Firing Natural Clay WITHOUT a KILN





Introduction: Firing Natural Clay WITHOUT a KILN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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35 Discussions


Question 2 months ago

Hi, can I know what type of charcoal that you need and how many kilogram of charcoal that you used for entire process?

I am really interested in trying out this home-made kiln, I was just wondering if you could advise about using it for larger creations such as small bowls? Do you think it would still work?


9 months ago

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

1 reply

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

Thank you!

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!

1 reply

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

This is great! Perfect.

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

1 reply

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.

How hot does everything get?

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

1 reply

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.

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

1 reply

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

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

Does the sawdust catch fire from the coals?

4 replies

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