approval?
Thanking you

This is an update of Sim’s post.

Back from North Devon and back into work… Whilst away I managed to put thoughts onto paper and I drew up 4 Sutema plans for your guidance. Please find attached images.

I was also fortunate to catch Svend at home and although I have spoken a few times I have never had the opportunity to talk in length about Kilns. I drove down familiar Lanes, passing small copses, up and down and dodging cow splattered potholes. Finally sighting two tall firebrick chimneys, tell signs, for some, of Woodfiring Kilns. I pulling up in front of the Svend Pottery.

On your guidance to build a Sutema and the description you give of a contained area divided between two walls I keep thinking of previous sightings of other kilns with similiar devices located at the rear flue exits between Chamber and Chimney. In my first Kiln built in Priddy on top of the Mendip Hills, Somerset I used a Chequer wall taken from speculation and copying Patrick Sargent’s ideas on remembering his lecturer and designs on the building of his Burrey Box Anagama, The ‘Mule’. I have not built such a devise in Chiisana Kama because I simply thought that a chequer wall would block the flow of gases/flames leaving the kiln. Although now it appears that the flames are leaving too fast and they need keeping in. In conversation with Svend he was very interested in your thoughts on this matter and agreed that the kiln needed slowing. He related the path of the flame to the nature of water and that it would always find the easiest way to flow. Here I can visualise how a Sutema could slow the flame but also direct the flame down from the kiln roof and lower into the chamber, hence distributing the heat.

After what seemed like minutes but turned out to be over an hour Svend pointed to one design (Design C) he favoured. This has an extended Flue chamber that is 50cm in internal lengh and is walled by two chequers. However, and interestingly Svend said that he would only use the rear Chequer Wall and not both. He did insisted that their should be air inlets in the Sutema to control and combust the waste gases and here he spoke and we discussed ‘Passive Dampers’. This talk also led to talk on how allowing air into the Sutema-Waste Chamber could also effect and even control the amount of reduction present in the kiln?
I much appreciated Svends advice and the sharing of his knowledge and telling me of some of his experiences regarding Sutemas. Thank you Svend.

The sun shone fantastic in Weston Quarry today as I took down my kilns Chimney. I’m really excited to be adjusting the Kiln so she can work properly so myself and others visiting Weston quarry can experience and enjoy Woodfiring.

Gas, please inform me of your thoughts and ideas on my Sutema drawings. I will start building the foundations tomorrow. I look forward to your reply.
Thanking you

As it seemed he needed my quick reply, So I asked Sim to phone me in the evening. We had a further discussion about ‘Sutema’ on the phone. (Gas)

I pay my respect to anyone who is challenging conventional ideas. When I first heard and saw the images of Sim’s small anagama, I fancied his challege very much.

I never thought about anagama smaller than 15 foot (4.5 meters) long. My challenge has been rebuilding mediaeval anagama as much original as possible and reproducing beauty of mediaeval anagama vessels. I didn’t have many problems once I found kiln-site with proper inclines for the kiln floors. Only a few of my own ideas have been added to the kiln projects, so (I must admit) I could be called another conventional kiln builder.

I did not want to suggest a big change for Sim’s kiln design. So my suggestion is a tiny alteration to his kiln design. It is Sim’s own design and his own challenge that I should not put too much information into his head. ‘Sutema’ is a very good system to have when a wood-fire kiln is a little bit small and not having proper floor incline. ‘Stema’ should help Sim’s kiln ‘Chiisana kama’ work better but proportion has to be carefully considered.

I would like to visit and see Sim’s small angama working properly when he solved the problems with his design.
All the best with your project!! Sim (Gas)

Posted in anagamania, kiln-building (kamatsuki), wood-firing (kamataki) | Tagged , | 2 Comments

‘Anagamania’ -13- 穴窯築き : Anagama Design デザインの選択

Through Facebook, I made a new distant pyromaniac friend.
He is Joe Bruhin who has been making his Iga type pots in Arkansas (USA) and I am showing here what he wrote me.

