Gas Kiln Conversion - Downdraft

January 2021- The Facebook Group TDI Downdraft Kiln Conversion has been created to provide a place to share information including building the conversion, firing schedules, and pottery results. www.facebook.com/groups/4124895130900261/

February 2020 – I appreciate the many people have given me feedback relative to the post or questions with their conversion. From this communication, I’ve realized that I assumed a level of understanding and construction ability above many people and have not adequately explained to all how to get it done using tools typically owned. To remedy this, I have put together a conversion manual that explains the process in more detail, shows why specific items are important and how to measure them, and current sources for tools and components.

The TDI Downdraft Kiln Conversion manual is available on amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084DH88GH

Thanks, and if you have any questions, I can still be contacted at borissquare@gmail.com

The following details gas downdraft conversions of two kiln sizes – a 23” by 27” and a large 28” by 32”. The goal was to fire cone 10 reduction. The design is relatively inexpensive and easy to construct from commercially available parts. Simplicity of both design and use was a major objective. Both kilns fired very well and excellent reduction and repeatability were obtained. Photos, firing schedules, and pressure/flue size settings are provided following. Specific components/methodology were employed and using different burners or dimensions may not produce the same results requiring recalculation of the inlet and flue sizes. I would also suggest reading and understanding the entire process before doing a conversion.

The photo below of the 28”x32” conversion essentially provides the design. The 28”x32” was an Olympic gas updraft and thus had smooth walls. The 23”x27” was a Skutt electric and had the element grooves.

There is a tremendous amount of information available concerning kiln designs. There are also numerous examples of kiln electric to gas conversions in both text and video. Through research, I noted that there were some very insightful comments in website documents written by Marc Ward with Ward Burner Systems. Marc also provides equipment including drilled orifices in case you don’t want to buy a #50 bit and drill yourself.

Ward wrote “Draft is the life's breath of a gas fired kiln”. Most of the kiln construction and conversion problems, even from documents written in the 60’s and 70’s, related to issues with draft. Kilns are constructed and then flue sizes and external flue piping are rebuilt and tweaked until the kiln maybe works. Numerous books and articles detail flue/chimney heights and size calculations, and many seem to be providing a flue of around three times the draw length of the kiln, including the exit length. The draft is created by the ducted rising hot air, so the higher the chimney the more suction/pull. From a simplicity standpoint, the attached exterior chimney adds both expense and difficulty to the construction process.

Many electric to gas kiln conversions have been built with an interior flue made with firebrick. Three issues with this design are the amount of space the bricks and flue take up, the added difficulty in building and cementing the bricks, and the oft-requirement of additional flues added to the top of the kiln to increase the draft/suction.

Discovering a German design that uses cordierite shelf material for the flue provided the success for our small kiln conversions. The beauty of the German design is that the thin shelves become super-heated, providing energy to the exiting gases creating a better draft. The shelves also speed up the conversion process. Once all of the parts were obtained and readied, the 28”x32” kiln conversion took about two hours.

Another important consideration is the ratio of primary air to secondary air for the burner. The burner hole drilled in the bottom shelf is 3.5”, which provides for an adequate ratio of primary to secondary air relative to this specific design and the draft it produces. With the flue undampened, the kiln will fire in complete oxidation.

In order to have even temperatures between the bottom and top of the kiln, there is a consistency of past designs/descriptions of having close to a 1 to 1 ratio between the width (or depth) and height of the kiln. The width/depth is related to the path of the flowing gas/heat from the burners up, around, and down to the flue entrance. For the 23”x27” electric to gas conversion, the flue entrance is 2” high and 2” kiln posts are used to support the ¾” bottom shelf, yielding an interior of approximately 23” by 24” tall. Also using 2” posts and flue opening for the 28”x32” downdraft conversion, the interior measures approximately 28” by 29” tall.

The flue wall is made from square kiln shelves and the conversion utilizes the inexpensive MR-750 Venturi Burners. The brass orifice that comes with the MR-750 is drilled to #38 (0.1015”) and is too large. Order new ones from Ward Burners and have them drill them with a #50 drill bit (0.07”). Or, if you have a #50 bit, order “Brass Spud Orifice #70 Drill Blank Starter Hole” from www.thebbqdepot.com - $3.14 each.

