Gus Mccologie

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since Feb 19, 2013
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Recent posts by Gus Mccologie

Al- Thanks for all the answers!
Didn't realize I was linking to all those specific bricks; it was really for the data chart with the temp limits and Si:Al ratios to compare to clay analysis....

I am confused a bit by this thread. I have mostly seen combustion chambers with brick as the innermost layer insulated with perlite/rockwool etc. around it contained by metal, (and some not insulated at all) but then others with the rockwool on the inside, like the posted video here that would be in contact direct with the fire. Doesn't the heat stored in the brick help keep the temp up to facilitate a cleaner burn?

5 years ago
I processed about 65 pounds of (dehulled but in shell) BW this year. The nuts being the by-product as I was making dye.
Hulled with a paring knife cut round the middle, then twisted off. About 250?/hour.
I hosed them on a hardware cloth screen to clean off the pithy residue, then dried them in the sun on old sheets in the driveway for an hour or so. If you have squirrels stay near or put your dog on the job!
They are now hanging in large mesh bags about 10 pounds each. The onion type, although mine are purple and were snagged at summer company picnic- they were holding clams.
It was a full days work if you count gathering to hanging the filled bags and cleaning everything up.

They have to dry a couple of months. Until then the meat is very white and full in the shell and impossible to get out without mashing it to looking like oatmeal. It's also easy to miss pieces of the shell. After it shrinks a little, it releases easily, and the nutmeat is more translucent like the more often seen English walnut.

There are old BW shellers made specifically for because they are so tough, you can't just break the shell- the immense pressure you need just shatters and mashes everything together at once. The old ones are like a bottle capper and only close so much so only the shell is broken. Like a mounted vise grip, but those don't have the power to crack them. Short of buying something (and most of what I've seen looks cheaply made or is pretty expensive) I have found the standard bench vice to be the perfect tool for the job. Just set up a large cardboard box for the pieces to fall into, and put pressure across the nut, not lengthwise. There's a learning curve of about 20 nuts then you'll be a pro.

Also if you don't want to wait like me for them to dry or spend over an hour picking out wet pieces to get enough for 1/2 C for a batch of cookies, you can dry them on top a wood stove. I put them on a cooling rack elevated up for air circulation and so they wouldn't scorch. I left them overnight and they had split open a little and dried perfectly so they released in nice large pieces when cracked. A hot car might work too if you left them in a day or two. That's how I dry herbs, on cardboard in the back window, it only takes about 30 minutes and retains great color.
Remember to only do however many nuts you need short term though, as most of them opened a little so wouldn't be good to store afterward.
5 years ago
Re: to Al- Comparing kiln building and RMH is really interesting. There's the practical technical science, but then the adaptation of available materials aspect that is very similar in both groups. Plus no one wants to build something that melts down (seen it) or has the fire department breathing down your neck (been there), Of course saving money and recycling where possible is one of the appealing aspects of both to me.
I can really only relate my experiences and observations in firing and kiln building to what people are doing, fire being fire and all. Between college/work/personal experience I've fired or help build about sixty kilns of all types so a broad range. There is a lot of cross over, but a lot of differences too.
I looked at the link you posted. It has good info. But. I know a few people who have made bread ovens- all potters, all data junkies with stop watches, pyrometers and kiln logged tests and the temps are 1000-1400 tops. And compared to a kiln or RMH firebox, more open...cooler burning, although I don't know by how much. Point is not as intense. Also short burns, and much less fire/wear time. So I don't know how helpful for referencing RMH's.
On the other side, kilns are usually built with one potters clay, glazes, and firing temp as driving design considerations. It's about efficiency and cost of firing in relation to the product, both in individual firings and life of kiln.
Ovens and kilns have the same purpose. Raise the temperature to a desired point, then shut it off and let it cool. In the kilns case, as slowly as possible. RMH's are a bit more like a forge or glass furnace for the sustained length of generating heat at such high temps, and using the rushing air as an accellerant.
The potter you refer to Simon Leach? possibly? If so I actually met him- he was on a workshop circuit in the early 90's and did one at Munson Williams in Utica. (near me). Hate to admit it, but I'm not familiar with any kiln-related videos he did, will check it out.
As to others to look at, I think sustained wood firing would come the closest in concept. Especially anagama style kilns; historically and their modern equivalents. And there's as many different opinions and variations as with RMH's but going back to ancient times! US southern groundhog kilns too- also use the earth as mass.

