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Le poids de l'hêtre

The title of this post is a play on words. In French, Milan Kundera's book 'The Incredible Lightness of Being' translates to 'L'incroyable légèreté de l'être', and the word for beech wood is 'hêtre' which of course sounds exactly the same.

So, I guess I don't really need to explain- beech wood is not at all light. It is hard and heavy, but very nice to work with. It planes beautifully, responds predictably to filing and sawing, doesn't warp, and holds an edge well. I can see why it is a favourite for furniture making. Now I just need to improve my sawing skills!

I have a new toy (well, a new tool...): a Japanese saw. I like it because the blade is tall but thin, so it acts as a guide for itself. It makes straight cuts easier. I'm trying to make a chair out of beech wood so it has been very useful for cutting tenons.


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Clay used for making bricks must be mixed with fine-grained inert material to prevent cracking during drying and firing. Normally, sand is used, but grog, crushed fired brick, can serve the same purpose. I crushed some of the leftover tiles that we made in April and mixed them into a test batch of clay. I don't think this is a viable option for all the bricks due to time constraints, but it is good to know that all the materials for the brick itself can come from the same site.

Chair 1

I've titled this post optimistically 'chair 1' because I hope to make more chairs in the future. This one was very much an experiment, and there are many things I would like to correct for the next.

Kiln Stacking

Oval kiln with rectangular bricks, Castel Viscardo, Italy

Hoffman kiln, near Radzymin, Poland

Stacking a kiln with bricks to allow for ventilation and even firing is quite an art. As well, the places where they are touching during firing often get 'kiss marks', lighter patches of colour, so the stacking influences the final appearance of the brick.

One thing about having a non-rectangular brick, though, is that it is very easy to stack them in a way that allows the passage of air.

I ended up just laying them directly on top of each other, in two layers of three courses. This allows me to fire 105 bricks per kiln
Now, I just have to hope for the best...