In order to ensure controlled and consistent firings, an adjustable pressure regulator was used along with a decent quality pressure gauge. The 0-30 psi pressure regulator was purchased from a local grill/propane company and the brand was Marshall Excelsior, made in the US. The pressure gauge was average quality 0-15 psi. A standard 12 foot (¼” Inside Diameter) propane hose was used and can be purchased with 3/8” flare fittings attached. The hose does not have to be high pressure so any ¼” ID rubber hose can be used and grill companies can make them with the flare fittings attached.

A propane tank fitting is attached to the pressure regulator input and the gauge is T’d in directly to the output, rather than placing the pressure gauge at the other end near the burner. Due to the slight flow restriction of the 12’ hose, the pressure readings will be higher and thus allow for a more sensitive adjustment during firing. It’s also easier to set pressures at the regulator.

Following are dimensions of the two conversions. Since shelves and kilns vary, the dimensions may change slightly.

23x27 Specs

A – Flue to inside burner wall
B – Flue width
C – Flue depth
D – Flue flat dimension
Flue Area
22.3 Sq. In.
E – Center hole for single burner

F – Burner hole diameter
Burner hole total area
9.6 Sq. In.
Flue shelf size
2@ 16” square x 3/4”
G – space between burner and burner wall/kiln wall
Approx. 1/4”

28x32 Specs

A – Flue to inside burner wall
B – Flue width
C – Flue depth
D – Flue flat dimension
Flue Area
35.6 Sq. In.
E – Burner/hole center distance
F – Burner hole diameter
Burner hole total area
19.2 Sq. In.
Flue shelf size
2@ 20” Square x 1/2"
G – space between burner and burner wall/kiln wall
Approx. 1/4"

In both kilns, the flue wall was placed on a small 2 inch post. Thus, the flue opening for the 28x32 was B-17.25” times 2” or 34.5 square inches, less 1 square inch for the small post, yielding 33.5 square inches.

Photos 15 and 16 show the 28x32 burner assembly, which must be made first. The MR-750’s are screwed into the iron pipe fittings. The MR-750 has ½” NPT threads and ½” NPT pipe and fittings were used. Required are: 4-elbows; 2- gas cock valves; 2-‘T’s; 2-6” length threaded pipe; 2-1” pipe; 3-2” pipe; ½” NPT to 3/8” male flare (for 12’ hose connection); needle valve and adapter fittings to get it into the steel pipe ‘T’; ¼” copper tubing; and, the copper tube T. Thread seal was also used on the pipe threads. Note that the burner photos show a cap over the hose flare fitting, used to keep dirt out.

After the burner assembly is made, an accurate measurement of the distance between the burners can be done, then the holes in the kiln bottom can be drilled with the 3.5” hole saw. A pilot hole was drilled first as the hole saw was not deep enough for a single cut on one side. For the 23x27 kiln, one burner is used and an ‘L’ shaped burn assembly can be made to make it stable. Later, to position and secure the burners, several daubs of Liquid Nails Construction Adhesive were used. Due to the height of the kiln stand, a ½” shelf was placed under the 28x32 kiln burner assembly to get a ½” space from the burner to the kiln bottom. The shelf was glued to the floor. Liquid Nails is very hardy (and easy to use) yet can be cut apart with a razor knife if it needed for repositioning, etc.

Drill burner holes in kiln bottom and position on stand.

Photo 1 shows the placement of the first shelf and the groove cut in the soft bricks on the 28x32. Start by marking and sawing on the bottom kiln section first. To establish and mark the groove position, a ½” wide 20” wood piece was placed on the top of the bottom kiln section (or use a ruler) and squared up by getting a constant C dimension. The actual flue shelf/wall can also be placed on the kiln wall to mark the groove. Note that the shelf may be recessed slightly into the groove.

Two lines are needed, inside the flue and outside. Measure from inside and outside of the wood piece, or the actual shelf, to the center kiln brick corners – ends of dimension D (inside kiln). Mark the lines on the bottom kiln section bricks and using a stiff saw, eyeball a square cut. The shelf width was 20 inches and the width of the grove was lightly wider.

