building the anagama


The kiln’s history

The kiln was originally built in 1996 and 1997 with help of my students from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Over the course of a year, we took a mountain of used firebrick and built a two chamber kiln, with a small ‘secret chamber’ between. The first was an anagama chamber that was based on the design of an overturned hull of a whaling boat. This fed into the secret chamber, which was a collection area for flue gases before they entered into the second chamber. The second was a big catenary and we primarily used it with salt. We did the inaugural firing in October of 1997.

We didn’t have any weather protection for the kiln, so in 2004 we built a steel shed above the kiln. Once the structure was built, the following year we tore down the secret chamber, salt chamber and chimney. We then did extensive changes in the anagama, rebuilding it’s door and extending it’s length by adding a four foot tunnel at the back end. We then built a new catenary for soda, and a third chamber for residual and a new chimney.

The current configuration has three chambers: the tube kiln, approximately 400-450 cubic feet of stacking space; the large second soda chamber, approximately 1000 cubic feet; and the small catenary residual chamber, with approximately 35 cubic feet of stacking space. We use about eight to ten cords of wood for the firing, a mixture of both oak and pine.