Beginner's Guide: 7 Tips for Successful Raku Firing
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Choose the right clay
  2. Prepare your kiln
  3. Control your firing temperature
  4. Use proper safety gear
  5. Time your firing
  6. Experiment with reduction materials
  7. Clean and seal your pots

Getting started with Raku firing can be a lot like trying to solve a puzzle. You need to get all the pieces in the right place to create a beautiful result. But don't worry, armed with the right tips, you can master the art of Raku firing. In this guide, we're going to share seven easy-to-follow steps on how to Raku firing. Stick around, and you might just discover a new passion.

Choose the right clay

Choosing the right clay is your first step towards successful Raku firing. It's like picking the right ingredients for a delicious dish — if you don't have the right stuff, you won't get the result you want. Here's what you need to know:

  • Raku clay: This is your best bet. Raku clay is specifically designed to withstand the quick temperature changes in Raku firing. It's like a superhero of the clay world, resilient and strong.
  • Porcelain clay: Although not as robust as Raku clay, porcelain can also be used. It's like the understudy who can step in if needed, but may not deliver the same standout performance.
  • Stoneware clay: Stoneware is another option, but it's not the top choice. It's like the last resort, only to be used when other options aren't available.

Remember, the type of clay you use can significantly affect your final result. So, take your time to choose the right one. You're on your way to mastering how to raku firing!

Prepare your kiln

The next step in the guide on how to Raku firing involves the kiln. Think of it as the oven in your kitchen. You wouldn't bake a cake without preheating the oven, would you? Similarly, preparing your kiln is a must-do before you start firing. Here are a few tips:

  • Check your kiln: Before you start, ensure your kiln is in good working order. It's a bit like checking your car before a long journey. You wouldn't want to break down halfway, right?
  • Heat your kiln: Preheat your kiln to around 1800°F (approximately 982°C). This is the sweet spot for Raku firing. Too hot, and your pieces may crack; too cool, and the glaze won't mature.
  • Space your pieces: When loading your kiln, make sure your pieces are not touching each other. It's like social distancing for your pottery. This ensures each piece gets an even heat distribution.

Preparing your kiln may seem like a small step, but it's a vital part of the process. It sets the stage for everything that follows. So, like a chef prepping his kitchen before the dinner rush, take the time to set up your kiln right. You're one step closer to mastering how to Raku firing.

Control your firing temperature

Now that your kiln is all set and ready, let's talk about temperature. Much like baking, controlling your firing temperature is key to getting a perfect result. If you've ever tried to bake bread at the temperature you'd normally bake cookies, you know it doesn't turn out well. The same goes for Raku firing.

  • Monitor the heat: Keep a close eye on the temperature. It's not something you can set and forget. It's more like babysitting: you need to constantly watch over it.
  • Slow and steady: Increase the temperature gradually. Rushing things won't do you any good. Patience is the name of the game when learning how to Raku firing.
  • Use a pyrometer: This is a tool that measures high temperatures. It's like a thermometer for your kiln. It can help you ensure you're firing at the right temperature.

Remember, controlling your firing temperature is a bit like driving a car. You have to steer the process, adjust your speed as needed, and keep an eye on all the gauges to reach your destination. And in this case, your destination is a beautiful piece of Raku pottery.

Use proper safety gear

Before we dive into the next step on how to Raku firing, let's talk about safety. Crafting beautiful pieces can be a thrill, but the process involves high temperatures and smoke. So, it's vital to protect yourself.

  • Heat-resistant gloves: These are a must-have. Like oven mitts for a baker, these gloves will protect your hands from the high temperatures of the kiln.
  • Fire extinguisher: Always have one nearby when you're firing. It's like a seat belt — you hope you never need it, but you'd be foolish not to have it.
  • Protective goggles: These will shield your eyes from any smoke or ash that may rise during the firing process.
  • Face mask: This is essential to avoid inhaling any harmful fumes that might be released during firing.

Remember, creating art should never compromise your safety. So, before you get engrossed in your work, make sure you're well-equipped with the right safety gear. After all, playing it safe means you can enjoy the process of Raku firing without worry.

Time your firing

Timing, they say, is everything. And it couldn't be more true when it comes to Raku firing. Here's the deal: Raku is not a "set it and forget it" kind of process. It requires close monitoring and precise timing to achieve the stunning results you're after.

When learning how to Raku firing, you'll find that the general rule of thumb is to fire your piece until the glaze matures. This usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and thickness of your pot. But how do you know when the glaze is mature?

The answer is simple: the glaze will have a glossy, molten appearance. You can peek into the kiln — with your safety goggles on, of course — to check the progress. Once the glaze has reached this stage, it's time to remove the piece from the kiln.

But remember, timing is an art. It might take a few tries to get it right. Don’t worry, though, this is part of the process. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

So, go ahead, get your stopwatch ready and let the firing begin. Are you excited? You should be. You're one step closer to mastering how to Raku firing.

Experiment with reduction materials

Have you ever seen a Raku pottery piece with mesmerizing metallic or crackle finish? That's the magic of reduction materials at work. A key part of how to Raku firing involves experimenting with different reduction materials to achieve these stunning effects.

What exactly is a reduction material? It's anything that can burn and create smoke when your pottery piece is removed from the kiln. This smoke infuses into the glaze, creating unique and unpredictable patterns. So, which reduction materials should you try? Here are a few common ones:

  • Paper: Newspaper or sheets of paper ignite quickly and produce a lot of smoke, perfect for a strong reduction effect.
  • Sawdust: Sawdust burns slowly and steadily, giving you more control over the reduction process.
  • Leaves: Natural leaves can add a unique touch to your pieces, as they can leave behind interesting impressions.

But don't limit yourself to these options. Part of the fun in learning how to Raku firing is finding new materials to experiment with. Maybe straw, wood chips, or even dried flowers could be your next secret ingredient. Who knows? The sky's the limit when it comes to Raku firing.

Remember, each material you use will create a different effect, so take notes on what works and what doesn't. That way, you can replicate your successes and learn from your experiments. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring and let the Raku fun begin!

Clean and seal your pots

Once you've mastered the art of how to raku firing, there's one final step you can't ignore: cleaning and sealing your pots. Why is this step important? Because it helps protect your work and enhance its beauty.

After raku firing, your pots will be covered in residue from the reduction materials. To clean them, you'll need a stiff brush and some water. Be gentle but thorough — you don't want to leave any residue behind. After all, this isn't just about making your pots look nice. It's also about preserving the intricate designs that the raku firing process has created.

Next comes sealing. This step is especially important if you plan on using your pots for anything other than display. Unsealed raku pots are porous, which means they can absorb water and other substances. By sealing your pots, you make them more durable and functional.

There are many types of sealants available, but a popular choice among potters is wax. It's easy to apply and gives your pots a lovely sheen. To seal your pots, simply apply the wax with a soft cloth, let it dry, and then buff it with a clean cloth.

And there you have it — the final step in your journey on how to raku firing. It might seem like a lot of work, but the results are worth it. Your pots will not only look amazing, but they'll also be ready to use or display for all to admire. Now go ahead, grab that brush and wax, and give your pots the finishing touch they deserve!

If you enjoyed our "Beginner's Guide: 7 Tips for Successful Raku Firing" and are looking to explore more creative avenues, check out the workshop '1-2-3 Comics' by Ruby Elliot. Although not directly related to Raku firing, this workshop will teach you how to create your own unique comics, allowing you to express your creativity in a different medium.

Alternatively, if you're interested in discovering more workshops that cater to your specific interests, be sure to explore Daisie's classes, where you can find all sorts of valuable content to help you grow as an artist and creative professional.