Carefully stack and align/secure another kiln section. Measure, mark and cut, and repeat until all sections are cut. Afterwards, use a piece of coarse sandpaper attached to the edge of a board to smooth out the cut (Photo 20).

Photos 2, 3, and 4 shows the placement of the flue wall shelf pieces. Using twisted or straight pieces of Nichrome kiln wire about 1.5” long and a pair of needle-nose pliers, push the wire against the flue wall and into the brick, with approximately 3/8” sticking out and holding the flue in place.

I then jammed some ceramic fiber into the space on the side of the wall, first wetting it in a soupy refractory cement. The ceramic fiber helps holds the wall in place and seals it. After the bottom flue wall is in place, the top wall can be held in place and marked for cutting. Photo 5 shows the top wall piece, which was about 10” tall. The 10” cut off piece was then used as the burner wall (Photos 11 & 15). A standard cheap tile saw was used to easily cut the shelf.

Install the top flue wall the same as the bottom. A very small amount of cement was placed between the wall pieces and a small amount of fiber was used as the cut was not perfect (Photos 6 & 7).

Photos 9 and 10 show the placement of the bottom 2” shelf posts and also soft brick pieces cut to 2” tall that are used as baffles. The baffles make the exiting gases return from the burner side of the kiln and helps produce more even temperatures over the bottom shelf. The un-baffles areas were approximately 8” to 9” wide so as not to constrict the exit gas flow, providing around 16 square inches per side.

Photo 11 shows the 26” diameter by 3/4” shelf cut to fit the kiln. The cuts were based on the shelf being slight off center towards the flue as shown so as to have the gases exit through the unbaffled areas under the shelf. As shown, the space along the edge of the shelf provided an area of approximately 16 square inches per side for exiting gases. Cuts to the shelf were made with the tile saw.

Photo 11 also shows a soft brick baffle between the burners measuring 1” wide and around 5 inches tall. This keeps the 10” burner wall shelf piece from inadvertently leaning into the burners.

Photos 12 and 13 show the exit hole though the top. Note that it is to the side – this is the strongest place to put it but care must still be taken when opening the kiln lid to not overstress the bricks around the opening. The cut is carefully made with a flat saw and marked by measuring the flue on the top kiln section. Since the 28x32 was originally an updraft kiln, the round center exit hole in the lid was filled with cemented and pinned soft brick.

Photos 26 to 32 show the 23x27 electric to gas conversion. Missing from Photo 31 were soft brick baffles placed similar to the 28x32 to control exiting gases.

Firing Schedule
The attempted/ideal firing schedules were based on information from Val Cushing, John Britt, and Walford Campbell, and were tweaked for the two kilns. Initial issues encountered were too fast a warm-up and very fast firings. The too fast warm-up once caused a top cone pack to explode. There did not appear to be any adverse effects from the fast firings, however, Δ10 reduction firing in 4 hours just seemed too short a time. For both kilns, a firing time of approximately 7 hours appeared reasonable and included a 30 to 45 minute initial warm-up.

Noted about the firings is that the adjustable burner plate on the MR-750 burners was kept at around 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch throughout the firing. Reduction was made solely by restricting the exit flue, as shown in Photo 25. Soft bricks were used for dampening and in the following schedules the flue dampener opening is the distance between the bricks. It was found with both kilns that the flue area was larger than it needed to be. Both kilns will fire cleanly in oxidation dampened to around 9 inches. For the 28x32, this means that the flue has an excess area of approximately 9 square inches, equivalent to moving the flue wall around ½ inch, adding ½ inch to the kiln area. However, changing the flue dimensions may affect the firing – it would require experimentation.

As mentioned, the regulator in our conversions connects to a 12’ hose with a ¼ inside diameter. Varying the length or diameter will change the pressure verses flow characteristics and so the pressures will have to be found by experimenting. The valves on the burners are turn full on during the firing and gas flow is controlled by pressure only. When pressures are adjusted, tapping a fingernail lightly on the gauge is required to get an accurate reading.

The pilot light system is simple and is made from ¼” copper tubing, crimped at the top and drilled with a 1/16” hole. It works to light the burners. The 28x32 is warmed up with one burner and the pilot light was blown out and had to be relit to start the second burner. The pilot gas is shut off once the burners are running. We do not leave the kilns unattended during firing and no thus Baso safety system was employed.

