Mudballs, Tunnels, Burning Cash and The Pottery Realm

Hello! Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!

Yesterday, I put together a Campfire, and today I spent a lot of my day lining the inside. From prior experience, I learned the bricks that you purchase at Lowes or Home Depot break easily when heated.

Most folks might not notice if they only have a fire every once in a while, but here at Brother’s Campfire, they are a regular occurance. Concrete does not do well under fire.

Firebrick mortar is expensive, and I am not a mason, so I web searched solutions. There are numerous recipes for firebrick mortor out there and many of them contain run of the mill concrete. While not a scientist, observing has shown me that is not a good idea long term.

Yeah, umm… No.

I began looking more specifically on blacksmith sites and also in the realm of pottery.

The Pottery Realm

What I discovered is that clay is abundant in alumina which has a high melting temperature. This led to a rabbit trail of making bread ovens with a mix of straw for support.

Bricks can be made this way, but I would be better off with concrete than straw. I build fires above 1400 F that can melt an aluminum can in seconds and it would turn the straw to carbon rather quickly.

Last night’s Monster Energy Drink

So I turned to sand. Potters mix sand in their work for support, and it is hard to melt or burn sand for the most part.

That was easy. A quick walk to the end of the street resulted in a bucket full from the snow plows. A recent rain had washed a bunch in a handy pile.

The clay required a little more work. About a tenth of a mile away was a tunnel that had plenty of clay.

Pushing it back home in a wheelbarrow is a real farmer carry. Up two raised areas makes it more fun.

Here was the funnest incline to farmer carry

Breaks are for the bright, and those with gall bladders. I had some playing in the mud to do and nothing was going to hold me back. I mixed me some muck and started slathering mud.

It did not work well so I mixed it to a consistency of a good mudball for slinging and slung it. After it set a bit, I smoothed it out.

Firing it was my number one priority. I wanted a Campfire, yesterday.

Wait… Nevermind….

I figured the most heat would be at the bottom so I layered it with wet straw to slow it down and built a rounded fire to dry out the edges.

After about an hour of slow-burning, the side walls seemed to be getting a lot drier. I raised the temperature by adding some real fuel.

Having never done this, I did not account for up to 15 percent shrinkage and there were quite a few cracks. The interior is very hard and retains heat so I am ok with it for the time being.

For anyone wanting to try this, the clay needs to be completely dry before you fire it. Oh well, live and learn.

What is important to me is that even full of logs, the bricks on the outside are not directly exposed to the fire.

The mix was free and I would have been very sad if a store-bought variety had cracked in such a way. I can patch this up any time I want now.

Today’s adventure was playing in the mud.

What could be better?

Author: The Storyteller

Benjamin Thiel is a husband, father, correctional professional and author of The Ongoing Tale at Brothers Campfire. His favorite quote is "Don't count the lions. It will make you afraid and slow you down."

66 thoughts on “Mudballs, Tunnels, Burning Cash and The Pottery Realm”

  1. Great idea. We both definitely have to be careful doing any physical labor for awhile due to the gallbladder surgery. I still can’t lift anything too heavy. I was pretty sore last Sunday after I installed the new curtains, and that was just from sinking the screws into the studs in the wall and lifting the 12 foot rod to hang the curtains. I was sore for a few days after that. Gotta remember to take it easy and ease back into things, especially things that use abdomen muscles. Enjoy that campfire, and be careful out there. God bless!

          1. You could set up in competition to the local smelter….cater for the small-job market……your favourite can turned into a medallion-hang around your neck sir?…introductory special

  2. Very creative and well thought out. Great lesson to us, thanks! We are so quick to go out and buy things when we can take the material God has given us coupled with our time and labor to create what we need. The video from Cassa Bassa above further illustrates this. Yes, we have to fine-tune it, but that is okay and what a great example to our children. Very nice, thanks!

  3. I love your interesting progression. I have a friend who took the tub out of an old washing machine and uses that for his fire pit. It works very well and the holes in the side are quite decorative at night.
    Maybe a round watering trough would work! LOL
    Dwight

    1. That sounds like a lot of fun to take apart a washer. I am trying to avoid metals that can get burned out as I make so many fires. Sometimes I blow air in with a hairdryer to make blacksmith heat and the clay stands up a little better.

      Thanks for the suggestions! In particular, I will keep my eyes peeled for an old washer for fun!

          1. Ha ha! May I interest you in bentonite clay from a culvert in Colorado to use as a facial cleanser? 😆. I will stick to prison work at the moment.

          2. Hey ya know – if it takes off 10 years … people don’t care where comes from lol 😄✌️

            Yeah maybe prison work more suited at the moment til you have the clay operation up and running 😄😄✌️

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