Hello Gas, thanks so much for your energy and blog and posting more images of Moby…I deeply appreciate your dedication. Yes, I have 2 wood kilns, the one I use most is an anagama, it is pretty exact to Kanzaki san sensei’s idea of anagama. I’m getting to understand it better after firing it 7 times…it is on a 3:1 incline, I’m thinking if I rebuilt it I would increase the slope but i still don’t understand this kiln fully so maybe that would be a mistake…..i do believe that Kanzaki sensei’s kiln , one of them, is on a steeper incline than 3:1, although this what he instructed me to do…..I was fortunate to have assisted in one of his firings in Shigaraki a few years ago.
I have about 3500 new super duty firebricks that a glass company gave to me….they have been sitting here under cover for 8 years….since i don’t really understand my current anagama fully I haven’t been too enthusiastic about building another but think it would be a good idea to build a small anagama. I have Furutani sensei’s book, and have always thought my next kiln should be based on his idea. You would think that one who has been earning his livelihood with pottery for almost 30 years would have his own idea what a kiln should be to manifest his vision. I must admit that Kanzaki has taught me a lot just by observing his work…I love Iga.
I like what I have seen of your work very much…..to the uneducated eye, I would say subtle. These are the kind of works that will stand the test of time, not flashy and ego inflated.
I will study your blog and website. I really don’t like to ask questions, everyone seems to want information with out paying the price of experience….i am curious about Moby’s incline and inside height.
I hope the flu is behind you and the new year will be kind and you find yourself inspired and peaceful throughout the year of the horse….stay strong and take very good care….Joe

I have never been to the States but I have made some potter friends through my website. Judging from what he wrote to me, he seems a very honest and serious wood-firer. He assisted one of wood-firings by Kanzaki Shiho in Shigaraki (Japan). More information about him, please check Joe’s website (http://www.joebruhin.com/).

I visited many pottery places in Japan and saw more than sixty kilns (not only Anagama and Noborigama in operation, but also old kiln sites just to see the ruins – I lost the count after 50 to be honest). I took some photos but mostly felt the shapes and inclines of the kilns physically and memorized in my head. Then I studied many pottery and kiln books available. I wanted one simple Anagama with mediæval features.
I saw Kanzaki sensei’s Anagama in Shigaraki nearly 20 years ago. Somehow, I decided to build my Anagama very similar to the design by Master Furutani Michio.

I have a slight difficulty in answering Joe Bruhin’s question about my Moby’s incline. Because all my Anagama I built in the U.K., I didn’t measure them for incline. I just walked around the sites and tried to find a slope I felt right. So Sometimes I had to build a mound or to dig deep down. In Japan, 30 degrees (for a kiln) seems to be meant a slope by 10:3 incline and it is a gentle slope. 3:1 incline is steeper. However if I had to build an ‘Iga’ type Anagama, I would try a bit steeper slope, posibbly real 30 degrees. It sounds rather confusing, doesn’t it.

All I can say is, I try to find or make a Japanese sloping hill in the U.K.

My latest Anagama ’Moby’ site in the woods has a very gentle slope but I did not feel it steep enough, so I made a tiny Japanese hill (mound) at the back of ‘Moby’. Latest ’Moby’ has rather complicated 3 different floor inclines just like a Mediaeval Anagama kiln-site floor in Japan. (Gas)

Posted in anagamania, kiln-building (kamatsuki), kiln-site (kamaba) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

‘Anagamania’ -12- 穴窯築き : Progress So Far 構築の過程

I took time with my progress of my latest Anagama ‘Moby’ as I work alone in the woods.

A big soft candle flame wrapped with heavy hard bricks
It was my simple Anagama concept but it was not easy in practice.

Layer by layer, I had to place the ultra heavy bricks. 2 front air-ducts and another 2 spy-holes were made. Chipping the heavy gricks into the shape I wanted was not an easy job. My kiln site has no electricity and I have to do most of my work by a pair of hands. I also must wear clear goggles when I chipped and shaped the bricks with masonry tools.
I am careful about The front wall which must be curved and has no blind corners where often cool air lingers during the firing.
Anagama ‘Moby’ has a fire-mouth (which devided into upper and lower in front) but has no ash-pit. I have never designed a proper firebox nor dampers for my Anagama.

The former was dismantled by getting inside from the front and taken all outside ‘Moby’. The suppoting pillers were designed and constructed by considering this dismantling stage in advance.

I have a blow hole to see the atmosphere of the main chamber.

I still have to work on a few details like a chimney, an interior wall (flues) and a mortar cover over bricks for insulation. Yet I can safely say that the hardest part of Anagama building was over.
I did not want to use any modern kiln materials (soft white bricks & kiln blanket), so ‘Moby’ was mainly build with bricks and mortar (fireclay and sand).

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My Wish for New Horse Year [2014] – 平成二十六年(午年)

My new horse year 2014 is starting off rather slow with a bad flu I got in London just before Christmas. I made my flu worse as I worked in the woods trying to finish my latest kiln project. I had to stay home alone during Christmas and New Year. Although my condition was far from perfect (while coping with the worst flu I’ve ever had in my life), I had a plenty of time to think about what I could do when I got better.

