Friday, August 15, 2008

Wilderness Survival Pottery Firing Method

Last week's project was pottery! Mom found a site on wilderness survival, where one article described fire pit pottery firing. We went for it!

We started by sculpting some rough things out of clay (abundant around here) and water to experiment firing. Here's what we came up with: A plate and cup, a pot/cup, some rosary beads and some 'Johnny creations'.

We dug a pit about a foot deep and a foot and half wide square. We lit a hot fire and let it die out. When the embers had cooled, we scooped them out and tossed them in the burn barrel. Then we laid about 2-3in. of fine sawdust in the bottom of the pit. On top of that we placed our pottery and filled the pit the rest of the way up with sawdust. Then we lit a large hot fire over it for three hours. (Yes, the pottery turns an unchangeable black, it's expected.)

At the sight of the fire, the kids immediately gathered some green apples and cooked them in the flames. There were varied opinions on the outcome of those.

We did have some burn...

When it got late, Mom went into the garden and gathered a basket of veggies. She brought them in the house and prepared them (somehow)... then came out and handed me a pot, called it dinner, and told me to cook it.
I told Stephen I needed a cook rack over my fire pit. Within minutes, he'd rigged one that worked perfectly. Four cement bricks on end, one in every corner. Two metal T-posts laying on those with a oven rack across them. It was very sturdy, just the right hight and worked great! I was so proud of him. He's starting to take after his dad with his quick thinking and confident problem-solving tendencies. 

Dinner was great!

We left the pottery buried in the ash overnight to let it cool. In the morning everyone was excited to see what we had.

It was immediately evident that the coals were still too hot, so uncovering was a slow process that went all day. We wanted everything to cool down at a slow rate so we had to leave them in the ash to cool.
I spy a plate and a cup.

We did have some cracking on the very top of this pot because it was too close to the fire.

It took the girls quite a while to locate all their beads in the sawdust/ash. They used a slotted spoon and shifted through the ash until they'd found all 61 of them.

Over 24 hours after they were fired, my plate broke as I was washing the soot off of it. Bummer! I think it was still too hot on the inside (though cool to the touch) so it broke when the cold hose water touched it. The other things look good. They still smell 'ashy'. I haven't washed them real well yet, however, and they are supposed to wash clean. We haven't created the rosary out of the beads yet either. I'll let you all know how that turns out.

So, it was a very interesting process and we learned a lot. Even though we didn't come away with stunning results, it was usable results so I'm happy! All in all, it was a very fun family experience.


  1. Very interesting - and remember sometimes its not about the results its about the experience.

  2. looks like you had fun : )

  3. We use to have red clay at one of our old houses, but all we ever made with it was little huts for our invisible wood nymph people ;~}. There was also a camp we used to go to and the property was covered in red clay, and since it rained every year we went to camp, my girls cabin (the rest of the cabins wouldn't do it, including the boys!) played mud ball in the pouring rain. Clay was great for mud ball, even though by the time we were done our camp shirts were ruined. Everyone thought it was funny......except one of our cabin leaders, she was so angry we did this just before evening worship. Even the head of the camp found it quite amusing.

    Thank you for sharing, it looked and sounded like you all had alot of fun.



  4. Wow, that's really cool that you made pottery! Neat-O!

    I just checked my email tonight (I'm sorry, but I don't check it very often), and I saw your email! Um, I'd have to ask Mom about emailing... my email is mainly for sending articles and blog posts and receiving comments. I don't get too many comments, but it's still adds to Mom's gazillion!

    Neat about the goats. Surprisingly, yesterday two does kidded, and had three. And then today, one kidded and had two. We have twelve goats now, instead of the seven we had! Jocelyn posted pictures on her blog, if you want to go check them out.

    Oh, you don't dye it? Hmm... well, that's neat anyways. Wanna send me some photos of your 'creations'? I'd love to see them! That would be neat to have something homemade from rabbit wool... I'd love to do that... I would not be very good at it I am sure........ :-

    I hope to use the greenhouses for gardening stuff when we are finished with the other 'stuff'.

    ok, so jersy's are good for milking. We have wanted a cow for about two years now, but have not been able to get one. I am hoping to get a couple milkers when we move and a cow for butchering too. Not sure about where we are moving yet tho... that doesn't help. :P

    Thank you for giving me that URL. I will check it out! She can send me her book if she wants. I would love to take a look at it... what's it about?

    The pictures were so cute. I loved the rabbit ones. :) Love rabbits!

    Ok, I gotta go now! See ya girly!



  5. That is really neat! I love how the beads look! That must have been a really fun day for you all!


  6. Rachel, I responded to you privatively through the HSB. I hope that works...

    Thanks for all the comments guyz! The pottery was oober fun, you should all try it! ;-)


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