Primitive Technology: termite clay kiln & pottery

Digging clay out of a termite mound, using straw to reinforce it, and making a crude but very effective kiln to fire clay pieces to be used as roof tiles, a water jug, a blower and more. Brilliant.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Firing Joy’s Kiln


Our friend Joy Brown was loading her big anagama kiln the other day and I went by to see where my clay “balls” were going to be in the kiln and just watch the action.

Joy makes large ceramic sculpture of what seem to be large, round women sitting or kneeling. They’re wonderful and she’s got “clients” who have them the world over. Getting them in this long tube of a kiln is no easy job.


During my 12 hour shift firing the kiln Joy and I “mudded up” the door with wet clay and straw and rebuilt the firebox to let in a bit less air. Messy job but nice to get messy again after over 20 years of being mostly digital with little clay mess.





In the old days we used only pyrometric “cones” to measure temperature inside a kiln and they’re still used in many places. Cones are small ceramic objects that look like 3″ long, tall, thin pyramid that one sticks in a wad of clay and then places near a porthole so one can see it melt and know the kiln has reached a certain temperature. Now, in the modern (digital) age, digital pyrometers are used. The older one on the left here isn’t used anymore. The newer one (yellow) has two inputs from two probes: one for the front (the larger, higher number here) and one for the back of the kiln. This instrument is so accurate and the big kiln so responsive that you can affect change just by putting in the smallest piece of wood.


I went back the next day and Joy was struggling to get the back of the kiln caught up with the front and was stoking heavily with little air to create a longer flame and so, heat the back more. The flame was so long it came out the closed portholes looking for air.

The fire is over now. In a few days, I’ll go see the kiln unloaded.

Clay Balls

My friend Joy Brown lives up the road in Kent and is a potter/ceramic artist. She has a large anagama climbing wood kiln that is being loaded as I write this (it takes a week to load the thing). In another life (galaxy…) I “did clay” too and Joy has been bugging me to make something to put in the kiln, just for the fun of it, just for old time’s sake. Last year I helped fire it putting in a 10 hour shift stoking and just loved it: loved the rhythm of it, the people who came and went, and I particularly liked working with Joy who is a very special person.

So, she called the other day and said time was running out and I’d better get my butt in gear and make something.

So I did. I decided that instead of trying to make anything to eat on (dishes) which would be quite humiliating after a 25 year retirement from clay, I’d make some “garden geology” in the form of a set of rocks or “balls” that we’d place around our property: in our stone walls, in our pond, in our garden, even burried for someone to dig up after we’re compost.


The minute I got my hands on the clay it was rekindled love. I can see now that there will soon be a new category in this weblog called “clay” as I’m going to do a lot more of this.

The pieces above are about 6″ in diameter, made with two slabs of clay wrapped around a ball of crumpled newspaper then smoothed and paddled so they’re relatively regular. There’s an air hole (1/8″) on the bottom and they should shrink around the newspaper just fine and it should burn out. After they’re cool (down from maybe 2600 F) there might be some ash that spills out the hole, I’m not quite sure.