Joy Bridy


finishing touches

laying bricks

electric and cement

kiln shed

old chicken coop


Joy Bridy: Bourry Box Kiln Construction

July 15, 2010: The kiln s'enflamme! From the first image of the chicken coop just over one year ago, to the final image of the flame inches from the waiting wood, the path of designing and building my first kiln has been an exciting and invigorating project. The flicker of the lighter bridges the end of the construction phase and the beginning of the life of this kiln. May the firings be many, and the path be lined with many curious findings.

July 14, 2010: The finishing touches have finally occurred on this year-and-a-half-long project, the pots are leaping onto the shelves, and the flames are scheduled for July 15-17. Each piece is loaded into the kiln with 3-5 small balls of clay underneath it to keep the ash from gluing it to the shelves and to other pots. Some pieces are glazed, some are not. The spirit of experimentation is alive and well, with eight clay bodies represented, 8 glazes that I know and love, and three new test glazes in the mix. Let the learning begin!

The side-stoke doors were one of the last tasks to finish before lighting the fire, and Eric Johnson, my local blacksmith, did an incredible job matching his skills and my wishes. Beauty and function once again combine to create doors to make any stoker smile.

Nitride bonded silicon carbide shelves arrived via ABF Freight from Minnesota, with just a few days rest before being put to work. 14" x 28", approximately 26 lbs a piece, I'm looking forward to loading these lovelies for years to come.

laying bricks

June 7, 2010: Ta Da! The brick laying is complete...the chimney is 20' tall...the crew is tired and giddy, jubilant. Today was the perfect day to lay bricks on a roof: overcast, 75* with a slight breeze. The crew, Kate and Lynsi, were perfectly hard working and cheerful. Who could ask for more?

While I admit to being nervous, the day went pretty smoothly. Lynsi, being comfortable with knots from her rock climbing habits, tied a secure line with figure-eight knots from one side of the roof to the other. I used this rope to get up to my peak perch, where we then created a brick-pulling system to move bricks up, mortar up, tools up, bench up. Lots of up. We stopped a few times to add supports to the bench straddling the peak, each time adding to my sense of stable footing so I could eventually stand and stretch to add the last few rows....whew!

And there she is....Lynsi deserves a huge round of applause for practicing her Lat Row move with 280 bricks today. Dinner is hardly an adequate thank you. And Kate is seen in the background moving 280 bricks up two tiers of scaffolding. A hearty work day had by all.

June 4, 2010: The day of castable has come and gone! Jane, Beth, Lynsi and I laid over 4" of insulatory magic over yesterday's insulating fiber. There's nothing more appreciated than a hard-working crew.

Strange to say, but it seems that this project is coming to an end...keep your eyes open this week for the final construction stage: chimney above the roof line, cutting the door bricks, skim coat over castable.....

The castable mix, seen here being prepped by Lynsi and Jane, is made of 3 parts sand, 1 part fire clay, 1 part portland cement, and 2 parts sawdust from my furniture making pal Tom McGarry. It's a bit heavy when mixed correctly, but the wheelbarrow and a few buckets help. We laid 1" over the fiber to create a bit of a shell, protecting the fiber from being crushed. Then we laid a 2-3" layer over that, as the main body of the castable. A layer of chickenwire was added on top of that, and another 1" layer to hold it in place. A skim coat of clay and portland cement will happen soon as I decide which batch of local clay to use for the perfect color. Perhaps the deep orange from the clay under the garden?

For the curious: 900 lbs sand, 284 lbs portland cement, 15 buckets sawdust, 0ver 300 lbs fireclay, four nasty pairs of gloves, and lots and lots of water.


June 3, 2010: Iron work in place, bricks filled in under arches, hole in the roof for the chimney to continue, insulating fiber laid and ready for castable....tomorrow is the big castable work party. Piles of ingredients awaiting labor-ready hands.