The cement in any mix would definitely not contribute to strength other than when wet as a stiffening agent. Even without any breakdown from heat, 10 % is not anything. Nylon fiber would add more when it's dry, which of course would burn out and be no help when wet. I would not use (any) cement in any mix for the hottest areas. At 2400F, especially in the absence of oxygen, the cement could act as a flux and combine with the clay in the mix and lower the heat tolerance significantly. You can definitely make your own soft firebricks with sawdust but you need use a known fireclay or do very good testing on found clay. Most mixes I've seen like I described are over arched kilns etc. With mine, I had a generic furnace firebrick liner (on their sides for economy!) and my interior temp was max 2150F b/c I was firing local clay and that was it's limit. It was an insulating layer between an outer scavenged mix of red bricks for protection from the elements.

More on real bricks; firebricks (hard or soft) are rated for temp limits. Especially important under their own weight because if overfired will start to melt and slump. They are basically high alumina large-particle clay that doesn't expand much. Here's a good chart for reference: Look at the Si:Al ratio for each temp increase. You can similarly get the breakdown on any dry bag of clay you might buy to make your own mixes. Different clays are available in different parts of the country, although you can ship anything. But there's only a few types so regional is fine if it meets the specs you need. In addition to masonry suppliers, potters or schools/colleges near you may order regularly and you can often combine shipping to save if you want to order in bulk. Some found clay is fireclay. More found close to the surface is earthenware which fires red, and contains a lot of different impurities that basically melt it into a glaze at anything over 2000-2100F sometimes a LOT lower. Think of the old Albany slip that was used on antique crocks as a liner glaze. Fired lower as a lump it would be a brick. If that brick was heated to the stoneware temp used in the salt kilns the crocks were fired in it would melt into a puddle. This chart could be useful too for people trying to get a grasp on temperatures and supplies: There are recipes around on various pottery sites to make your own kiln furniture. Posts, specialty supports even shelves. Not at all difficult. Probably worth the effort for a few to go in on together if planned out well.

My own next question would be, Why use brick at all vs steel as some I've seen to line the Combustion chamber? Seems expensive. What creates the wear and breaks it down? What do you mean by protect it? Is the softbrick to prevent a buildup of heat within the barrel so it pushes more into the mass? Again, I've seen some that look like they are using hard firebrick... do their barrels put off more initial heat into the room?
Also why does the sand type matter? For sharpness or mineral makeup?
So many variables to take into consideration!
5 years ago
Thanks everyone...
For all of the above, I guess that's why I've stuck with my old lawn mower rig.
Originally it was sited to disassemble and make into a unit to mulch/chop but it has a bag attachment and that is just too useful in autumn getting that perfect green/brown ratio. It's the only time my compost really "works" with any heat.
I do do a lot of hand cutting things into foot long pieces throughout the year and piling.
The dream is smaller/neater, more efficient compost areas, and getting something with a more unified particle size to use to top dress as a thin mulch during the growing season, then just turning it under. There is a tremendous amount of material I could process that grows up wild because it's overwhelming in its volume and I would need a composting yard to pile it all in if it were left whole as is. It would be nice to have something to use that would act as a bit of a motivator.
Maybe I just want a new toy. And I like the idea of electric, but it really is impractical to run a 200 foot cord out to the garden.
5 years ago
If you have a paved driveway, paint it a light color. Any thinned paint will work, as anyone who has spilled paint on theirs will know! It takes YEARS to wear off.

Adding to the post above ^ My parents always sprayed their roof with the garden hose; but just once, as soon as the sun was off in the evening. Also previously mentioned, they kept their freezer in a barn cellar and always froze cider in the fall, replacing it with gallons of water in the summer as we drank it.

