Sunday, April 12, 2009

Barrel Firing

The first of April was a rather busy day. After setting up a new shed/studio I managed to squeeze in a barrel firing. It was full of Christmas ornaments that had been waiting to be finished for quite some time. I started firing about 5pm (after the shed was in place and the ruts left by the delivery truck had been flattened out and filled in) and let it burn till about 10. By that time the fire was pretty much out and I was ready to go to bed, so I slapped a lid on the barrel, weighted it down and let it smolder.

My extremely high-tech firing apparatus.

I expected to be able to unload it the next day, but with the lid on it continued to smolder for another day or so. When I finally opened it up, this is what came out.

One of the great things about barrel firing is that the results are somewhat unpredictable; you can never be quite sure how things are going to turn out. This is also one of the more difficult things about barrel firing. I got about a 50% success rate with this. That is not to say that half of them broke, but half of them were good enough to keep. The others wait to be fired again another day. And after being cleaned up and polished…

It's like a little ornament family portrait, awwww.

I love the colors on these ornaments, especially the rusty oranges. Unfortunately I am not sure what exactly caused them. I had a number of combustibles and such in the barrel (straw, salt, copper wire, baking soda, banana peels, coffee grounds) and I tried to keep track of what was where, but everything got pretty jumbled up. I can say for sure that the saggars didn't really work though. I guess it did not get hot enough that far down in the barrel (they were at the bottom). I will try stacking the barrel different next time to see if I can get a hotter, more consistent fire.

Some of these were finished with floor wax and some were finished with acrylic spray. The wax gives a nice satiny finish, but also leaves a rather unpleasant aroma (it actually made my wife sick). The spray is a bit more glossy, but more efficient and I think it will probably protect the ornaments better in the long run. All in all a pretty good firing.


  1. i used to love barrel firing... brings back memories

  2. Ooooh, I love the ornaments! What a great idea!

  3. Thanks all! I like the process and have been getting some decent results. I guess I'll keep at it, even if I do look like a bit of a hillbilly watching a barrel burn and drinking a beer.