"The following is an excerpt from a friendly email correspondence with Jack Troy about the February 2024 firing of the BelugaGama:
"Good evening Jack, thank you for the heads up with the square shelves. They were protected so hoping they perform well :-) I'll take even better care to keep them dry from this point on. Thank you for checking in about the firing as well. The experience was majestic. A couple changes yielded improvements in the firing experience. We had an assortment of fresh green hardwood, semi-dry and fully seasoned hardwood to select from throughout the firing. We burned through about a cord and a half of green hardwood. We blended pine in as we attained top temps. We also pulled from the dry hardwood toward the end as needed. It was nice to have a selection and we used at least 60% green hardwood throughout the firing. One big change was that once we pulled the active damper after body reduction, we immediately pulled all the passive dampers from the back of the chimney and cruised up smoothly, with back pressure, steadily to cone 11 down on the afternoon of the second day of the firing proper... (We preheated for 3 days burning large log rounds). We then held in the 2200 to 2250 range for 24 hours.
Finishing Stoke series: The ember bed burned down to just a few inches near the end of the firing so I performed a series of heavy stokes over the course of 45 minutes to build the ember bed up. Once the embers were mature with a bright yellow white glow...a large final stoke and we shut the air down completely in front. The kiln wafted from 2330 to 2358 over the course of less than 5 minutes. We mudded up the kiln completely and then closed the active damper. Cone 12 wound up halfway down at the side center of the kiln. The pyrometer probe was to the backside of the side-door about a third of the way up from the floor. So I'm sensing that we had plenty of good atmosphere and heat throughout the chamber. Steve and I ran the reduction-cool sequence for about 12 hours to 1600.... 9 minute cycles of 5- 1.5" square by 16" Green hardwood and that went smoothly. I was so thankful and delighted to have experienced a smooth cruise throughout the firing. Although I didn't share a comprehensive firing plan this time I chose rather to oversee each shift and set goals directly with the stoke crews for their 8 hour shifts throughout the firing. That worked out well as we ended up shaving 24 hours off what I had planned for the firing and saved a cord of hardwood which was nice. It was a major breakthrough to pay particular attention to the ember bed and air settings during that final Stoke series. We've experienced the kiln wafting up in temperature at the end in the past and finally I feel as though I have my head around that process and can plan for it and anticipate the outcome in the future. We also put extra effort and energy into our preparations and that paid off for sure :-) The two weeks preceding the load up day were spent grinding shelves, cleaning up the kiln area cleaning up the interior of the kiln etc. Some of those things are oftentimes left for the morning of the load up day which basically just delays the actual commencement of the loading process. I'm hoping Wednesday's unload reflects our experience... The pots usually do.
I appreciate you reaching out Jack and will send you a picture of your piece in its new home as a part of this email. Take care, Trev"
Since posting the above information, we've unloaded the #BelugaGama. Unload shots below. A couple takeaways upon reflecting a bit on the actual pieces. I made up a bunch of faux scallop shells using a mix of 50/50 plaster of paris and CaO. Turns out, as we fired to cone 13ish in the front, the mix needs to be adjusted for the next go around. The shells dissolved and no "shell markings" appeared. I could be mistaken as the pieces need to be soaked...but no evidence of natural ash glaze taking on the shape of shell and leaving, what appears to be, a glass shell on the surface of pieces. My bad for risking it all on a bunch of works...I see it as an opportunity to readdress the forms that were lost and improve our practice with working knowledge of what works and what doesn't. So many simple steps and breakthrough in understanding add up to a successful finished product ;)
The shut down procedure was quite special...I took the lead at the finale' and built up a fresh deep ember bed (16" at least)...then stoked to the cieling with fresh hardwood. The kiln was then sealed off completely at the front. The temps wafted up from 2330 to 2358 at the center-side of the kiln. This is a phenomena that I've witnessed several times and can now say that I understand the kiln's response and look forward to implementing this high temp finishing technique in the future. Like many things in life/wood-firing...this is most likely a common practice for many potters...it's just that it was a discovery through experience for me ;) I'm open to feedback if you are interested in reaching out. Best, Trev"