Reduction commences at 900C and the kiln is stalled for 45 to 60 minutes with a constant temperature target of around 925C and not to exceed 950C. The gas pressures and flue dampener openings may have to be tweaked for your kiln and very small dampener changes can stall or increase kiln temps. A balance between gas and dampening will be found. No black smoke or soot is made during reduction. The appearance of soot shows over-reduction settings. Soot is carbon – reduction happens with unburnt fuel and carbon monoxide gas.

After the heavy reduction, the flue dampener is opened up and the temperature is allowed to increase quickly up to about 100C lower than the Δ10 temperature. The dampener settings listed following provide for a continued light to moderate reduction during this climb. Nearing the end of the firing, cones and color are used to affirm that the temperatures are relatively even from the top to bottom of the kiln. The top has always been slightly hotter than the bottom and ware is placed accordingly.

Photos 35 and 36 show some kiln packing. In Photo 35, the shelves were staggered vertically and placed toward the sidewalls causing the flame to zig-zag down though the shelves making for even temperatures. Photo 36 had taller bottles and pieces that made for a more abstract placing, but also had good firing results. One must try to visualize the flame going vertically to the top and flowing over the ware and through the shelves. For example, a shelf placed against the side wall and over a shelf also placed against the side wall will create a ‘dead’ spot near the wall that could experience lower temperatures. For the 28x32 kiln, 24” half round shelves were used with approximately 1” cut off the sides for fit – as shown in Photo 38.

Photos 22 and 33 show the propane bottles used. Bottles are placed in a tub and a small trickle of water is sufficient to keep the gas from freezing up causing pressure/flow loss.

Photos 23, 24 and 34 show the stove pipes used to exit gases from the building. The pyramid-shaped hood directly above the kiln was made from 24” wide sheet metal roofing panels and pop riveted together. 6-inch steel stove pipe was used to connect to outside the building.

Photo 37 was included as it shows a small shelf placed to block wind gusts during a windy firing day.

The following schedules are based on firings and can set up guidelines as a starting point. The primary objectives are an initial slow to moderate warm up, then fast climb to 900C, 45 to 60 minutes in heavy reduction, moderate reduction to 1182C, 60C per hour climb to 1282C with possible requirement to even out temps by dampening. The hotter the kiln gets above 950C, the slower the increase per hour if nothing is adjusted. Small changes in gas pressure and dampener opening size can have large effects in temperature rise or stall. Keep a log to learn the kiln.

At the end of the firing, the flue is completely closed off and a thin soft brick piece is placed over the burner providing somewhat of a block for the burner inlet. 

For questions or your comments/improvements, I can be contacted at borissquare@gmail.com


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The Art of Flight: A Journey in Tibet

Wow, haven't posted in two years, not that anyone was reading this. It was, after all, a tool to optimize my studio website. But since I don't have television and I don't feel like practicing yoga, dobro guitar, archery, study paragliding manual, read, clean, or much of anything else I need to do, I'll mess with this.

This is about a trip I took to Tibet over a few days November 2012. Preview is limited - click HERE.

"The Art of Flight is about a journey to Tibet that resulted in an exploration into the higher levels of meditation and yoga. It is a personal flight manual that may lead to the extraordinary experience of semi-weightlessness, and will lead to a refinement of both body and mind. If your life is an experience you don't want to miss, then maybe it's time to understand yourself and the power of flight."

Ok, what's next...



As soon as you create your work, a copyright is created. When a photographer clicks the shutter, they have a copyright in the image. A copyright exists as soon as the creator’s (non-copyrightable) idea is expressed in a medium that can be viewed.

A copyright is intangible intellectual property. It’s something that a person or corporation can have ownership of and can transfer ownership of to another person or corporation, but has no physical substance.

Generally speaking, no one has the right to copy your creation in any way in any medium without your permission. It is illegal for any unauthorized person or company to scan, copy, duplicate, manipulate, alter, etc. your work without your permission. And, the law specifically gives creators the right to copy, reproduce, distribute, display and create derivative uses of their work.

