Saturday 27 November 2010

Kiln Floor in Production

You might be forgiven for thinking that it's National Boring Photograph Day but this pic does illustrate the fact that, while we are in the grips of winter here in Rothbury, work on the Roman kilns is going ahead.  These clay bars will form the floor of the firing chamber and will be laid, radiating out from a central support like the spokes of a wheel, allowing the flames to pass up from the firebox and combustion chamber, see Roman Sunken Kiln Under Construction below.

Kiln bars drying in the workshop

  I haven't been back to the Westhills kiln since my last blog on the subject and my work on the York kiln got rained off after three days.  In this time I did however get the sunken part of the kiln dug out and most of the raised chamber wall built and clay lined.  It's actually mixing the clay and soil that takes the time, if I was working on an actual Roman Pottery production site with a high clay content in the soil I would simply add water.  As it is the soil on site is mostly sand and builders rubble so needs careful sorting and clay adding to it.

York kiln - lining the chamber with clay

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Prehistoric Pottery Disposal Experiment

I have started an experiment to find out how a large piece of collared urn will stand up to the winter weather. The pot was made by me a couple of years ago and spalled in the firing, I broke it a few months ago and have kept the pieces for just such experiments.  I've put it on the snow in a plant tub outside the back of my workshop and it's already covered in snow.  I'll try to keep you updated with it's Taphonomy!

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Saturday 6 November 2010

Roman Pottery Kiln Progress

Installed the Ware chamber floor today and started applying the clay lining.  Unfortunately there won't be any further work on it until Monday at least.

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Roman Sunken Kiln Under Construction

I can't believe that it has been so long since I've recorded my work here, it's been a very busy summer so there's lots of catching up to do, but I'll get to that over the winter.

Over the past couple of days I've been building a sunken type Roman kiln for my own use not far from my workshop.  The site was kindly offered by retired potter (I'm not sure that such a thing exists) Alastair Hardie & his wife Kate at Westfield Farm, Thropton Northumberland.  It is situated at the rear of the farm on a raised sand bank about two meters above the flood plain of the Wreigh Burn.  The ground consisted of about 50cm of compacted soil and building rubble, the residue of the concrete floor of an agricultural building which once stood on the site, over natural compacted sand.  This has proved to be an ideal situation, the compacted surface gives strength to the structure while the sand is relatively easy to work and provides a very well drained base for the kiln.

Although I was working alone, the digging of the ware chamber, stoking pit and fire box and the lining of the latter with ceramic brick took less than eight hours.  For the sake of speed I have used some recycled fire brick in the lining of the firebox.  This is the area of the kiln that most archaeologists would refer to as a flue, this is an incorrect use of the term, as the function of a flue is only to carry gasses from one part of a kiln or furnace to another, as in 'exit flue' which as the name suggests carries waste gasses out of the kiln.  The firebox by contrast is where the fuel is burned.  

Today I'll be setting the floor, again for the sake of speed, using modern refractory but I may replace this later for experimental purposes.  I'll report back later today.

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