A Firebrick Repair Toolbox
Ever since I left Paragon and became an independent kiln technician, hunting for tools has been my biggest waste of time. So I have sorted my kiln tools into four tool boxes (along with a vacuum cleaner and air compressor).
Recently I put all of my firebrick tools into one box where I can find them instantly. Here they are, going clockwise from left to right in the photo:
Plastic or Aluminum Foil Tray: It should be large enough to dip firebrick pieces into kiln cement. This is much faster than applying the cement with a putty knife. You have to work quickly, or the cement will begin to set before the repair parts are pressed together. The faster you work, the better the bond.
Kiln Wash: Apply to the firebrick kiln bottom and the Kiln Sitter cone supports. Kiln wash looks like kiln cement. IMPORTANT: Keep these powders separated and clearly marked.
Spray Bottle: Spray a little water onto firebrick parts that you are cementing together. This helps the cement to adhere to the firebricks. If you work fast, you won’t need the water at all.
Plastic Cups: If you don’t have these, you will constantly hunt for a container to mix the cement in. Clean and reuse indefinitely.
2” Paint Brush: Thin kiln cement to coffee cream consistency. Then brush onto surfaces that you want to harden, such as the top of sidewalls in a top-loading kiln. Immediately wipe off the cement with a rag.
Paragon Liquid Kiln Cement: I like the liquid cement, because it’s fast and convenient. This is the very same cement used in the Paragon factory.
Scrap Firebricks: Cut pieces to replace broken sections in a kiln.
Paragon Dry Kiln Cement: This is for when you run out of liquid kiln cement. You can also mix the powder to the exact consistency that you want.
Rag: For wiping off kiln coating and for general clean up. Repairing firebricks is messy.
Paint Mixing Stick: For mixing kiln cement and kiln wash. Stir kiln wash constantly as you use it.
DeWalt DWHT20542 Multi-saw: This comes with a coarse blade and a hacksaw blade. Use it to cut firebricks. I found this at Home Depot. You can find other brands, of course.
3M Sanding Block: Medium grit sandpaper works well in shaping firebricks.
3M Sponge Sanding Block: Sand the edges of firebrick lid grooves to remove loose debris. You can cut the sponge to the size you need.
Marinade Injector: I found the “Good Cook Flavor Injector” at Tom Thumb. Use it to inject kiln cement deep into the cracks in firebrick kiln walls and floor. I will cover this in detail another time.
HEPA Vacuum Cleaner and HEPA mask (not shown): Wear the mask when working around firebrick powder. Vacuum firebrick parts before cementing.
Book Recommendation: "Clay: A Studio Handbook"
Vince Pitelka, well-known for his teaching and his contributions to Clay Times, here tells you more than you ever thought you needed to know about pottery. He shares a lifetime of knowledge.
Last week I wrote that I left Paragon in August, 2019 to become an independent kiln technician in the Dallas - San Antonio, Texas area. The day after I left Paragon, I was replacing elements at a school in Fort Worth.
I also wrote that doing something creative helps one to forget the daily news. A few of the responses from readers--
“Many thanks, Arnold, for your Kiln Pointers and also your paragraph on facing world events,” wrote Ruth Canham of Nahiku Art Glass in Hawaii. “I don’t know how I would have made in through the last couple of weeks without having my kiln to keep me busy. First, I took on the challenge of trying strip construction with reactive glass. After that I went on to making whimsical birds. It’s kind of freeing in a weird way to have the galleries closed. Time to play.”
“Thanks for sharing the electrical knowledge,” wrote Alexander Riedel. “Many are terrified of electricity when it can really be very simple if you know what to look for and how to do it safely.
“From my experience working on industrial foundry ovens,” Alexander continued, “it’s always something incredibly simple when it comes to electrical problems. It just takes a while to chase it down: a loose connection, limit switches slipping from loosening, fouled relay contacts, a wire or nut that loosened from expansion/contraction, overheated or broken elements. I also really enjoyed the quote about the studio being a place away from reality.”
“The nose told the story,” wrote Fujie Robesky. “Great detective work. Good to hear you’re still working in what you obviously love.”
“The Kiln Pointer email was a breath of fresh air!” wrote Andy Reeves.
“No telling what changes we will see from all this," wrote Pattie Necaise about the virus. “I think there will be good changes. We just might value people more than things.”
“It was good to hear from you, like hearing from an old friend, although we’ve never met. Thanks so much for the many pointers through the years,” wrote Colleen Gilligan Gilbert of Cypress, Texas.
“I work at a non-profit that serves adults with intellectual disabilities, and I help them earn a paycheck by making and selling fused glass,” she explained. “We have three big Paragon kilns--two Ovations and a Pearl-44. We got the first Ovation on my first day here over 10 years ago. We have used the heck out of these kilns, firing them every afternoon.
“Right now it’s very quiet here, as all our folks are staying away from our Learning Activity Center for their own health and safety. I continue to do paperwork, and look forward to the hustle and bustle of their return.”
The Rain in Mesquite
This morning before dawn, I sat in my sunroom listening to the rain. It drummed softly on the steel roof and splashed into a puddle outside. I felt like I was in the steel-roofed A-frame that I built in Leilani Estates near Pahoa, Hawaii. The rain fell in sheets there. The rain cleanses the world and sounds comforting.