Registration is Protection: Although all work is copyrighted at the moment of creation, not all work is protected equally. If a registered work is later infringed, the creator/owner can recover actual damages (the fee that would normally have been paid for the use), as well as Statutory (Punitive) Damages (up to $150,000 for each infringement) and legal fees. A work that is infringed and has not been registered, can only generate the Actual Damages. This means that, in most cases, the cost of the suit far exceeds the recoverable moneys. If you expect to file a suit most attorneys won’t speak to you unless they know you’ve registered your images.

The one exception to the above is work that has been infringed within 90 days of first publication. In this case, it is still possible to register and have access to Statutory Damages and Legal Fees. If you are in this position, you need to register immediately.

The Copyright Act grants five rights to a copyright owner:
   the right to reproduce the copyrighted work;
   the right to prepare derivative works based upon the work;
   the right to distribute copies of the work to the public;
   the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly; and
   the right to display the copyrighted work publicly.

Workflow: Since registration of unpublished work affords the most protection, it is the most desirable. You can wait to submit/register until a specific work is about to be published. If you work on projects that have long lead times, this may mean infrequent submissions. If your work gets published more often, you may want to work the registration procedure into your normal image creation or digital darkroom workflow. Additionally, the image deposited to the US Copyright Office should be made in such a medium that it will still be viewable during the term of the copyright, which, for independent creators, extends to 70 years after the creator’s death.

The files in a registration are required to be uniquely named. Choose something that identifies the files, in case you had to dig up a single file for litigation - it’s a lot harder looking through lists of files named DCS_1045.jpg. It also makes it easier to prove that the image in question was actually part of the registration collection. Duplicate names in the owner’s other files or copyright registrations may cause problems.

Is it better to register the original capture or the post processed file? What if you increase the color saturation, contrast, crop the file, make it black and white, and so on? You can register files as basically captured, with minimal work, like exposure correction in Lightroom’s Quick Develop. The variations of the original are protected with what is known as the ‘right of derivatives’. You own the copyright to derivatives of your image. But, if you really work a file a lot - it couldn’t hurt to register it also.

And, just because a registered work is accepted by the Library of Congress, it does not mean that the copyright registration cannot be challenged in court. In fact, if a significant amount of money is on the line, a challenge is not uncommon. Any falsification or factual error in the registration could potentially invalidate the registration. You must expect that participants in a copyright case will look hard at all information on the form, including the publication dates. Make sure that you are registering the earliest possible publication of the photo.

Another tip - imbed copyright and owners information in metadata for electronically transferred files.

Myths and Questions:
“If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted.” This was true in the past, but today almost all major nations follow the Berne Copyright Convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. By default, you should assume that other people’s works are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but you should not risk using them unless you know for sure.

It is true that a notice strengthens the protection, by warning people, and by allowing one to get more and different damages, but it is not necessary. If it looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. You may not scan pictures from magazines and post them to the net, and if you come upon something unknown, you shouldn’t post that either.

The correct form for a notice is: “Copyright [dates] by [creator /owner]”

You can use C in a circle © instead of “Copyright” but “(C)” has never been given legal force. The phrase “All Rights Reserved” used to be required in some nations but is now not legally needed most places.

“If I don’t charge for it, it’s not a violation.”
False. Whether you charge can affect the damages awarded in court, but that’s main difference under the law. It’s still a violation if you give it away - and there can still be serious damages if you hurt the commercial value of the property. If the work has no commercial value, the violation is mostly technical and is unlikely to result in legal action. Fair use determinations do sometimes depend on the involvement of money.

“If it’s posted to the Internet or Usenet, it’s in the public domain.”
False. Nothing modern and creative is in the public domain anymore unless the owner explicitly puts it in the public domain. Explicitly, as in you have a note from the creator/owner saying, “I grant this to the public domain”, or words very much like them. Some argue that posting to Usenet implicitly grants permission to everybody to copy the posting within fairly wide bounds, and others feel that Usenet is an automatic store and forward network where all the thousands of copies made are done at the command (rather than the consent) of the poster. This is a matter of some debate, but even if the former is true (and in this writer’s opinion we should all pray it isn’t true) it simply would suggest posters are implicitly granting permissions “for the sort of copying one might expect when one posts to Usenet” and in no case is this a placement of material into the public domain. It is important to remember that when it comes to the law, computers never make copies, only human beings make copies. Computers are given commands, not permission. Only people can be given permission. Furthermore it is very difficult for an implicit license to supersede an explicitly stated license that the copier was aware of. Note that all this assumes the poster had the right to post the item in the first place. If the poster didn’t, then all the copies are pirated, and no implied license or theoretical reduction of the copyright can take place.

