Backyard Raku Beads

I finally got brave enough to raku in my backyard. It took a good while to get the beads wired into their containers, but once they were I was able to load them into the kiln.  I had wanted to use a smaller kiln. However, some of the lights are out on the digital readout and I could not figure out what information I was punching into the mini-computer.  That plan was abandoned.

The other small kiln was loaded with beads and already firing, therefore that possibility was out as well.  I was nursing the raku bug and I was itching to get started. I decided to use my bigger kiln.  The lid is heavy but it normally leans against the aluminum siding of our house when I’m loading.

I figured the lid would be okay propped the same way whilst I was pulling out the raku. I checked with my husband and he said it would be fine.

I put a 04 cone into the kiln sitter and placed shelves up as high as I needed so pulling would be easier.  I loaded the kiln with my two homemade raku ‘bead’ containers and plugged the extension cord into the electrical socket.  I turned the knobs onto medium and let it go for about an hour, then turned both knobs on to high.

I don’t have a pyrometer so I was checking the atmosphere via the peekholes. After two and a half hours, the inside of the kiln was a dull red so I lifted the lid and peeked. The glaze on the beads was bright green, not shiny at all. I continued with the firing.

I sat outside wondering if it would have to reach cone 04 before the cone bent and the kiln sitter shut it off. 

I noticed at college that the beads always took a bit longer than the rest of the pots.  I am guessing that   because the beads are in containers, the atmosphere has to really penetrate inside the container.

I waited, impatiently.  The butterflies were out and I snapped a picture of this one. The other one got away.  It was a dark oche yellow with bright yellow  and black spots. 

It was hard to get this picture because the butterfly kept its wings shut most of the time, only fluttering them open briefly. By the time the camera would focus, the wings would be shut again.  Capturing this photo of the butterfly was about the same level of frustration as waiting for the kiln to get to temp.

The next time I peeked into the peep holes, the dark red was noticeably brighter, but it was still a deep red. I put on the glasses, slipped on the gloves, lifted the lid and even with the welding glasses could tell the glaze was shiny. My husband was outside with me and he held the trashcan lid as I pulled both the canister and the box. I must have been squeezing the box too hard with the tongs because on the way to the trashcan, it broke.  It all made it into the trashcan, the newspaper caught on fire, and John closed the lid.

We went inside to eat supper, and after the dishes were washed, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. After they were in the oven I went outside and took these off the rods/wires. The beads are fired on stainless steel rods, very thin which I buy at the welding store for about $7 a pound. They come in three foot lengths and can be snipped with a simple wire cutter.

I do not think I will fire in that big kiln again unless someone else is pulling. It’s just too hot (approx. 2000 degrees). I can see why raku is addicting because instead of having to wait overnight or two days for the kiln to cool off, the results of the firing are almost immediate, and of course, the metallic and cool color variations that comes with the reduction in the trashcan is exciting.


6 thoughts on “Backyard Raku Beads

  1. This is amazing. I make finished pieces, not beads. I can't imagine working this hard and not even having a wearable piece to show for it! It sounds like really hard work. But the results are stunning. And I like how you consider what sounds like an all-day project to be 'immedialte!' lol.

  2. Wonderful beads, so natural! And I really like the container idea.
    By the way, I use nichrome wire (> 0.8 mm diameter), as it does not bend while firing. Is stainless steel as good?

  3. Thank you!

    Fanciful: lol! So true, but a regular firing takes 12 hours and waiting until the next morning to open the kiln up … raku takes 3 hours from start to finish, including getting to examine the finished product. It's positively addicting! 🙂

    Stainless steel is never as good as Nichrome!
    It's initially cheaper, but not cheaper in the long run. 🙂

    The container idea has been good, the box shape seems to be more brittle than in the circular form. The circular shape seems to make the container easier to grab out of the kiln, possibly because it is shaped more like a pot.(?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *