Monday, March 25, 2013

Wax Fires

Not just one fire today, but two! Let me explain.

It's been a shitty day for me. I've to burn out wax from the student's ceramic investment shells. This occurs in an old Alpine gas kiln. The previous lab tech made a hole in the floor of the kin to recover melted wax. Directly underneath, on the floor is a metal tray filled with water to collect the molten wax.

After the fire
This is the kiln here:

I should note that this kiln had a roof fall on it, and ten inches x 40 x 30 foot (that's one thousand cubic feet) of roof water run through it. Didn't even faze it. They dried it out and fired it right up.

So, I'm in a hurry to get the wax burnt out. Long story short, I throw in a bunch of ceramic shell before it has properly cooled down, and cranked the heat.

It's a gamble. I've done it before. I've done it and had a wax fire underneath. Most of the time, my coping strategy for this is to get on my hands and knees and stare underneath the kiln at the fire, with a fire extinguisher next to me, and hope it goes out.

On two prior occasions (years apart, as I've been teaching the class for six years now), the fire didn't go out, and I would have to use the fire extinguisher. Just a couple of spritzes, not the whole canister.

So this time, it didn't go out. It got pretty big, actually. The whole kiln was covered in fire. I had to use the whole extinguisher. oops. And then another.

I really, had I the presence of mind, should have grabbed my camera and filmed it. Ah, but I was a little busy. And honestly, being on the floor was the best option, as you could not see for the black smoke surrounding.

And, then, an hour later I did it all over again. Two bad gambles in one day.

The leavings of the cleanup
It's amazing that we don't get more complaints or visits from the fire department, but apparently our portion of the building engulfed in acrid black smoke gains only slight notice.

I make light of this, only because I don't have much of a choice. The cleanup took a few hours. Scraping wax and dry chemicals off surfaces around the kiln. And I got a tickly throat from the smoke from the burned petroleum wax and extinguisher chemicals, which I'm sure is no good for me. But there you go.

Clearly, the older I get, the more stupid I become.


  1. Interesting day...glad you did not get injured during your fire fight...or destroy the entire building...

  2. Yah, I know. I can't decide if I learned some lessons and forgot them or that I never learned them in the first place.