Note that granting something to the public domain (PD) is a complete abandonment of all rights. You can’t make something “PD for non-commercial use.” If your work is granted PD, other people can even modify one byte and put their name on it. You might want to look into Creative Commons style licenses if you want to grant wide rights.

“My posting was just fair use!” The “fair use” exemption to (U.S.) copyright law was created to allow things such as commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the creator. This is vital so that copyright law doesn’t block your freedom to express your own works - only the ability to appropriate other people’s. Intent and damage to the commercial value of the work are important considerations.

“If you don’t defend your copyright you lose it.” False. Copyright is effectively never lost these days, unless explicitly given away. While copyright law makes it technically illegal to reproduce almost any new creative work (other than under fair use) without permission, if the work is unregistered and has no real commercial value, it gets very little protection. The creator/owner in this case can sue for an injunction against the publication or infringing user and may win actual damages from a violation, and possibly court costs. Actual damages means actual money potentially lost by the creator/owner due to publication or use, plus any money gained by the defendant. But if a work has no commercial value, the actual damages will likely be zero.

In Summary
These days, almost all images are copyrighted the moment they are created in a material form, and no copyright notice is required.

Copyright is still violated whether you charged money or not, only damages are affected by that.

Postings to the net are not granted to the public domain, and don’t grant you any permission to do further copying except perhaps the sort of copying the poster might have expected in the ordinary flow of the net.

Fair use is a complex doctrine meant to allow certain valuable social purposes.

Copyright is not lost because you don’t defend it; that’s a concept from trademark law.

Work derived from copyrighted works is a copyright violation.

Copyright law is mostly civil law where the special rights of criminal defendants you hear so much about don’t apply. Watch out, however, as new laws are moving copyright violation into the criminal realm.

Don’t rationalize that you are helping the copyright holder; often it’s not that hard to ask permission.
Posting E-mail is technically a violation, but revealing facts from E-mail you got isn’t, and for almost all typical E-mail, nobody could wring any damages from you for posting it. The law doesn’t do much to protect works with no commercial value.

The eCO (Electronic Copyright Office) system
As far as the paper VA form (Visual Arts form), it is being phased out. If you have any VA short forms you can still use them or you can still request them to be mailed to you from the copyright office.

There is a problem with the number of files you can register - if you are registering a very large number of images. There is an upload time limit of 30 minutes, not a size limit. So after 30 minutes, the upload will time-out. But what you can do is fill out all the info on the electronic form, make the payment of $35, and then printout a mailing sheet and mail in your images on a CD, along with a printout of the filenames.

The effective date of your registration will be the date they receive your CD, which the Copyright Office calls the “deposit.” If you do mail in a CD, get a delivery confirmation or return receipt to confirm the date they received your image deposit.



Carbon Transfer II

In Susan Cain’s TED Talk, she spoke of introverts and extroverts and the power of both. I think our world of creativity has become extroverted. We are being condition and taught that our image in the eyes of others is more important than our own image of ourselves. So in photography, it’s all about ‘putting’ oneself out there, about competitions, about having the appearance of a professional, about having a following, about having ‘likes’.

The unfortunate consequence is that we can truly not admit we know nothing, or are a rank beginner and feel good about it. Contentment with one’s level knowing that growth lies ahead with work and time is an enlightenment reserved for the few. More common is the purchase of a digital camera, followed by an online photo-site account, then maybe a personal website. As instantly as the images appear one becomes an instant Artist. A Photographic Artist. It’s as easy as the Auto Mode you use in your camera.

The result is banality. Millions of mediocre photos of sometimes pretty things - way too many birds, flowers, and sunsets. But, it does get you the most ‘like’s’ - the extrovert’s reward. Photography today is like a super obese sugar addict sitting in front of a table filled with cakes and pastries. They can’t stop eating and the instant gratification of the taste buds trumps any thoughts of the consequences. The sugar addict gets a quick fix but is never happy.

