How to Build a Small Gas Kiln

Written by finn mccuhil
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How to Build a Small Gas Kiln
Buld a small kiln to fire your own ceramics. (pottery image by Avesun from Fotolia.com)

Throwing your own pots, vases or bowls is a satisfying experience. Taking your finished pieces to a pottery shop for firing can hit you in the pocketbook and make you wonder if the experience is worth the expense. You can build a small, gas-fired kiln for less than you might think. The hardest part might be locating a 55-gallon drum with a removable lid. You can find the ceramic insulation, glue and shelves in a pottery supply store. The rest of the necessary items can be found in your nearest home improvement store.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 55-gallon drum with removable lid
  • Compass
  • Electric drill with 1/2-inch bit
  • Sabre saw with metal-cutting blade
  • Ceramic insulation mastic (adhesive)
  • Trowel
  • Utility scissors
  • Ceramic insulation batting
  • Concrete blocks (3)
  • Kiln shelving
  • Gas weed burner
  • Gas cylinder

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Take the lid off of the drum. Remove the screw-out bung, and set it aside.

  2. 2

    Use the compass to mark a 6-inch circle, 3 inches from the bottom of the drum on the side opposite the drum's joining seam.

  3. 3

    Place the drum on its side with the circle you marked facing up. Drill a 1/2-inch hole in the middle of the circle.

  4. 4

    Place the blade of the sabre saw into the hole you drilled. Cut out the marked circle. The end of the gas weed burner will be inserted through this hole to provide heat for the kiln.

  5. 5

    Spread an even layer of mastic on the inside of the drum with a trowel.

  6. 6

    Use utility scissors to cut and fit strips of ceramic insulation. Press into the mastic on the inside of the drum. Completely cover the interior of the drum, with the exception of the hole for the heat source.

  7. 7

    Coat the inside of the drum's lid with mastic and fit with ceramic insulation. Leave the bung open. This will act as a flue for your kiln.

  8. 8

    Place three concrete blocks on the ground to act as a supporting tripod for the drum. Place the drum on top of the blocks.

  9. 9

    Allow the mastic to dry. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for drying time. Do not fire the kiln until the adhesive has fully cured.

  10. 10

    Insert shelving and pottery into kiln. Attach the lid.

  11. 11

    Attach the weed burner to the gas cylinder. Ignite the burner. Insert the end of the burner 1 inch into the hole in the side of the kiln.

Tips and warnings

  • If your drum was used to store petroleum products, use a solvent to clean all the interior surfaces and allow it to dry. Mastic will not adhere properly to an oily surface.
  • A smaller drum could be used to make this kiln. If you only fire small pieces and can find a 30-gallon drum, the instructions remain the same.
  • The interior of the kiln will take on a red glow at about 930 degrees. The colour is easily observed by looking at the interior of the flue. This simple up-draft kiln will reach a maximum temperature of 538 degrees Celsius. At this point, reduction occurs, and the gas will no longer burn efficiently inside the kiln. An oxidation flame will be visible above the kiln's flue. Use the weed burner's control valve to adjust the size of the flame.
  • Use gloves as well as eye and breathing protection while handling ceramic insulation and adhesive. Read and follow all manufacturers' recommendations for handling and disposal of these materials.

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