Saturday, July 02, 2011

Hand-Made Fire Brick

1910 brick-making in Georgia

Through out the past month, I have been making hand-made fire brick for my new groundhog kiln which is under construction. It has been quite a learning curve! Temperatures have run in the upper 90's each day of the past month of June and has slowed work. I am aided by Dr. Mark Newell and Nick Nichols.

Nick Nichols (upper left) and Dr. Mark Newell making fire brick

The fire brick are being made from local kaolin deposits which we dig by hand. We are using a modern pug mill/mixer to process the clay. From there it is gathered up and packed into the wooden molds I made. We are making "sand-struck" brick, which means the molds are dipped in water and dusted with dry sand. The sand helps release the brick from the mold.

brick molds

The fire brick are placed on pallets in the sun to dry. They must be turned often to keep them from warping. Once we make the required amount of brick, they will be stacked into a kiln-like shape with a fire box formed at one end and a chimney at the other. Heat will be gradually built up over several days until they reach about 2,400 degrees F. Once the brick cools, they will be sorted and used in the groundhog kiln construction.
(left) Men building a brick scove or clamp kiln to fire the raw brick, early 1900's

(below) some of our fire brick drying in the sun

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Big Move!!!

"Get 'em up, move 'em out"!!

After 6 years at Old Canal Pottery in Augusta, GA, I'm locating my pottery works to the old Miles Mill/Baynham Pottery tract near Trenton, SC. This historic site was the location for several potteries from the mid to late 1800's. Some of the previous potters who worked at this site include John Lewis Miles, Willie and Tommy Hahn, JG Baynham, Mark Baynham, Horace Baynham and countless itinerant potters. There is evidence that points to the famous slave potter Dave Drake having worked here. This site is one of the most important pottery sites in the Old Edgefield District of SC and is where most of the 19th c face jugs were likely made by slaves or former slaves. The site is currently under archaeological examination by Dr. Mark Newell. The site was recently featured in the PBS show, the History Detectives and will be featured in several more video productions under way.

In addition to Dexter Pottery, the site is home to the Edgefield Stoneware Research Center. It provides an educational museum, visitors center and training facility for the study of alkaline glazed stoneware. Students will receive hands on experience in the field doing archaeological work. Dexter Pottery will offer workshops in the instruction and the making of traditional southern alkaline-glazed stoneware.

My Old Edgefield-style pottery is made in the same tradion as the originals -- using locally-dug clays, which are hand-turned, then ash-glazed, then fired in a typical wood-fired southern groundhog kiln. My work is 100% authentic.

For your convenience, I've re-posted all of my informative Old Canal Pottery Blogs at my new site, Dexter Pottery. Please drop by my new site and check out my new work, as well as new blogs on southern pottery.