For some, photography is a hobby or social endeavor - it is fun, light, and easy. Others who are driven to create may find that they don’t know why they have to take photos. Trying to understand the inexplicable, they often turn outwards and very unfortunately get sucked into the artstyle of the mediocre masses.

Growth comes from introspection and from education. Education can be as simple as a critique, or a pile of books and classes. There are millions of classes and books on Photoshop, a few thousand on learning the “rules” of composition (or how to put yourself in a little box), and maybe a handful that teach you how to discover your reasons, motivations, and direction of your creativity.

After 35 years of taking black & white photos with film, I went digital in 2006. Joined a photo club, one with an appropriate number of moronically stifling rules. Used an online photo-site. Even got a webpage and wrote an “Artists” bio. But nobody could every answer the one question I kept asking: Why?

Why? I think that was the first word out of my mouth, just before mama. Why? People don’t like that word; it puts them on the defensive. But how can you do anything if you don’t know Why?

So, I turned back to myself. I’m an introvert so it wasn’t too difficult. I may not absolutely know why I am driven to take pictures, or be creative, for that matter. But, I know it gives me great satisfaction to make things. I like to use my hands as well as my mind. I built an airplane - 12,000 rivets into 12,000 holes. I’ve written stories. I bake french bread.

Thinking, I now understand why I like to show people my photos, or taste my bread. It is about sharing the positive experience that I get from the things I make. More people like my french bread than my photos, but that has to be expected. My bread is crusty, warm, with flavor that piques ones warm & fuzzy buttons. My best photos, that is, the photos I like the most are a bit odd, often with mentally dark overtones, or simplistic geometric concepts.

Getting to that introspective place where you show creations to share what’s in your mind is a first step towards education. When you only care what you think or feel about a photo, but enjoy others’ enjoyment, then you now own your creativity. Not everyone can relate. Often not those with closed minds or the masses caught in the wave of instant photographic mediocrity. Conversely, it doesn’t matter how many people like your image if you don’t like it.

Enter Carbon Gelatin Printing.

I said I like the idea of crafting with both my mind and body. I’d be a painter if I could but I don’t have the mental skill. It’s much harder to take a photo than it is to paint a picture. Painters get to start with a blank canvas and add the elements. A photographer has to see all of the elements and minimize those detrimental while emphasizing those significant. A photo succeeds less often. It’s why I love photographing at night.

In my Carbon work, the capture is digital, and that’s ok - a camera’s a camera. The initial darkroom is the computer with the first print being a large negative on transparency film. Making carbon tissue is a bit like cooking, and then it becomes an industrial coating process. Combining and UV exposing the negative and carbon tissue is hands-on, as is the developing in a tub of hot water. The image appears slowly as the hot water melts away the unexposed and unhardened black or brownish gelatin.

Every now and then a carbon print comes out quite fantastic. It’s a real achievement. It makes one feel good. I’m talking happiness. The kind of happiness you feel when you do your first solo flight in a small airplane; not to be confused with what people experience when they buy a new car or iphone, or get 5 likes on fb. Printing one good carbon print beats printing five hundred inkjet prints - just ask the fat man eating cake over there.


Carbon Transfer (Carbon Gelatin)

Time to post some pictures of some pictures. Made using a combination of digital capture, digital print-sized negative, and an 1865 india ink (carbon based) and gelatin process.

The why’s of the post will follow following, suffice to say that the process represents a de-evolution relative to superficial instantaneous electronic gratification common to most and a reawakening of the energies that lead to satisfaction and contentment. Too philosophical, yes well…

The few photos posted are the learning phase. Buying already made carbon gelatin tissue, as it is called, exposing to ultraviolet light, mating the carbon gelatin tissue to a final support paper, and developing it in hot water in the kitchen while sipping a gin and tonic.

The prints are mostly 11”x14” and each took a really long time to make. In fact, there is no guarantee that it’ll even turn out and not just wash away in a large soup of cloudy blackness. Cool, huh. But when one does work, and it is a good image, you just want to show it to everyone. It’s fun to be 10 again.