How to Bisque or Biscuit Fire Pottery

How to Bisque or Biscuit Fire Pottery

If you’re new to pottery and want to learn how to bisque or biscuit fire your creations, you’ve come to the right place. Bisque firing is an important step in the pottery process that involves firing the clay at a relatively low temperature to remove all the moisture and prepare it for glazing. This guide will take you through the step-by-step process of bisque firing your pottery.

First, it’s important to understand the importance of bisque firing. The bisque firing process not only removes the moisture from the clay, but also makes it more durable and less likely to break during the glazing process. By bisque firing your pottery, you’re essentially “pre-firing” it to strengthen it and prepare it for the final glaze firing.

To bisque fire your pottery, you’ll need a kiln and kiln furniture, such as kiln shelves and stilts. Start by loading your pottery onto the kiln shelves, making sure to leave enough space between each piece for proper air circulation. Use kiln stilts to elevate your pottery off the kiln shelves, which will prevent it from sticking during the firing process.

Once your pottery is loaded into the kiln, it’s time to start the firing process. Set the kiln to the appropriate bisque firing temperature, which is typically around 1800 to 1950 degrees Fahrenheit (982 to 1066 degrees Celsius). It’s important to follow the recommended firing temperature for the type of clay you’re using to ensure proper firing.

After the bisque firing process is complete, allow the kiln to cool before unloading your pottery. Be careful when handling the hot pottery, as it will still be fragile until it’s been glazed and fired again. Once cooled, your bisque-fired pottery is ready to be glazed and fired for a final time, turning it into a beautiful piece of art.

Remember, bisque firing is a crucial step in the pottery process, as it strengthens the clay and prepares it for glazing. So follow this step-by-step guide to bisque firing your pottery and take your creations to the next level.

Importance of Bisque or Biscuit Firing

Importance of Bisque or Biscuit Firing

Bisque or biscuit firing is an essential step in the pottery-making process. It involves firing the pottery pieces at a low temperature to harden them and prepare them for glazing and the final firing. This initial firing is crucial for several reasons:

  • Strength and Durability: Bisque firing strengthens the clay body, making it more durable and less prone to cracking or breaking during the glazing and final firing stages. It removes any remaining water and impurities from the clay, creating a stable structure.
  • Improved Glaze Adhesion: The porous nature of bisque-fired pottery allows the glaze to adhere to the surface more effectively. The rough texture of the bisqueware provides a better grip for the glaze, resulting in a more even and stable glaze layer.
  • Shrinkage Control: Bisque firing helps to control the shrinkage of the clay. During the firing process, the clay undergoes shrinkage as the water and volatile materials are removed. Bisque firing allows the potter to control and account for this shrinkage, ensuring that the final piece will have the desired size and shape.
  • Increase in Temperature Tolerance: Bisque firing raises the temperature of the pottery to a point where it becomes more resistant to thermal shock. This means that the bisque-fired pieces can withstand higher temperatures during the final firing without cracking or breaking.
  • Testing and Refining: Bisque firing provides an opportunity for the potter to examine the form, texture, and surface of the pottery piece before applying the glaze. Any imperfections or structural issues can be identified and addressed at this stage, saving time and effort in the final firing.

In conclusion, bisque or biscuit firing is a critical step in pottery-making as it strengthens the clay, improves glaze adhesion, controls shrinkage, increases temperature tolerance, and allows for testing and refining. It sets the foundation for successful glazing and the final firing, ensuring the creation of beautiful and durable pottery pieces.

Materials and Tools Needed

To bisque or biscuit fire pottery, you will need the following materials and tools:

  • Pottery Wheel
  • Clay
  • Pottery Tools (such as wire cutters, sculpting tools, and trimming tools)
  • Water Basin
  • Sponges
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Bisque Kiln
  • Kiln Furniture (such as stilts, shelves, or kiln posts)
  • Pyrometric Cones (to monitor the temperature inside the kiln)
  • Glazes and Glazing Tools (optional, for applying glaze to the bisque-fired pottery)
  • Protective Equipment (such as gloves, goggles, and aprons)

These materials and tools are essential for the bisque or biscuit firing process. They enable you to form, shape, and prepare the pottery for the firing process, as well as monitor and control the temperature inside the kiln. Additionally, the glazes and glazing tools are optional but necessary if you plan on adding a decorative finish to your bisque-fired pottery.