Something else I don't think has been mentioned is not to drink coffee or high caffeine drinks if you know it's going to be a hot or humid day.
5 years ago
Every year, I toy with the idea of getting a chipper/shredder. Looking for any input; what you use, what you like, what you hate. Have used a few I've borrowed to test- haven't really liked any. One was a proper chipper with a side chute for small things, others leaf mower style, again with a side chute for sticks.
I really don't want to process anything bigger than an inch, and small weedy (or even dry stuff) seems to get sucked through and not cut up and catches and needs to be shut off to clean out constantly.
My other complaint is that the hoppers are usually small and long- I assume for safety, and low which is wearing on the back after a while. Plus I'd like to feed in more than two or three perfect sticks at a time...
I have a set up now with an elevated old lawnmower which works great, but is loud, uses a LOT of gas ($, fumes) and is cumbersome to move around because I have to move all the cement blocks and boards that make up the base. Also it kicks up a huge amount of dust and I wheeze for days after I use it for any extended periods.
Does anyone use an electric leaf shredder type for small sticks, woody weed stems or green weeds that they would recommend?
5 years ago
In ceramics the bricks used to build kilns are called firebricks and have different refractory ratings. There are also "hard" or "soft" bricks. Hard bricks are very dense, and are used for the interior to retain heat and slow cooling, and for chimneys that will deteriorate faster for various reasons. Soft bricks are very light due to a lot of pores and are used mostly for outer layers and insulation properties. It is very easy to make a mixture that duplicates the softbrick by buying dry material 50-70? bags of fireclay that masons use in bricklaying. ($10 or so ) It has a very high refractory value. Combined with sawdust, sand or vermiculite and cement you have a mix that can be made into any shape. The cement will lose it's structural strength once fired- it is added at a low percentage 10% or so to facilitate building because it makes the mix set, and there is no wait time or slumping from the weight of new material being added on top if you are building thick/vertical.
You can also make your own bricks or units to build with. You could do that with just clay and sawdust if you let them dry first.
I built a bottle kiln using a similar mix as the insulating layer with my local clay boosted for higher temp limit with some bags of fireclay, road sand dug from the ditch in spring, large particle loose vermiculite -the type used as blown in insulation, and sawdust. And the cement to set it up as I went. Somewhere I have the formula, but it was pretty loose as I knew my clay(soil) was pretty stable for my needs. If anyone is really interested I could look it up.
Hope that helps- it's a very cheap and easy solution!
Also Stonewool and expanded pellets have about the same heat point; over 2000 degrees F, but the insulating wool for building is very different than the horticultural medium type- it has a binder and is infused with oil to make it water resistant. I don't know how the burning off of all that would affect it structurally, (I doubt in any way that make it melt thereby compromising it) but it would probably smell really bad, at least at first so something to consider...
5 years ago
I have a question regarding the draw of the (any) duct system while in progress of finishing. I've seen where people have everything set up and in place and do a test burn. Will not having the mass in place affect the exit temperature drastically or should it be relatively the same, but with the heat just transferring to the indoor air on it's journey.
I'm planning a cellar stove with the vent through the foundation and into a tiny shed against the side of the house to prevent any backdraft. The rise will be about seven feet and exit on the downwind side, protected by the house.
Also it is getting toward freezing here (upstate NY) and I'm digging my own found clay to use in the mix for the mass. If I run out of warmer weather before finished is it unsafe to use with parts not enclosed? If OK to do so, which parts would be the priority? Would encasing the last vertical chimney part help?
Thank you for any input- Gus
5 years ago
I'm not sure anyone answered your original question, but the difference in thermal quality is not really about the minerals here, (quartz and feldspar) but the density of the finished mix. Loose material will have an insulating factor because of the air. Water will help it move in closer and fit tighter, but will eventually dry out leaving spaces. A solid material with the DG as an ingredient will be thermal, unless huge quantities of other insulating materials, vermiculite, sawdust, perlite etc. are added.
Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you say slip from screening, but the amount of clay-like particles would be miniscule from a massive amount of effort and the result would have very little plasticity (or strength) anyway after drying.
I just described a way to test/use found clay here: This might be help.
6 years ago