If you don’t own a kiln and looking for an alternative, pit firing might be the solution for you. Pit firing is a cheap alternative and a more traditional way of pottery. This is great for smaller projects. But one has to be very cafeful about choosing the best clay for pit firing. Not all clay are suitable for pit firing. This technique requires high-quality clay for better results.
So below, I have provided a list of the five best lay for pit firing for everyone’s convenience. Later I give given a detailed review of our top pics based on our experience with them.
Our selection for the best clay for pit firing:
Before going into the detailed review, let us go through the fundamentals of pit firing as a method of pottery.
Pit Firing Basics
Pit firing is the original method of pottery which dates back 30,000 years ago. Before the advent of Kilns, pit firing was the oldest and most widespread method of pottery making. In some aspect, pit firing can be considered as a rudimental form of kiln. And many people still use this method as an alternative to kilns.
Pit Firing Method and Materials
Just like the name suggests, this method starts with digging a pit/ hole in the ground. The size of the pit is dependent on the size and amount of pottery. The sides of the pit work as insulators keeping the heat stable. Thereafter the lower level of the pit is filled with newspaper, wood shavings, sawdust or dried leaves. These are burned slowly to provide the necessary heating. The potteries are placed on top of it. The pots are then cover with small sticks and dry leaves or any other combustible material. And lastly large pieces of wood are placed on top of the pit.
However, the best thing about pit firing method is the flexibility it provides. You can use various kinds of combustible materials for the firing. You can even use the day to day use organic materials such as; seaweed, avocado skins, stones, coconut scrubs, dried herbs, banana skins and so on.
Adding colorants to the pit is another skill to master for potters. It is a tricky job and required experience to master. However, colorants are essential for decorating your pottery pieces. At the heart of it, a combination of copper, salt, iron is usually used for getting colors in your pottery.
Detailed Review of the Best clay for pit firing in 2022
On top of my list, we have the pottery clay from Rocky Mountain. This clay pack seems to check out all the excellent pottery clay boxes. First, you have the option to buy different sizes of clays, so you get to choose according to your need. Then, as a de-aired clay, you get a smoother surface after baking the clay.
Lastly, Rocky Mountain pottery clay is also water-based, an attribute I was looking forward to. Because of that, this clay is way easier to smoothen out, making it the perfect choice for beginners and veteran potters. Additionally, you can keep the clay moist for months if preserved in a sealed bag.
Next, we have Activa’s Blackjack clay. This clay is a mixture of different natural clays, so you get the best of different worlds by using it. Buttery smoothness is one feature you would instantly notice when you start using this clay.
That’s why smaller hand projects or sculpting becomes easy with Activa Blackjack clay. Next, this clay is non-sticky. So, that’s an excellent feature for wheel users as you don’t need to worry about the clay sticking to your hand or the wheel. So, if consistency and smoothness are your targets, Activa Blackjack is the clay for you.
Are you tired of looking for a balanced clay for both hand building and using wheels? Your search might be over as I bring you Amoco’s earthenware modeling clay. First, this modeling clay is super smooth and has a nice texture. So, anyone with basic pottery skills can use these clays for hand-building projects.
Next, the moistness and water base ensure your throwing experience is uninterrupted. That’s the experience as you work with clay. But impressively enough, the clay looks equally great after baking too. You’ll get a perfect color is white with a nice shiny glaze.
Another great de-aired pottery clay option. Though this clay is primarily for drying inside a kiln, you can also use it perfectly for pit fire. After baking, the clay gets a nice white look to it. So, the final result is a smooth and consistent hand build or pot.
As a completely organic clay made in the US, it has other benefits too. For starters, it’s non-toxic. So if you have a sensitive hand or are worried about those weird burns from some clays out there, Bastex pottery clay has got you covered. It’s hard not to order again once you get hooked up to this clay.
Wrapping it up with Laguna’s best mix pottery clay. What types of clay are mixed to produce a pottery clay has a significant effect on it. In that regard, Laguna’s pottery clay gets the full mark by mixing the highest quality organic clays here.
All the best qualities seen in pottery clay, this clay has that, starting from the moistness and consistency. Whether your priority is hand-building or throwing on wheels, Laguna best mix can cover all the grounds with ease. Furthermore, the flexibility of this clay makes it the perfect choice for pottery classes too.
As a fire pit is a low fire oven for clay baking, you have to be careful what clay you choose for pit fire. These factors discussed below will help you pick the best pottery clay for pit fire.
Assuming you don’t know it, there are mainly three types of pottery clays potters tends to go for. All these pottery clay types have unique attributes which make them suitable for different projects. However, as we discuss pit fire exclusively, you have to be careful about what clay you choose. Usually, earthenware is the best call for pit fires as they are porous, low-fire, and great for both hand build and throwing on the wheel.
Different types of pottery clay have a minimum temperature range. There are three ranges there, also referred to as cons. Now, as pit fires don’t usually generate a lot of heat, you need to be careful about the Cone size of your clay. Otherwise, you won’t be dry and harden the clay in the pit fire. Usually, the low fire range is the most suitable for pitfires, Cone 6 to Cone 3.
Your pottery clay can shrink both during drying and firing. So, whether you are using pi fire or kin, it’s always an important consideration. Now, this shrinkage usually depends on two factors—first, the heat, and then the pottery clay itself. Depending on the clay, this shrinkage rate can be anywhere between 4% to 15%. So, before you buy a clay for pit fires, make sure you consider this factor carefully.
The texture will decide how your pottery experience will be with that particular clay. So, before you buy pottery clay for pit fire, make sure you have enough knowledge about its textures. As I said before, pit fire is used for baking smaller projects. And for those projects, you must choose a smooth, moist, and non-sticky pottery clay. If it’s hard to work with and not porous enough, the result out of the pit fire can be disappointing.
Pit firing is one of the oldest methods of drying and hardening pottery that has been around for thousands of years. When there was no kiln, pit fire was the only way of baking clay. So now that you know about the clays for pit fire pull your grill out and get to work!