Introduction: Firing Natural Clay WITHOUT a KILN

Picture of Firing Natural Clay WITHOUT a KILN

Not every one has access to a professional kiln. And it may seem ridiculous to invest in one when you are creating miniatures or jewelry out of natural clay as a DIY project or as a one time experiment.

If you plan on creating clay pieces on a regular basis and wish to try out glazes, The FireBox 8x6 LT Multimedia Kiln by Skutt is a great starter kiln. And guess what Instructables is hosting a clay contest in which the grand prize winner gets this amazing kiln along with loads of clay suppplies, glazes, Laguna clay and tools from The Ceramic Shop

Anyways, in your DIY projects, you can't do away without firing, as the firing process is necessary to create the bond between clay molecules to prevent it from dissolving in water

So how do we fire natural clay WITHOUT a kiln?

Let's find out in this instructable

Step 1: Materials Needed

If not a kiln, what are the materials needed for firing?

You will need:

1. 2 wide mouthed clay pots

2. Sawdust (rice husk/wood shavings can also be used instead)

3. Coal

4. Kerosene

5. Matches

6. Tongs

Step 2: Set Up Pot A

Picture of Set Up Pot A

Added a layer of saw dust (about an inch or two thick layer) to the Pot A and place the completely dry clay pieces on it, taking care to evenly distribute them

Step 3: Top It Up With Another Layer of Saw Dust

Picture of Top It Up With Another Layer of Saw Dust

Top it up with another layer of saw dust to completely cover the pieces

Step 4: Burn Coal to Red Hot Temperature in Pot B

Picture of Burn Coal to Red Hot Temperature in Pot B

1. Take coal in pot B

2. Sprinkle some kerosene on the coal pieces

3. Light it up and bring coal to red hot temperature

*Exercise caution while dealing with fire. Coal tends to crackle and spurt out of the pot. Make sure to take necessary precautions*

Step 5: Transfer Coal From Pot B to Pot A

Picture of Transfer Coal From Pot B to Pot A

Once the coal is red hot, transfer it carefully with the help of tongs to the first pit, right on top of the sawdust

Step 6: Leave the Set Up Undisturbed Till It Cools by Itself

Picture of Leave the Set Up Undisturbed Till It Cools by Itself

it will take atleast 4 hours for the coal to burn completely and another couple of hours until the heat subsides. Leave it aside for this whole while

Step 7: Carefully Fish Out the Fired Pieces

Picture of Carefully Fish Out the Fired Pieces

The output of this method is black. This is NOT soot. The sawdust which helps in gradually and evenly distributing heat, also acts as a barrier limiting oxygen supply to the clay pieces. So the iron compounds in clay undergoes reduction reaction, resulting in black output. However the pieces turn strong and the clay molecules bond together similar to kiln firing, making it insoluble in water.

All my clay jewellery and keepsakes are fired using this method and painted with acrylic paints.

You can find another instructable on DIY clay jewellery where i have elaborated on making a pair of cute clay earrings. You can see how the painted pieces look like in that tutoral.

Feel free to take a peek into my facebook page Festoons Creations for more of my creations

You can buy my creations from Festoons Etsy shop

Step 8: If You Found Instructable Helpful, I Greatly Appreciate Your Vote in the Contest

I have entered this instructable in the Clay contest hosted by Instructables.

If you found this instructable helpful, i highly appreciate your support with a vote

Thank you all for reading

If you try this method out, do post your creations in the comments. Looking forward to see all your wonderful creations


lipase (author)2017-10-16

I'm having some issues with keeping charcoal burning for long enough and not permeating the sawdust beyond the top layer. I think maybe coal is better like you say in the instructable although currently trying burying the charcoal rather than setting it on top, perhaps I will have more luck this way

lipase (author)lipase2017-10-17

No luck with burying the charcoal, it just goes out. Now trying putting charcoal in the bottom of a ceramic plant pot with drainage hole in the bottom then setting a fire beneath. Hopefully oxygen will keep it burning. charcoal also up the side of the pot to increase potential air flow

lajjuana (author)2016-11-18

Thank you!

RobertoA105 (author)2016-11-04

Hey! Nice method i was looking for something like this. Is the final result Waterproof? i want to make some mini pots for cactus.

Thanks for the tutorial!

The final result is non-dissolvable in water, unlike unfired clay. Instead, it is permeable like a clay pot. Once painted and varnished, it becomes impermeable too

Fathomlis (author)2016-10-27

This is great! Perfect.

P.S Well done on first place in the contest!

Thank you ?

diykiwibloke made it! (author)2016-10-12

A superb instructable - thank you! I love your clay textures. Are you able to give us more info about the clays you use please? Do you dig and prepare your own clay or buy it or both :)

One method I enjoyed was to throw a cylinder on the wheel, with a lid. In would go charcoal, pine cones, copper wire, iron oxide, some low temperature frit glaze, wood ash, some perlite and then put the lid on and fire to 1300 C. The sculpture was the the result of such an enclosed container firing.