May 28, 2010: After a lot of scheming and following dead ends, Dan Tokar, Shepherdstown, WV's Blacksmith, Iron Monger, Man of Metal and Creativity, has helped to make the supportive metal work become a reality. Made of 2" angle iron, welds, bolts, and some sturdy threaded rods for the top adjustable supports, these bits of metal will help keep the arches in place when the heat gets going. Dan, a truly fascinating local phenomenon, has been a pleasure to work with, as we trotted between town and kiln in my '78 Ford.

May 8, 2010: After laying over 200 bricks up on scaffolding friday, the chimney is less than one foot from the roof of the kiln shed, and my beloved contractor friend is scheduled to visit on monday to assist with cutting the hole in the metal roof. There's something primal about schlepping bricks up, up, up, and climbing up and down over and over again, and there's a great sense of accomplishment as the sun sets. Next, how to get bricks up to the roof!

As the sun set, the tool bench caught my eye, from the sculpture that holds the safety glasses and ear protection, to the used/retired blades and gentle cadence of trowels in a line...

Yes, those are my jeans up at the top! (And a fine view of the arch, I must say.)

April 29, 2010: Work crew in action, the chamber arch roof went up, up up, brick by brick, with a bit of mortar and rubber mallet pounding. There's such a sense of awe when the keystone bricks settle into place. Jerry returned to lend his experienced hand, daniell worked the camera...

Jane and Jerry made up the mortar station, and made the day go smoothly.

Beth worked up on scaffolding opposite of my scaffolding, and we met in the middle. Two mallets, four trowels, three levels, one mortar bucket, eight plastic-coated gloves, and two quiches...

April 27, 2010: The chamber arch form, awaiting 2000 lbs of bricks and mortar.....skew back bricks in place, crew arriving thursday to make a day of it! Keep your fingers crossed, and wish us luck...

April 26, 2010: The kiln at rest....after a long week of planning and scheming, the front firebox arch went up without hardship. With a healthy fear of heights and the rafters within reach, the scaffolding is my friend. Between Daniell and Jerry mortaring bricks for the arch, and Lynsi helping to finish the final rows of bricks for the ware chamber, the kiln is officially awaiting the main chamber arch (which I built today). The Crew arrives thursday.....looks like a kiln, eh?

Lynsi's timing is perfect...the final brick of the chamber walls.

Jerry's generous mortaring of the arch bricks.....

April 17, 2010: The kiln is well above my head now. There's a large-scale feeling when I go out to work, which involves rigging up various cinder blocks and 2x12's...luckily there's only one layer of mortar to go before the transition to the exciting world of arches (and scaffolding).

The first arched roof will be over the firebox, and will be a half arch, reaching up to the chamber wall. I'm looking forward to the practice before building the chamber arched roof. With scaffolding on loan from a generous contractor friend, I'll feel much more secure...I must say, I'm excited!

Here are the hobbes in their finished form (and a stoke-door framed image of the woodlands). Alas, no in-construction photos, but drawings may be coming soon. The little mouse holes in the floor show up nicely in this image. There are 2 mouse holes with tunnels that travel to the front of the kiln, which can be used to get air into the coal bed as the firing progresses.

April 11, 2010: Taller...taller...taller! The firebox has side doors, the walls are too tall to work on without scaffolding (or cinderblocks and 2x12's), and I'm prepping for the firebox roof next week. As an interlude, here's a photo series laying corbelled bricks on the chimney.

1: spread mortar

2: place and level brick

3: smile!

*** I forgot to take photos of creating the arch brick hobbes! The basic format was handed down to me from Donovan Palmquist of Master Kiln Builders. The hobbes are half arch bricks mortared into three arches, placed in the three openings below. I special cut skews for both sides, special cut bricks for above and below, and voila... Ok, so that's not a very good explanation for a complicated arrangement, so I'll have to think about how to present this better at a later time, perhaps with a drawing, or an interpretive dance. Donovan, when and where are you publishing that article?

