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Build You Own Economic Ceramic Heater

Updated on January 3, 2020
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William has a long period of experience in ceramics and has come up with innovations.

This is a ceramic heater designed for larger spaces.
This is a ceramic heater designed for larger spaces.
This model is designed specifically for smaller spaces in a variety of settings.
This model is designed specifically for smaller spaces in a variety of settings.

What You Will Need

To make your own ceramic heater, there are some basic things you will need. First of all, you will need the skills to work with clay. You will need access to and the know how to use a kiln, whether rented or one that you own. Apart from this, You will need to know what works best and basic principles of glazing and decorating. The ceramic heater has been developed by trial and error over a period of two years, so there is experience behind what works best. This will now be shared.

Choose the Right Clay.

Experimentation with various clay bodies has determined that the best clay for these heaters is a low fired terracotta with a good amount of grog (coarse pre-fired fine sized clay fragments, sand/silica or mica). This clay body is more resilient to thermal variations and heat shock, which is necessary considering the application. The entire heater should be made of the same clay body. The clay also needs to be reasonably plastic to allow wheel forming. It is up to the builder to chose either a red clay body or a white one.

For Starters, You Need to Know Your Medium

Creating with clay of any type requires a special set of skills. You will need to master each one in order to make your own creation, no matter what you envisage. Here we are focusing on making a working ceramic heater. The following video should give you some insights.

A Beginners Guide to Working and Creating with Clay

Looking At Building Techniques

Clay is versatile, limited only by your imagination. Let's look at several methods for shaping clay into what we wish. Building with clay can be classified into several types. These are;

  • Pinch forming
  • Coil technique
  • Slab forming
  • wheel forming
  • slip casting
  • Form pressing

Some methods lend themselves to building this project better than others. Others are impractical. We will look at the coil technique, slab building and wheel throwing.

Coil forming is perhaps the easiest method of building for the beginner and is often used in combination with other methods of clay forming. Using s piece of wedged clay, roll it into a cylindrical form and keep rolling until you have a long snake like form. Make lots of them and join them edge to edge, kneading the clay together to form a large hollow cylinder. The following video demonstrates coil building.

Clay Building by the Coil Method

Constructing with Clay Slabs

Building with clay slabs can be challenging, especially with larger projects. What is being addressed here is a medium sized project; about 6 inches in height and should be easier, if you follow a system of construction. You will fist have to produce enough slab constructing material to make the entire project. You will also need to have enough slip (wet clay the consistency of thick cream).

Using a ball of wedged and plastic clay, start by slamming it on a canvas covered surface or on the wedging table. Turn the squashed ball over and slam it down again. Do this several times until you have a thick slab. Next, with a couple of wood laths and a rolling pin, Work the thick slab into something thinner; about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. The entire slab should be a consistent thickness.

Use as many clay balls as needed to make the desired number of slab pieces for your project. Cut the pieces into the desired shape for a three or four sided project, that are to be joined edge to edge. Score the joining edges with a pin tool or some form of scoring tool like a fork or one made for the purpose. Apply slip to all the scored joining surfaces.

Now comes the tricky part and you will have to work fast. Make sure you have a falt base to build on, that can be moved with the project on top without disturbing the completed work. It helps to have a newspaper between the work and the working surface, so that the drying and shrinking clay will not crack along the bottom.

Loose rolling the few or several pieces helps when building bottom to top. Arrange them in the perimeter around the bottom, so that the slabs can be rolled together in an upward way to the top. As this is a heater, there should be a vent hole in the top,. Make sure the slipped joints are fused together using some form of sculpting tool and your fingers. After this, cut some breathing holes on the bottom edge. Make a slab base for the entire work to rest on when all are dried and ready for firing. The following video will help you understand slab building.

Making Simple Slab Pottery

Wheel Throwing 101

One of the most challenging, but rewarding pottery techniques is wheel throwing.There are three basic parts; centering, raising a hollow cylinder and shaping the cylinder to make the pot. Before you begin, have some tools; mainly, a small pail of water, a pin tool, a cut off tool, A rubber and/or a thin metal rib and a angled tool for removing excess, uncentered clay at the base of the pot.

Taking about 6 to 7 pounds of wedged and plastic clay, first make a rough ball like making a snow ball. If you are using most standard power wheels, you will find concentric rings etched into the wheel head. These act as a guide for the initial fixing of the clay to the wheel head. The wheel head must be dry and not turning. In order to secure the clay to the wheel, you must slam it hard onto the wheel head in as centered manner as possible. This will help later. Turn on the wheel and get it rotating in a counter clockwise direction. Begin slow and pat the ball repeatedly into a smoother and more centered form.

Turn up the speed of the wheel head and with a sponge soaked with water, wet the clay. Taking both hands, use your right hand, cupped to shape and center the clay. Use your left palm and heel og the hand to press down on the top. Lock your elbow to you hips or waist, keeping the arms as steady as possible. This is the first step in centering. Keeping the clay wet, work your left hand down to the left side. Squeeze the clay up into something in the shape of a traffic cone. When that is done, use you left hand to press down on the top and the right hand as the centering guide until you have a pill box shape. Do this back and forth dance until the clay mass is centered. You should end up with a well centered pill box shape.

Now you are ready to make the hollow cylinder. Using you left thumb and water, begin to make a hollow depression in the top of the pill box form. Continue to use your right hand as a guide, keeping the mass centered. Slowly press own until you have almost reached the surface of the wheel head. You can use your pin tool to make sure you have left enough clay to form the pot's bottom.

Now, use your fingers of you right hand as a guide and the left index an middle finger to push outward gently and pull up gently on the clay wall you are forming. Make the cylinder wall as even as possible. By using repeated pulls, you should be able to raise a cylinder that is about four to five inches wide and six to seven inches tall.

Then you can do some Shaping by using a combination or expansion from the inside and contraction by squeezing in from the outside.Use your rubber and/or flexible thin metal rib to smooth the surface inside and out was well as removing excess mud. When done,, use the cut-off wire to separate The new pot from the wheel head. Transfer the wet pot onto a paper covered wooden drying bat. Your final shape is limited only by your imagination and the limits of the material. The next installment will feature joining and decorating.

The following video and lots of practice will assist in teaching wheel throwing.

Beginning Wheel Work for Making Pottery

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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