Right now I am test firing the new Blaauw kiln that was just brought online by Gerard and Rick Blaauw last week here at the Bray. It was really fantastic to meet them, and to learn how to use their kiln from them. Here are 2 pics, one of the kiln and the other of the controller…
This controller is complicated, but absolutely amazing. This is a gas fired kiln with all the programmability of an electric kiln, with a bit more on top. That other bit? Its a software/webpage combo that tracks the kiln’ progress. This is the key feature that I feel all current computerized kilns are missing, is the ability to see the difference from what I asked the kiln to do in my program vs what actually happened. Below is a screen shot from the Blaauw website that is tracking the kiln. The beauty of this? I can track the kiln from anywhere I have internet access.
Blue is the air, Red is temp (C), and Yellow is gas. You can barely seen the Green graph, which is the program plot. Meaning, in this case, the kiln executed the program almost exactly. Awesome. I unload tomorrow, so I will wait until then to confirm my absolute commitment to this new firing method.
A little background on why I’m testing this switch from electric to gas firing. Recently the Bray did a very in-depth evaluation of firing costs. Turns out, the cost of gas is significantly less than the cost of electricity here in Helena. This is completely regional, and will be the opposite elsewhere. So yes, I’m interested in reducing my production costs. Especially when my other production costs just went way up from doing the CNC’ed trays with Automotive paint. The other reason is the Blaauw kiln. This is the kiln technology that I have always wanted to use. I have also heard some ceramic rumors that there is a difference in the color of the clay and glazes between electric and gas firing in oxidation. This seems feasible, but I’m a skeptic of any information attained this way. So there’s really only one true way to find out, test it. I’ll see tomorrow.
One more thing… After crunching the numbers, it cost me $36 to fire the Blaauw, which has 45 cu/ft of stacking space. For comparisons sake, it would cost me $39 to fire the Freddy (a frontloading electric) which is 20 cu/ft, or $21 to fire the large Skutt which is 10 cu/ft. Pretty easy conclusion, but I’ll need to see the results of the pots. I really hope they look good!