How to Build a Ceramic Kiln

By Tara Dodrill

Things Needed

  • Iron bucket 1 foot tall, and 1 foot wide with a lid.
  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Graphite
  • Wood or cork measuring two inches in diameter, and three inches long
  • Thick paper
  • Metal or iron pipe 1 inch in diameter and 2 feet tall.
  • Cylinder shaped wood measuring 8 inches long and up to 8 inches wide.
  • 2-inch wide strip of sheet iron
  • Power drill
  • Heat source for kiln: Bunsen burner, open fire or plumbing torch

Making a ceramic kiln is a thrifty way to fire clay or ceramic items. Ceramic kilns are able to withstand temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Celsius. The cost of making a ceramic kiln is less than $5. Artisans can create at least 250 firings inside the kiln before it begins to show wear or loss of heat.

Building the Kiln

Use an iron bucket for the top of the ceramic kiln. Iron buckets can be purchased at home improvement stores or kitchen supply stores. The bucket needs to be 1 foot tall and no larger than 1 foot across. The iron bucket must have a matching cover, which fits snugly on the opening.

Cut a 2-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket with a power drill.

Cover the hole with a removable piece of wood or cork. Cut the word or cork to fit snugly in the bucket hole. Cut the wood long enough to protrude at least 2 inches into the center of the iron bucket.

Cut or purchase a piece of wood in a cylinder shape measuring 8 inches long and 8 inches wide. This will be the core of the ceramic kiln.

Mix a combination of clay, sand and graphite. The mix ratio required is 60 percent clay, 25 percent graphite, and 15 percent sand. Knead the mixture together until thoroughly combined.

Line the interior bottom and sides of the bucket thick paper. Cover the wood core piece with thick paper.

Layer the bottom of the bucket with the mixture. The layer of mix needs to measure at least 2 inches thick.

Center the wood core inside the bottom of the bucket. Press the core firmly into the soft clay mixture.

Fill the inside of the bucket with clay. Firmly pack clay around the core, completely filling the interior of the bucket.

Cut a 1-inch hole in the top of the cover with a power drill.

Encircle the bucket cover with a 2-inch strip of sheet iron.

Allow Project to Dry and Prepare for Kiln Use

Allow all pieces to dry for two days.

Make a container to hold ceramic items for glazing. Create a 2-inch cylinder-shaped hollow clay piece and allow it to dry. The glazing cylinder is referred to as a “muffle.” The cylinder will keep dust away from firing items during the kiln process. Mold a piece of clay to create the cylinder. The clay cylinder walls need to be 1/2 inch thick. One inch of space between the cylinder and kiln walls is required for proper flow of heat. Allow the clay to dry for two days.

Remove the wood or cork plug from the bottom of the ceramic kiln.

Attach a pipe 1 inch in diameter over the cover hole. The pipe needs to be 2 feet long and serve as a chimney for the ceramic kiln. This step is optional, but allows for higher firing temperatures.

Place the kiln above the desired heat source. Sit the kiln on bricks over an open flame, placed over a Bunsen burner or a plumbing torch. Add heat gradually to prevent cracking inside the iron bucket.

About the Author

Tara Dodrill began writing professionally in 1990. She is a travel writer and photographer working for print and online media, primarily covering Florida, ecotourism and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Her writing credits include RUMBUM, Yahoo News, Visit South magazine,and North Carolina Coastal Guide. She studied journalism and education at Ohio University and real estate at Hondros College.