First firing wrap up

The terra sig I made up last week and fired this weekend didn’t turn out like I expected. The color is nice, a really creamy white, but I was hoping for a pure white. I know I put together a bright white a few years ago; apparently I didn’t right down the recipe where I could find it again. The texture was also a bit disappointing. There seemed to be a lot of large particles in the sig, which surprised me. I thought I was really careful when siphoning off the settled mixture.

My next sig will be an XXSagger (this one was a Gold Art). I may try and get my hands on a different deflocculant too. For the Gold Art I used epsom salt, which seems to be less favored among potters who use terra sigs than some other things.

Sunday I tried smoking the terra sig. I couldn’t find the instructions I wanted, the ones I read on how to do this a few weeks ago. I started with the largest piece of the work which blew up in the firing. I laid some butternut squash peels, corn husks and newspaper over the shard and wrapped it in tinfoil. This is what came out:


The dark brown, glossy areas are the burned out red underglaze.

I turned the lower section of the kiln on medium and checked the tinfoil saggar at half an hour. When I looked in I saw the the second element up from the bottom was not hot. I’m not surprised one of the elements is bad on a kiln this old. The elements themselves are pretty crusty. I called Euclids for a quote on new elements, which will run me about $140 ($38 for four elements, minus a 10% discount for buying a full set). I also learned while talking to the element man that my kiln — a Knight model 103 according to the kiln itself — is missing a section. Model 103 is supposed to have three sections; mine only has two.

I don’t know if I can spring for the new elements right now. The kiln still made it to cone 04, although probably in a very inefficient way. I’ll be eager to see our electric bill this next cycle. After test firing our bill wasn’t any different than normal. This first firing, however, took a lot longer.

Correction: It appears all of the elements actually do function. I’m smoking some more of the terra sigs today and noticed the questionable element was red. Apparently, as I read a couple weeks ago, the kiln’s bottom element fires up before the second from the bottom in order to heat the kiln more evenly.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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