Big Ceramic Store Blog

Drying Your Pieces Before Firing

Have you ever made a really special piece, but when you pull it out of the kiln, it's warped, cracked or has glaze defects? You were so excited to see the finished product, but that excitement quickly turned into disappointment!

What happened? Well, there are a lot of reasons it didn't go well, however; most often, it's the early drying stage that causes the end effects.

In this post, we will go over some drying tips. I'm not big on "technical" explanations, I like simple, easy to understand information, so that's what you will get here.Let's start with the shape of your pieces...

  • Vessels (hollow shape designed to hold liquids or solids)
    • These can be dried quick if the walls and base are similar in thickness
  • Flat Forms (platters, plates etc...)
    • These need "special" attention and are best dried very slowly
  • Sculptural Pieces
    • These also need "special" attention. We'll talk about that later in the post.

Now, let's talk about the drying process... Remember, the humidity level in your studio plays a HUGE part in the drying process. I regulate the humidity in my studio, with air conditioning and/or heat, depending on the weather.

  • Vessels
    • Allow them to dry to "leather hard" then flip them and dry the bottom. I usually put them on a shelf for 4-7 days before bisque firing.
  • Flat Forms (platters, plates etc...)
    • Dry these real slow. After throwing or hand building your piece, set it on a shelf and allow it to dry for 2-3 hours. Since the rim will dry faster than the base, cover the rim with plastic wrap for 4-6 hours. Flip the piece over and "tent" it with plastic,

IMG_2062
(dry cleaning bags work great for covering your piece), or put it on a shelf system wrapped in plastic. Allow it to dry slowly, for at least a week, opening the plastic after 4-5 days.

IMG_2052

  • Sculptural Pieces
    • With sculptures, there are a lot of variables. Are they the same thickness? Did you build it in stages allowing certain parts to dry slightly faster than others? Are there sprigs or attachments that protrude off the body? I've found, placing sculptures in a "damp box"

damp 4
for a couple days, before drying, allows them to absorb moisture and even out the water content of the entire piece. Once you take it out of the damp box, tent it with plastic and allow to dry completely (2 weeks).

When bisque firing, ramp the temperature up slowly, especially if you have flat pieces or sculptures in the kiln. It's also critical to allow your kiln to cool completely before opening. Cooling too fast, in the bisque or glaze fire, can cause warping, cracks, crazing and ruptures.

Do you have an idea or project you'd like to share, or would you like to try your hand at writing an article for us? Shoot us an e-mail at bcscommunity@bigceramicstore.com

Learn more tips and tricks here "How-to's"

6 thoughts on “Drying Your Pieces Before Firing”

  • grace | http://-

    hi,
    i am currently using stoneware clay to make cups and ashtrays for friends and family i'm wondering if leaving my finished pieces to dry for a week or two before firing (i do not own a kiln so i have to wait until i have enough pieces to fire) will ruin the clay causing it to crack?
    thank you
    grace

  • miguel polsbroek | #

    how can i dray may porcelain for the first time

  • Gem | #

    I was wondering what you might do in the situation I've found myself in. I went to a local store that does self-glazing of premade, order in bisque pieces and just happened to convince the owner into letter me sculpt out of some clay she had sitting around the shop. I made a sculpture that is about 3 inches thick (some weird swamp monster thing, bear with me) from bottom to top along the length of his spine that decreases down the length of his body with is about 11 inches long. He has shingled scales that protrude like poeny petals getting quiet thin as spots and a solid rat like tail that is about an inch thick as it's widest before it decreases. there is also an apple of solid clay about 3 inches in diameter. It's been drying (first loosely covered with a plastic bag for about a week and a half then left to the mercy of the shop seeing as it was on a counter and everyone apparently kept visiting him at free will until the cover was left off completely. That was about a month ago and I was wondering, well two things i guess; first, what you think my odds of surviving the kiln would be and if you have any suggestions. I may be screwed, you may not even want to touch with email, but it's a risk I'm willing to take for Burt. (friend's son named him.)

    Thank you for you're time if you've taken it to consider my situation, which if you have I feel I should say sorry and good luck.

    Waiting with Burt and hoping to hear from you,
    Gem

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