Wood Kiln Firing Techniques and Tips

Inspiration and Information for Making a Wood-Fired Kiln

Wood Kiln Firing Techniques

Nesrin During shows us how to combine wood firing and raku firing. As you’ll see, wood firing isn’t just about high firing. You can build a simple raku kiln and fire your work with wood to get stunning results. So, check out Nesrin’s post today!  – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Texel is a small Dutch island on the North Sea. It is an island of sand dunes, natural lakes, sheep, tourists, wind and rain. In these quiet surroundings, I have been making ceramics for over 20 years. Some of my work is wood fired in a simple, self-built raku kiln. It is simple because it is actually made of stacked bricks and sized to fit what I’m planning to fire (sometimes I start firing small objects, then aggrandize the kiln by adding another one or two rows of bricks for the bigger objects).

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Find helpful tips for choosing the right kiln firing method when you download this freebieA Guide to Ceramic Kilns.


These kilns are built wherever I want them to stand, taking into consideration the direction of the wind. The day after I’ve finished firing, I put away the bricks, out of sight under a roof or in a shed to keep them dry until the next firing.

Wood Kiln Firing TechniquesTo begin, I level the surface with a layer of dirt; it will also protect what is beneath (concrete, for example, can crack with the heat). I look at the direction of the wind and accordingly build the firemouth to receive the wind.

Depending on the size of the kiln shelf (it’s going to diagonally span the walls), I lay two courses of bricks to establish the back and side walls. Upon these the grate is placed so that the ashes can fall through. (My iron grate was salvaged from a dump; one could also use a kitchen stove grate, which would last a few firings).

Wood Kiln Firing TechniquesThen another two rows of bricks are laid, and the kiln shelf placed diagonally so that the walls support three corners. A piece of sheet iron (also salvaged from the dump, but you can also use a piece of angle-iron) across the front of the kiln supports the fourth corner.

Because some of the bricks in the following course will stand on the kiln shelf, I have to raise the others to the same height with pieces of broken shelves. After this leveling course, a couple of rows are laid in a diminishing circular pattern. I also partially close the top of the kiln with broken shelves, leaving a central hole to function as a chimney.

Wood Kiln Firing TechniquesI fire this kiln (alone or with the help of students) with scrap wood. Make sure the wood should be dry and thinly split. I start with some newspaper and thinly split wood. The fire is well fed in the beginning in order to get the bricks to temperature, but after the first load is done, I fire with less wood and rake the fallen ash from underneath the grate to ensure the fire has enough oxygen to burn well. Because the kiln is so loosely stacked, I can easily create new openings in between bricks to manipulate the flames toward a certain direction, causing interesting effects on pots.

Wood Kiln Firing TechniquesThe pots intended to go into the next firing are placed on top of the kiln to dry. When the glaze on the pots inside the kiln is shiny and molten, I remove a few bricks from one side of the top to facilitate taking the pots out; the pots are then placed in a metal bin containing sawdust.

Wood Kiln Firing TechniquesNesrin During removes a pot from a wood-fired raku kiln loosely constructed from brick. A typical kiln is built from about 50 insulating bricks (IFBs), a square kiln shelf (size depending on what to fire), a metal grill for a grate, a piece of sheet metal, and some broken shelf pieces. It takes about 45 minutes to build, and fires to about 1650°F in about 45 to 60 minutes for the first firing; thereafter, every load takes 15 to 20 minute.

**First published in 2009.
  • Theresa G.

    I have downloaded the freebie, but this excerpt by Nesrin During does not seem to be included in the 16 pages

  • Ricardas B.


    I’ve built a similar kiln before I found this article. A simple fire brick downdraft kiln and reached 1650F – 900C. I used some parafene (kerosene) on big wood logs to fire up quicker.

    I believe the statement that this kiln reached 1650F is true, judging from my own experience. But minor details are very important to get it working well, and good wind is essential too.

    People often think they can get the same results with any brick – no. You can only get this working if you use refractory / fire bricks.

    If you wanted to see the downdraft wood fired kiln i’ve made I will be posting it on my blog sometime this week.

  • the original plans didn’t even get up to 800 deg. but with a little tweaking it worked, if you try this and it doesn’t work the first time try altering the design. this is a great way for amateurs to learn about the way kilns work

  • Grant H.

    I have used this design and it fired faster than my gas Raku kiln that was firing alongside. from preheating on top of the kiln we could fire pots within 20 minutes. The laws of Physics are no different in Stl. Missouri. Dry wood crackles like bacon. Soft bricks helped a lot. try it out it works very well if you follow the instructions.
    Thanks again Nesrin

  • I really enjoyed what i learned today about wood firing. I’ve read about it but never got chance to see convincing pictures like those ones i saw with you. Know that I’m in Kroonstad (FREE STATE) SOUTH AFRICA, and there’s not even a single shop that supplies pottery material. I get my clay by the river banks (VALS RIVER) THANKS TO C.A.D. for supporting us and inspiring us on ceramic. 0726380941

  • 45 minutes to get this going at 900 °C? On what planet? 🙂
    We spent 2 separate burn sessions on this and never got the temperature even close to what is stated in the article.
    Do not waste your time on this. Look for another design or add a serious air blower and then you have a chance you get it working.
    In this case, you are better off building a small “train” kiln with forced air intake.

  • Paulraj R.

    I have already made small wood firing kiln for samples. Fireplace &loading were seperate&the flame has trvel to some distance & on the way it fully oxidised before entring the pot chamber& down drafted & was very good.

  • Subscriber T.

    Simplicity is very tempting, but does it really gets up to 1600 degrees evenly distributed temperature with so many holes between the bricks in the pot chamber?

  • rosemary f.

    We are going to attempt this kiln very soon. I am concerned with Genevieve’s comment about difficulty bringing the structure up to temperature. Should we use a pyrometer? what brand and type? Have others tried this and did they have difficulty getting the temperature up? any suggestions on wood? I also read some place that flames burn hotter if air is forced in to the firebox via a small box fan and metal hose. We will not be able to positon to catch the wind because we are starting with a simple brick barbeque structure that will give us 16inches of wall on 3 sides.

  • Looks like the firing model is like the Greek kilns, where you stack the pots, cover with clay and straw and then fire in updraft mode, kind of a higher fire than the Maria Martinez bed spring kiln. Cool. I have lots of bricks to use on one shot kilns. Thanks.

  • usually, if you have to travel with them as I do. We have fired greenware in the back…and fired slowly until temperature.

    Usually, in the anagama, the pots are unglazed on the outside so the fire can do its thing. I line my pots with a clear that matures in a wide range so i have a functional interior.

  • Actually, I’ve built that kiln several times, after i saw this article years ago in Ceramics Monthly, but each it was really hard to reach temperature.

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