I imposed myself on three personal tasks this year.
I should make more tea bowls working with my two kilns (Anagama and Rakugama) in the woods.
Generally I very much enjoy using other potters’ chawan to get inspired. I must have seen several hundred images of tea bowls by modern studio potters on the Facebook last year, but it’s rather unfortunate that I could only find few bowls I would be happy to use. Most of Facebook chawan were uglily over-expressive and unfit to use.
I have just bought a new web domain for my Kintsugi work.
Because I receive some requests of restoring broken vessels from collectors abroad. Kintsugi can be beautiful when it is properly done, it is just another restoration skill but not a creative artwork. Some over-enthusiasts got confused that Kintsugi is art.
I am going to re-design my websites with updated code.
I noticed some of web coding for my website became rather old-fashioned after new technology of Internet and mobile communications have been introduced lately. (in fact they are changing day by day) some of my code are 10 years old now and It‘s an ancient! I need to update some of my web code soon.

Three chawan in the photo gallery [above] are from the hidden treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (U.K.). I found them five years ago among 300 pieces of Japanese pottery collection by Sir Frank William Brangwyn RA RWS RBA (1867–1956).
I handled and examined all 300 pieces in order to sort into the museum database. All three of chawan are my favourites. Yet if I was allowed to choose only one chawan to make tea, I would go for the Bizen. It wasn’t made by a professional potter but a young tea-master called Jousou [1673-1704] (5th Ura-Senke master who died at age of 31). It’s hand-built and curved-out to finish. Totally unique!!! Only tea-master who knew what really wabi cha was made this chawan possible.
There are more masterpieces and treasures to show. I can give an interesting talk about the hidden treasures if I am given a chance for a long lecture. In the mean time, I will post some of them on my blog from time to time. (Gas)

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Chabana: 茶花 – Vessels for Flowers in a Tea-Room

At home, I quite often use my small pottery collection and enjoy arranging flowers in them. I am just trying to make my bachelor‘s home a little more cheerful and presentable. Some men think flower arranging is rather feminine and should not try. They got it wrong. It was very common amongst warriors who fought in the Civil War (16th century) in Japan. My flower arranging should be called Chabana. It is simply come from two words Cha (tea) and Hana (flower), meant to be ‘flowers for tea‘ or ‘flower arranging for a tea-room‘.

Wabi-cha was started in the mid-16th century and Sen-no-Rikyu perfected the philosophy of Wabi and Sabi at the end of the century.

Although Chabana doesn’t have very strict rules (not like other major schools of Ikebana), it still have some complex criteria to follow. There should be some intellectual and modest meaning behind all arrangement of the items in the small tea-room. The flowers should be seasonal and fresh from a garden or in a field. Fully bloomed flowers are NOT preferable, almost opened or half-opened flowers are ideal. NO flowers with sharp thorns nor flowers with strong scent are allowed in a small tea-room. These gentle thoughts must be considered for your important guests. (there are many books and records of old tea-masters with their careful preparation and heartfelt episodes.)
Flower vases and containers for the tea-room are not main vessels like other tea utensils. Chawan (tea-bowl), Mizusashi (fresh water jar) and Chashaku (bamboo tea scoop) are more important. Yet simply arranged flowers in a carefully chosen vessel would be a focal point of a quiet conversation in the tea-room.
Personally I dislike too much stylised tea-ceremonry by many kimono ladies these days. I would rather love to follow the manners of the tea-masters in the 16th century.

Anyone can enjoy tea-ceremony without understanding deep thoughts of Wabi and Sabi, but misunderstanding of tea culture may lead you somewhere completely irreverent. (Gas)

Posted in chabana (flowers for tea-room), tea ceremony | Tagged | 1 Comment

Beauty of Old Pottery ② – Mediæval Vessels 中世古陶 –

It has been almost 18 months since I last posted some images of my favourite Mediæval pots. I would like to post a few images of beautiful wood-fired vessels. (I managed to see some of them in the museums when I was in Japan) All the Mediæval pots were made to use, yet amazingly beauty came with function.
I hope the images would give some potters inspiration for their potting and wood-firing.

I also have changed most of the images on the previous ‘Beauty of Old Pottery ①’ posted on 21/01/2011 too. So it may be worth checking what images I posted there.

Do let me know if you would like to see more images I store in my PC hard-drive. (Gas)

Posted in mediæval vessels, wood-fired vessels | Tagged | 5 Comments