The Nichrome Wire Solution: An Alternative to Raku Tongs Makes Raku Firing Large or Lidded Pots Easy

After the Paul Soldner video last Friday, I decided I would go on a bit of a raku kick here. So I searched out some more raku information and came up with this great tip from Cory Pinassi. Cory got frustrated struggling to move large, lidded and, oh yeah, RED-HOT forms to the post-firing reduction chamber with tongs. So she came up with this brilliant solution.

Today, she shares it with us. Take it away, Cory! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

A successful raku firing begins long before the kiln is turned on. It is always frustrating to go through the whole process of conceptualization, construction, drying, bisquing and glazing only to lose a piece in the raku firing. To facilitate its removal from the hot kiln, the form usually needs to have an opening into which tongs can be inserted, handles under which tongs can be slipped or a diameter narrow enough to squeeze around. Any of these methods can prove to be stressful on an object that is glaze-melting hot.

As my containers became larger and more streamlined, it became harder to remove them from the kiln to the postfiring reduction chamber without serious damage or loss. Also, I wanted to leave their lids in place during the firing process to ensure a consistent result over the whole surface.

I tried the method of wearing fire-resistant gloves to transfer pieces from the kiln to the reduction chamber by hand, but the piece was usually too close to my body and the gloves quickly burned through. Ruining gloves that fast was way too expensive.

Then one day, while using some Nichrome wire to replace some buttons securing fiber to the lid of my kiln, I was struck by how flexible and long-lasting this wire was. So I thought, “Why not just cage the piece with wire, tie it at the top and add a loop to insert the ends of the tongs for touchless removal from the kiln?” It worked like a charm.

Nichrome wire comes in a variety of gauges and can be purchased from most pottery suppliers. The thickness of the wire will be dictated by the weight of the piece being fired, and it is reusable. While it is true that the wire becomes more brittle with each firing, I figure that it is safe to use until it becomes too stiff to bend with my fingers, or it snaps when I bend it. At that point, it’s time to make a new cage.

This Nichrome-wire solution has allowed me to raku large, lidded containers with a greatly reduced loss rate. I now use it for any piece that cannot be easily and safely removed from the kiln with tongs alone.

  • If you have someone available that can weld, I have trays made from expanded metal welded to rebar that work
    great especially for small pieces that then can be moved all at once. My trays are round with a loop at the top for lifting. They don’t last forever and do tend to flake over time but I have gotten many great firings using them. I brush them after each use to eliminate the flakes. You can use your imagination to design some for larger pieces. Steel rods also work for constructing various vehicles for lifting wares and last for quite a while thru many firings.

  • One can easily lift almost any size pot from a hot kiln by soaking two thick wads of newspaper in water and putting these wads between the gloves and the pot. It works beautifully, and doesn’t put any marks on the pot.

  • Diann A.

    Yep. Need to know how that wire did not stick to the glaze? It is probably great for naked raku as I’ve seen them use chicken wire on occassion. Nicrome is expensive, becomes brittle and does bend. Any other cost effective methods?

  • Thanks, you might have just solved a dilemma, but I too would like to know how to stop the wire embedding itself into the glaze, guess I’ll just have to give it a go.

  • Maggie L.

    I imagine the wire cage sticks to glaze. How might you overcome this problem? Any ideas?

  • Kate T.

    Too fabulous! Also perfect to make a tray for firing very small pieces. I’m gonna give it a whirl.

  • Naomi Z.

    Where do you purchase this specific wire? Is this a regular high fire wire?

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