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The Shimpo Aspire Tabletop Pottery Wheel.

This little wheel weighs 25 pounds, goes on a tabletop, and is supposed to center 20 lbs. Yeah right. Looks like a toy doesn’t it?

Shimpo's table top wheel for beginner to advanced throwers

Well I tried it out and here it is. No toy.

The proof is in the pudding.I don’t remember how much clay I used, but the pot stands 13 1/4″ tall. Not bad. Like any Shimpo I’ve used, (and despite the fact that this one is belt driven vs direct drive) it handles clay without breaking a sweat. Very quiet as well. I like the fact that despite all that strength, its very light and I can easily pick it up, stick under my arm, and go. I’ve tried a Soldner tabletop model (made by Bluebird) and it was great.. sturdy and strong, but very heavy.

Anyways, I was impressed not only by its ability, but by its exceedingly reasonable price.

When we originally built our kiln in 2000, we used all recycled brick and built it around the size of shelves we already had. It was a flat top, built mainly of stacked arch brick for the walls and a fiber (ceramic blanket) and heavy sheet metal roof. Not fancy, but we had a kiln and didn’t have to spend much money to put it all together.

Cordite shelves beside new flat nitride bonded shelfIt took at least 7 years of painstaking tweaking and firing before I really got to know its ways. About 5 years ago a dog we had knocked over the entire stack of old brick we were using for the kiln door, breaking most of them!! (..sigh) Long story short, it has been a struggle from the get-go to achieve reduction with any reliability, if at all.

As I think I mentioned in my last post, the old kiln as it was is no more. The flat roof – gone. The danger of fiber bits falling down into pots if you accidentally brushed the roof of the kiln with your head when stacking/loading – gone. The flat top was replaced with a retrofitted sprung arch and we finally were able to get new brick for the door. Extra fiber and roofing tin wraps the outer walls now as well.

The other exciting change made was replacing the old severely warped cordite shelves in favor of 6 new nitride bonded silicon carbide shelves. As you can see in the pictures, some of the old shelves were warped an inch and a half to two inches in places (I put one of the new nitride bonded shelves beside the stack of old shelves to show the difference in thickness and flatness). As with a wood or soda fire, loading typically involved painstakingly “wadding” each and every pot for the firing with a mix of 60/40 china clay to alumina hydrate. It was the only solution I could see to prevent warping. I have several potter friends who have those zoomy Advancer shelves that run about $100 a shelf in the size I was looking at. The nitride bonded are a step down from the Advancers, but are a lot less cost prohibitive, costing maybe $20 or so dollars more than a comparably sized cordite shelf.

Thin, flat, and light nitride bonded shelf

These new nitride bonded shelves weigh all of 11 pounds (the old cordite shelves in comparison weighed 44 pounds!), so loading the kiln takes a lot less of a physical toll on me and I can load it independently. I still do wad some – little teeny wads – (vs using kiln wash or sprinkling alumina hydrate on the shelves), especially on those clay bodies I might be firing that might be a bit tighter than our native clay to prevent sticking, Loading takes a fraction of the time as does the preparation of the wadding itself. Now that I have flat shelves, the wads can be glued on in advance as well.

The new arch in combination with the new flat shelves gives me at least, I am guessing an extra foot of stacking space. Not only that but the kiln now reduces and fires more efficiently using about a third less propane per firing. With the rising price of propane ($264 for 75 gallons this last delivery), the upgrades to the kiln and shelves couldn’t have come at any better time. (Better for the environment as well.)

As an aside, we got our new shelves and brick from Larkin Refractory Solutions in Atlanta. Wonderful customer service and knowledgeable staff.

First of all, my apologies for not updating the blog more often. Some people really have a real knack of updating their blog regularly and seem to always have something interesting to say. I hope to have more news, updates, and reflection, more frequently, now that summer is here.

We’ve just undergone a bit of a down period here at the pottery, what with equipment problems and too many extraneous things going on. The kiln part we have been waiting for has finally come in and has been installed, and the clay mixer (made from parts from a WWII anti-aircraft gun) had some minor repairs made to keep it going, and is once again staggering along.
So we are slowly starting back at getting things fired and moving along again. We should have more raku pots with some different designs up on the web site shortly.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of those overuse injuries that plague, among others, potters and surveyors, both of which Lowell has been over the years. So last Tuesday, he surgery for it on his other hand. He had surgery on the first hand some 5 or 6 years ago. Hopefully this latest surgery will be a success as well. The pain that extended from his hand up into his shoulder, as well as some frequent numbness in his fingers, is starting to subside, so hopefully that is a good sign.

Rick Tino ‘s Fine Art & Frames in Gulf Shores, AL, who I have mentioned in some of my previous entries, finally has a web site up: tinosfineart.com. While it is still in its preliminary stages, please feel free to check it out and make a point to drop in if you are in the Gulf Shores area.

We had a sad week this week. We lost 2 good friends: our bloodhound, Rebel, and our dachsund, Winston, both within a day of each other. Then yesterday we had a mishap in the driveway and accidentally ran over my 12 year golden, Riley, who had been, unbeknownst to me, sleeping under the truck at the time. He survived, and miraculously his back wasn’t broken, but he has some problem with his leg/shoulder. Still waiting on news on him from the vet this morning…

My name is Anne Webb and I'm a studio potter living and working just outside of Magnolia Springs, on Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast. Please leave comments!
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