Keep up your creativity!

Thank you :)

At present, i buy my clay from a nearby pottery studio and is also available for craft purposes at craft supplies stores, in bundles of 1 kg. I am yet to prepare my own clay. Here in India, Bangalore clay is much preferred by jewelry crafters for its plasticity and workability.

Hi Saranya...that Bangalore clay sounds awesome. The hard part is removing the stones and roots from raw clay. If you're lucky, you won't have to add any other ingredients for the clay to fire well. A technique I enjoyed was to use a low-temperature white clay and put a bottle green fluid glaze over it. I made a little plaster cast of a clay slab with shells, seaweed added to it. The fluid glaze 'pools' in the hollows and lets the texture of the clay show through. Kind of like looking through water :) This also works well for small objects. The decoration you do would work brilliantly under a green glaze. If you need more info on anything, I'll be glad to help.

You might already know that you can fire glazed pieces in a normal microwave oven. It uses small a lidded container with graphite painted on part of the inside. Firing takes about 15 minutes!

Carry on creating!

glenwood13 (author)diykiwibloke2016-10-26

Thank you for your comment about firing glazed pieces in a microwave. I purchased a microwave kiln a while back specifically for fusing small pieces of glass but had no idea that I could do similar projects utilizing clay. Can't wait to try both methods -- Saranya's and yours. Thanks again.

Wow... Seems exciting. I haven't tried it yet. But would love to try it out. Thank you for suggesting??

Wow. those are such awesome pieces <3

I haven,t tried glaze yet. Would really love to experiment with them some time soon.

I fire my pieces and paint them with acrylic paints. My profile picture is one such painted piece. You can find an instructable for it at the following link

glenwood13 (author)2016-10-26

Thank you so much for this tutorial. I can't wait to try it. I purchased a raku fired piece years ago and found out from the artist the basics of how the raku effect was accomplished. Your method appears to be quite similar but on a scale that I could even do!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. And I'll be sure to vote for you.

ohoilett (author)2016-10-24

How hot does everything get?

Trevor54 (author)2016-10-19

How dry do you need your finished item to be before firing?

It needs to be completely dry before firing else the pieces will crack. Drying time depends on the size and thickness if the pieces, clay, temperature of air, humidity in air, etc. For the jewellery I make, I let the pendants dry for 4 to 7 days, while I let the beads dry for 2 to 3 days. By then it is completely dry.

Chrome98 (author)2016-10-18

What type of clay do you use and where do you get it?

I get my clay from a local pottery studio. It is also available in craft shops here in India as Bangalore clay.

seamster (author)2016-10-12

This is a fascinating idea to me, and a very interesting process.

Does the sawdust catch fire from the coals?

amcconnell3 (author)seamster2016-10-12

How exciting! Does it need to be real coal or can we use charcoal?

Charcoal works too. It gives the same result


offseid (author)amcconnell32016-10-12

I had the same question!


Charcoal works too. It gives the same result.

Thank you so much. Sawdust doesn't catch fire. It gets a bit smoky at first, when you transfer the coal onto it. But the mixture doesn't blow up to flames

Trevor54 (author)2016-10-17

By "coal" do you mean cgharcoal?

charcoal is good to go too

ClareBS (author)2016-10-16

That is very exciting. Over 30 years ago I was a fairly serious potter and have done many raku firings but haven't touched clay since moving to New Zealand over 30 years ago. This is a simple way I could get my clay fix. I voted for your instructable.

Yay...! Do share pics of your previous works and the ones you try with this method. Would love to see them. Do you have a website or fb page which I could follow?

Squirtle64 (author)2016-10-16

Very interesting, it sounds quite similar to a process called raku firing in which the clay is bisqued and then glazed, then heated to temperature and pulled out at its peak and dumped in a sealed trash can full of newspaper and sawdust to induce reduction... i kinda like how you reduced all this down to one step though for people with fewer resources that don't want to invest in professional equipment... lol

Haven't tried raku firing yet. Sounds interesting. Would love to try it out some day, to see how the clay turns out

relbatto (author)2016-10-16

we used to use a similar method and include newspapers that had been soaked in solutions of various metallic salts, our clay pieces were placed in a fire pit filled with wood chips and the pottery was wrapped in the dried newspapers, yuu get some incredible results. your designs for small jewelry pieces are really well thought out shapes and graffiti incisions. we just did small pots and figures. Your method will work anywhere and doesn't involve a lot of hunter gatherer effort. i will definitely show this to my grand daughter. We live in Oklahoma and the red clay here should give really nice results.

Definitely. Share this method with her and let us know how her pieces turn out too ?

Wow... That sounds interesting. Would love to see those pottery pieces. Please do share pics dear.

OliviaM37 (author)2016-10-16

Really cool tutorial! What is the cone number of the clay you use?

chocksliquidise (author)2016-10-13

Its nice :)

Thank you ?

About This Instructable




Bio: Terracotta and resin jewellery designer; Mother of a lovely angel; Introvert; Dreamer
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