How to Use Stilts in a Kiln

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Various stilts
Various stilts (Image: www.baileypottery.com)

After altering bisque (a raw piece of ceramic pottery) with paint or some form of construction, you will need to glaze and place the piece into a kiln to be fired for 4 to 8 hours. Before being placed in a kiln, pieces need to be placed on steel-pointed stilts for support. These essential tools provide a stable and supportive surface for a ceramic piece to rest as it is being fired and provide an easy way for pieces to be loosened after firing. Stilts also prevent glazed pieces from fusing to each other, other shelves and the kiln itself. Without stilts, your bisque and work done to it would be damaged. Stilts come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, and their use depends on the pieces to be fired.

Things You'll Need

  • Small metal scraper
  • Variety of stilts: triangle, tripod, bar, ladle, plate setter
  • Kiln
  • Kiln shelves
  • Glaze

Look at your glazed piece and make sure the glaze has dried. Take your glazed ceramic piece and scrape any excessive glaze off the bottom. Thick glaze left on the bottom can cause a piece to tip over, but a small amount (less than 1 inch) should be left to help the piece adhere to the stilt and help steady the piece during the firing process.

Choose a stilt, or use a combination of several different stilts for larger pieces. There are a variety of stilts that conform to the shape to virtually any piece of bisque. In general, triangle stilts are ideal for mugs and items with wide bottoms, and tripod stilts work well with plates and items with flat surfaces.

Place a stilt on the surface bottom of the ceramic piece. Make sure the stilt is supporting and balancing the glazed piece evenly on all sides.

Have a steady grip on your piece and place it in the kiln, working from the bottom of the kiln to the top and making sure the pottery doesn't touch kiln shelves or other pieces.

Make sure your piece is steady in the kiln. Use your hand and tap it lightly. A secure piece on a stilt will be steady and won't move. If it falls over, take the piece off the stilt and place it on again. An unstable piece will cause other pieces to fall over and lose their balance during the firing process.

Repeat the process until all pieces are loaded in the kiln. The kiln should be loaded from the bottom to the top, using poles and kiln shelves to separate levels. This allows for maximum space to be utilized.

Tips & Warnings

  • Silts will leave marks on the bottom of a piece after firing. Marks can be sanded down after firing and minimized by scraping glaze off before the firing process, leaving only a thin layer. Thick glaze also makes the piece more susceptible to topping over.
  • A damaged stilt will have to be replaced. Stilts need the supporting steel points to stabilize glazed pottery.
  • Pieces should never touch in a kiln. If you are loading numerous pieces, they can get as close as 2 inches apart; anything less than that, and they may fuse together or tilt during firing.
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