How-To: Trashcan Raku Kiln

Craft & Design Workshop
How-To: Trashcan Raku Kiln

The field of raku pottery is rich and diverse.  The term seems to vary, in use, from a broad catch-all for various low-temperature firing processes to an entire philosophy of art and life.  Without risking oversimplifying the matter, I think I can safely say that one of the many appealing aspects of raku is its accessibility, especially in terms of equipment.  A raku firing need only achieve 1000°C, which is at the low end of the potter’s temperature scale, and easily achieved in a homemade kiln fueled, for instance, by a propane bottle.

The raku kiln pictured here was built by Paul Jessop of the UK from a galvanized steel “dustbin,” a roll of ceramic wool, some wire, a couple of fire bricks, and a few other odds and ends. Paul documented the build in this cool photoessay back in July of 2010, and Popular Mechanics seems to have later adapted and illustrated it to produce the step-by-step tutorial linked below.

Build a Raku Kiln – Popular Mechanics

Incredible Raku-Ware Howl’s Moving Castle

8 thoughts on “How-To: Trashcan Raku Kiln

  1. jamesbx says:

    I’ve built quite a few propane fired ovens/forges/furnaces using ceramic insulation. This particular design is dangerous for a couple of reasons: when galvanized metal gets really hot it puts off toxic fumes, and the design doesn’t stabilize the ceramic insulation.

    I’ve used a paste of kaolin clay body to encapsulate ceramic insulation. Plus with a layer of ITC-100 over the kaolin, the forge will be more fuel efficient. Ceramic insulation is a replacement for asbestos, and since propane burners have to vent, this kiln is going to throw very small shards of ceramic in the air mixed with the dragon’s breath. You really don’t want to breath that stuff, the MSDS says so. The galvanized hazard is internet hearsay, but unless an MD tells me vaporized zinc is safe to breathe, I’m going to treat it as a hazard. I’ve made round ovens like this with steel sheet metal and hand tools, it isn’t that much more work.

  2. michael says:

    There is no need to use sheet metal or anything to heavey duty. Goto your local hardware store andbuy welded wire mesh with ~2″ squares. Use this to create a form and attach the kaowool to the interior with ceramic buttons and kanthol wire. Create a top and bind it to your cylinder that you just created, leaving a hole for a flue. Make a hole at the base of the cylinder for your burner, and now you have a raku kiln that you can lift off of your pieces instead of having to (dangerously) try to extract a 1700 degree piece of ceramic from the bottom of a trash can.

  3. michael says:

    Also, use water soluble kaowool and you don’t have to worry much about the loose fibers… additionally, given the nature of the fuming that occurs in the raku process and the fact that many of the glazes used contain high levels of copper, chrome, and other nasties, a respirator should be standard procedure anyhow

  4. MAKE | Your Comments says:

    […] the article How-To: Trashcan Raku Kiln, user jamesbx writes: I’ve built quite a few propane fired ovens/forges/furnaces using ceramic […]

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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