The first thing I did after retiring from teaching art on the secondary level for 30 years was to build a wood-fire kiln.
No memory of what made me think this was something I could accomplish, but bravely forged ahead. After digging the foundation, Mary Lee and Jimmy Mitchell drove over from Stuart, Va and helped me mix and pour the concrete slab. From then on I was scrounging bricks of every kind. Soft refractory bricks, firebricks, heavy carborundum kiln shelves from old Stratford ceramics lab, regular bricks, (Corning was even helpful!).
The design was based on the Olsen Fast-fire kiln. Somewhere online I met an older woman (who was my age now) who had built one some years ago but could not physically deal with it any more. She was encouraging and sent me some notes and firing schedules.
Found a local welder who created heavy duty grates for the two fire boxes, A heavy metal long handled “rake” for pushing and pulling red hot logs around in the fireboxes- also during the year I taught classes at Averett U. And Danville Community College to pay for the bricks, and in spare time created the pots to be fired in it. Friends would also let me know when they cut down or had pine trees fall. I packed up my chainsaw, maul and wedge. After the car was fully packed, I took it home and stacked it near the kiln.
The first firing I did completely alone-an unbelievable ordeal but I survived. Didn’t know about knee pads until after the fact. The temp was about 20, so whatever food and water I had taken out there to keep me going was frozen and of course not knowing how the kiln was going to act, I could not leave it for a minute. Was pleased with results, and after that experience, I always had friends come staggered from 9PM TO about 3AM. FOOD, DRINKS AND FRIENDS MADE IT SO MUCH MORE FUN!