Workshop: Building an Above Ground Pit

Above Ground Pit

Above Ground Pit

Recently we have been developing a traveling workshop..where we go to you, and work with you to build an above ground pit.  We first had to figure out how to do this because the soil here in Door County is mostly rocks with some dirt thrown in; in other words, not much top soil here.  We could blast but that seemed extreme, though interesting.  (A little northern Door history: many times orchard farmers would have to blast a hole to plant their apple and cherry trees, so it’s not as far fetched as you might think.)

So we experimented with the size of the pit and the gaps between bricks.  It took maybe a dozen firings before we were reasonably satisfied with our results.  In addition, we were also working out surface treatments.  Our goal was more color, though we appreciated the carbon black we got, we wanted more.  Greedy, for sure.  Good motivator.

Anyway, by the time September came around, we felt like he kinda knew what we were doing, so the whole process from the first class idea to the actual first workshop was only 9 months.

Recipes will be next.

Pit Fire Building Workshop:
We will build an above ground pit.
Each participant brings their own bisqued pottery or we provide it for participants for a small fee
Treat the pots
Load the pit with wood, pots, cover it and begin the firing
Pots are cool in the morning.

List of materials needed to build the pit

Soft or fire bricks (insulation)
200  to build a 30x30x60
garden rake
tape measure

Bonfire Just Getting Started

Bonfire Just Getting Started

List of materials and equipment host should have on hand for the pit firing

Sawdust—2 bushels
Slab wood  ¾”x6”x24” pine
If the poplar is cut now it would be dry enough to use by the workshop..good for kindling…
Kindling, scraps etc
Brushes to apply terra sigillatta
Pit cover or lid
6 55 gallon drum lids (or something suitable to act as a lid or ‘door’
steel pipe—6 ft
brushes for poly ( 1” and 1 ½” )
buckets and scrubbies for cleaning pots of ashes
Dried organic materials: dried banana peels,  dried coffee grounds, pine cones, dried seaweed                 students can bring some from their yard etc. (Dry!)
List of materials EBP can provide for the pit firing
Terra sigilllatta  2: red art and old mine #4
Plant food  2: miracle grow and folletts watch us grow
Salt solutions:
Salts: sea and table
Minerals: copper carb, cobalt carb, iron oxide
Glazes: gerstley borate, raku glazes
Pet food (cheap)
Water softener salt

Melting salt

Baking Soda

Coarse sea salt
Water based poly
Pit fire book with recipes
Materials cost per student: $10

Description of One Day Pit Fire Building Workshop:  “The Mystery of the Flame: Exploring the Random Effects of Fire on Clay.  Build an above ground ‘pit’ and then, after treating your pottery using common and uncommon surface treatments load and fire the pit. All levels. $100.00 per participant providing his or her own pots.  Add $10 if we provide the pots.

treating pots

Finally, we will have a handout (small booklet) which will include the recipes for the surface treatments, plans for building this pit and others, a resource list and links to sites on the internet and many blank pages for the student to make notes.

Ready to unload

Ready to unload


One thought on “Workshop: Building an Above Ground Pit

  1. the fishies live in virginia, but would love to do this workshop with you. we have done primitive pit firing before, but want to build a pit or even an above ground pit in our yard. since you obviously can’t come here (though you’re invited!), is your material for the workshops for sale? the plans for the pit and the recipes? my husband promised to build me a pit before we got married five years ago, and i’d just like to help him along…

    i bet you’ve gotten this question a lot. i have a little book, but it isn’t very specific. and i’m a poet, not a sculptor, though that’s not true, it is true of my education. any help you have would be totally appreciated, mainly, at first, by my husband 😉

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