My kiln is located outside, beside my studio and it is fired with two propane burners. I built the kiln in 1974 and it has stood up well even though the weather here near Georgian Bay in the winter can be severe. We typically get a lot of snow each winter and it can be quite dramatic firing the kiln in near blizzard conditions — wind howling, burners roaring, snow swirling, white hot flames licking out from between the bricks — wonderful!

I do a bisque firing and a glaze firing in my kiln every three weeks. Over the course of the past 35 years that amounts to over 1,000 firings. In that time I have rebuilt the arch twice, and the chimney once, but otherwise the kiln has changed very little. The photo below, to the left shows the basic structure of the kiln without the backup insulation in place. The floor of the kiln is made of refractory fire bricks and the walls and arch are made of insulating fire bricks. The kiln is basically a cube, with inside dimensions of 45 by 45 by 46 inches tall. This gives a firing space of about 52 cubic feet — not at all large by production potter standards but a comfortable size for me and my work cycle. The bricks are held in place by a framework of angle iron and threaded iron bars.

The close-up photo to the lower right shows the buttress for the arch. The ends of the arch fit into an angle iron which is held in place by the framework. An important feature of the buttress is the second, slightly smaller piece of angle iron which has been welded on to its outer side. This smaller piece serves two purposes. It acts as a heat sink, drawing heat away from the buttress during the firings and it also acts as backup support for the buttress so that it is less likely to sag with the heat and let the arch drop down.
The kiln archThe arch buttress

Kiln detail
This detail shows a typical wall section with the backup insulation in place. The brick is G26 insulating fire brick. Then there are two one inch blankets of Fiberfrax insulation and then the whole kiln is sheathed with industrial grade aluminum siding to give it some weather protection. The kiln has never had a shed or any sort roof over it.

Some sketches of the kiln design can be found here: front view, plan view, side view.

Animation of kiln firing
This animation shows my kiln as it reaches its top temperature of 1,300°C.

The creation of pottery is different from almost any other art form because the final, most dramatic change that takes place with the work happens on the other side of a brick wall from the artist! Even after all these years of firing kilns I still can't wait for each new kiln load to cool down so that I can see how things turned out!
Steve Irvine
R.R. # 2
Wiarton, Ontario
Canada N0H 2T0
(519) 534 2175