Keeping a Kiln Log: What's Its Purpose? (With Free Kiln Log Template)
I'm very much a digital person; I organise personal notes online, keep my calendar digitally, and barely remembered how to hold a pencil until I started drawing more regularly a couple of years ago. However, I love having a printed kiln log.
It's a very satisfying moment; I switch the kiln on, hear the first few clicks of the relays and grab my little black binder. In it, I jot down the details of the firing that's beginning.
There are many reasons to keep a kiln log. I thought I'd share the reasons why I love my kiln log, and include a printable PDF to help you keep your own logs.
The Experimental Reasons
There are so many variables in ceramics; The choice of clay, the way it's used for throwing or handbuilding, the bisque temperature, the glazes used alone or in combination, and the glaze schedule used for the final firing.
Given I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, the odds of remembering every detail of how a piece was fired are low to say the least. In my kiln log, I note which firing schedule I used; This includes the temperatures reached, any holds or slow cools. This is helpful in explaining why a glaze turned out the way it did.
In a separate section of the kiln log, I keep a list of the schedules I use and any adjustments I made over time. Finally, under a third tab, I scribble notes about which glaze combos have been successes, which ones look terrible and what might be a fun experiment next time.
Whether you're experimenting with making your own glazes and document in great details like Joe at Old Forge Creations or you're just discovering commercial glazes, you'll be grateful to have notes to come back to when you find a magical combination you love.
The Technical Reasons
Kilns may feel bulletproof (and kind of are), but they contain parts that perish over time. The elements look like coiled springs, which run around the edge of the kiln bricks, providing heat during the firing. Over time, the coils will sag and flop down.
The coils - and other kiln parts - have a limited lifespan, so keeping a log lets you know how many firings you've done since the last time you changed your elements. Aside from unfortunate glaze explosions and other major mishaps, your kiln will experience a slow decline where it takes longer to reach temperature, or where one area of the kiln becomes cooler than the rest.
Being in tune with your kiln is so important; My kiln is fairly small, so I can fire small and often. Many potters have significantly bigger kilns (especially in the US, where some are the size of hot tubs!) so the better you can predict the outcome of your firing, the less likely you are to have a disappointing firing.
The Emotional Reasons
Going back through a kiln log is like travelling through time. I love looking back at scribbles of the first steps I took as a self-taught potter; The first load where I solved my pinholes problem with a big "woohoo!" note, the first lustre firing where I used gold and was terrified it would be wasted (it turned out great), and that week where I fired the kiln every single day!
We progress faster than we give ourselves credit for, and it's a confidence boost to look back and see how much we've learned.
Get Your Own Kiln Log & Glaze Log
You can download the PDFs here:
I printed mine half-size with two to a page, which fits perfectly in an A5 ring-bound folder. If you like to write bigger or make more notes, print it as-is, which will give you five entries per page.
It's fairly self-explanatory; Include the date, number of firings you've done (in that kiln or on that particular set of elements, as you prefer), the type of firing (bisque, glaze, lustre or other, such as decals or sintering), the programme you used, the contents and any relevant notes.
The glaze notes PDF is very simple, and better suited to just scribbling combos you like. If you plan on mixing your own glazes, have fun jumping down a very deep rabbit hole! You'll need a more detailed log than this, and glazy.org is a good place to start.
I would suggest adding more blank pages to jot down your favourite firing schedules, the glaze combos you're dreaming of trying, doodled shapes of pieces you'd like to make and so on. The more you use it, the more useful it becomes! :)
Once you've started your log, tag me with #alongthelanes and let me know if you've tweaked the log, and whether you think I should anything in the next version.
[Photo: Kiln firing log, with a big mug of peppermint tea in a Jon The Potter mug. Little cactus in a planter from Along The Lanes with a gold lustre accent.]