March 23, 2010: While there's not as much progress with bricks as I had hoped, there sure is some progress with wood! My potter friend Crawford Horne is moving to Tybee Island, Georgia, and we spent saturday moving his wood to my kiln, all in a 17' box truck. I just finished stacking, and it seems to me that this may be enough wood for 2-3 firings, with what daniell is collecting for me from our woodlands, and from what the neighbor sent my way. My shoulders are still a bit sore, but it feels like Money In The Bank! Compare with last week's photo below....

March 16, 2010: I'm back! Spring seems to have arrived with a bang, the snow is melted, and I can't keep my hands out of the mortar bucket. This may have been the last day for my favorite gloves (see above), but fear not, there are new pairs in the wings...

Bricks have been going up fairly easily this past week. I've been working solo, and am pleasantly surprised how much I've been enjoying the pace and attention of working alone. It's certainly slower, but I feel more connected to the process. On a good day, I can get one layer laid out, special cuts made, and then mortar everything into place before I get too tired.

At this point, I am corbeling in the chimney, slow and steady, and am also preparing to add the hobbes in the firebox. The hobbes are where the wood will sit, but more on that in future posts....

(See Vessels in Use for February Winter view of kiln.....)

February 18, 2010: Time passes quickly, but the end of January has been beautiful, and I was able to get out and grind a few more "special bricks" for above the front arches, and actually lay a few bricks with slushy, but unfrozen mortar. Waiting for a new saw blade to continue..... daniell's pile of young trees has grown, and the green fencing behind the kiln are young sugar maples.


November, 2009: Both the throat arch, with the help of Lynsi, and the front arch, with the help of Jerry, are complete and mortared into place. Now to fill in the angles...and clean up a bit!


laying bricks

November, 2009: This mason's wet saw and it's sidekick of a diamond blade are two of my new pals. With a little geometry and a little conversation, we're cutting our own skew bricks by clamping a guide brick to the saw table, thus keeping my little digits safe and attached to my body. Complete the ensemble with safety glasses and ear protection....


October, 2009: The Walls! The Walls! Exit flues...doorways....


It's starting to look like a kiln! After many evenings of singing and dancing onwhat appeared to be a stage, my fancy footwork is coming to an end. Throat arch openings, bag walls...the next stage has begun.


Making special cuts for bricks to fit in odd places has become a favorite task, especially if Jerry is marking the cuts....t takes a steady hand. The mouse hole channels are covered now, and the small holes that Jerry is working around will be in the firebox under the coals.


Lynsi worked on the kiln for three days, and was my match in brick laying...same pace, same rhythm. She can use the brick handle like a pro, too. Here are both of our mortar buckets, trowels, and plenty of levels. The two channels that you see in the front are called Mouse Holes, and the will let air in to the coal bed to help control how fast the coals burn.


The first day of brick laying, and the crew: Rebecca, Noah and daniell.

After months and months of planning, we're laying bricks! The first few layers are down, and the rhythms are building. With the basic tools of a level, trowel, and mallet, brick by brick....


electricity and cement

Dan getting the electric up and flowing.


Steve helping to finish the concrete pad.


kiln shed

Ta-Daa! Ready and waiting...fresh from passing inspection..


Kiln shed standing, waiting for the metal roofing.....


My favorite forklift at work.... while it was challenging to keep myself out of the way, I loved the way the crew used their forlkift for everything. It may be the largest all-purpose tool I've ever seen. From lifting the walls to instant scaffolding, this machine does it all. Paul even agreed to unload the kiln bricks from the flatbed truck for me when they arrived.


From old chicken shed to eight post holes to concrete footers..... it was a few months between tearing down the old shed with sledge hammers and a reciprocating saw and the beginning of action, but it was worth the wait. As the crew worked their magic, I worked in the studio, making enough pieces to fill the yet-unbuilt kiln.


chicken coop

Once there was a chicken coop, soon there will be a wood firing kiln.....