Preparing the Pottery for Firing

Before you can bisque fire or biscuit fire your pottery, it is important to properly prepare the pieces to ensure they are ready for the firing process. Follow these steps to prepare your pottery for firing:

  1. Allow the pottery to dry completely: Before firing, make sure that your pottery is completely dry. This can take several days or even weeks, depending on the thickness of the clay and the humidity in your workspace. Placing the pottery in a dry, well-ventilated area will help speed up the drying process.
  2. Check for any cracks or imperfections: Inspect your pottery for any cracks, chips, or other imperfections. These should be repaired prior to firing to prevent further damage during the firing process.
  3. Trim excess clay: If there are any rough edges or excess clay on the surface of your pottery, trim them using a trimming tool or a sponge. This will help create a smoother finished product.
  4. Sand the bottoms: Use sandpaper or a sanding sponge to smooth the bottoms of your pottery pieces. This will help prevent scratching or damaging kiln shelves during firing.
  5. Remove any excess dust or debris: Use a soft brush or a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris from the surface of your pottery. This will help ensure a clean, even firing.

By following these steps, you can properly prepare your pottery for bisque firing or biscuit firing, setting the stage for a successful firing process and beautiful finished pieces.

Loading and Programming the Kiln

Once your pieces are dry and ready for firing, it’s time to load your kiln. Proper loading is essential to ensure even heat distribution and avoid any damage to your pottery. Follow these steps to load and program your kiln:

  1. Prepare the kiln shelves: Start by preparing the kiln shelves by cleaning them and applying kiln wash or shelf paper to prevent your pottery from sticking to the shelves.
  2. Arrange your pottery: Carefully arrange your pottery on the kiln shelves, making sure there is enough space between each piece for proper air circulation. Place larger or heavier pieces at the bottom and lighter pieces on top.
  3. Avoid overloading: Do not overload the kiln as this can lead to uneven firing and potential damage to your pottery. Make sure there is enough space around each piece for the heat to circulate.
  4. Program the kiln: Consult your kiln’s manual or follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer to program the kiln. Set the desired temperature and firing time according to the clay and glaze you are using.
  5. Monitor the kiln during firing: Keep a close eye on the kiln during the firing process to ensure everything is running smoothly. Watch for any signs of uneven heating or overheating and adjust the temperature or ventilation as needed.
  6. Cool down the kiln: Once the firing is complete, allow the kiln to cool down slowly. Avoid opening the kiln too early as this can cause thermal shock to your pottery. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the cooling process.
  7. Unloading the kiln: After the kiln has cooled down completely, carefully remove your pottery from the kiln. Use protective gloves and be cautious not to damage or drop your pieces.

Properly loading and programming your kiln is crucial for achieving successful bisque firing. It allows you to transform your raw clay pieces into durable, heat-resistant bisqueware that can be further glazed and fired. Take the time to understand your kiln’s specific requirements and follow the recommended guidelines for the best results.

Firing the Pottery

Once your pottery has been dried completely, it is ready to be fired. Firing is the process of heating the clay to a high temperature in order to harden it and make it durable. There are two types of firing: bisque firing and glaze firing.

Bisque Firing:

  • Bisque firing is the first firing that the pottery undergoes. It is done at a lower temperature, usually around 1800°F (982°C). This firing removes any remaining moisture from the clay and strengthens it.

  • To bisque fire your pottery, carefully load it into a kiln. Make sure to leave enough space between the pottery pieces for heat and air circulation.

  • Once the kiln is loaded, close the kiln door and set the temperature according to the specific needs of your clay and kiln.

  • Allow the kiln to heat up gradually to the desired temperature. This slow heating process helps prevent cracks and warping in the pottery.

  • Once the kiln reaches the desired temperature, maintain it for a certain period of time (usually a few hours) to ensure that the pottery is evenly fired.

  • After the firing process is complete, allow the kiln to cool down before opening the door. Removing the pottery from the kiln while it’s still hot can cause thermal shock and damage the pieces.

Glaze Firing:

  • Glaze firing is the second firing that the pottery undergoes. It is done after the clay has been bisque fired and glazed.

  • To glaze fire your pottery, carefully load the pieces into a kiln, making sure to leave enough space between them for air circulation.

  • Close the kiln door and set the temperature according to the specific requirements of your clay and glaze.

  • Allow the kiln to heat up gradually to the desired temperature. This slow heating process helps the glaze melt and adhere to the pottery surface.

  • Once the kiln reaches the desired temperature, maintain it for the recommended firing time to ensure that the glaze properly matures.

  • After the glaze firing is complete, allow the kiln to cool down before opening the door. Removing the pottery while it’s still hot can cause the glaze to crack or chip.

Important Considerations:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your clay and kiln, as firing temperatures and times may vary.

  • It is important to check your pottery carefully before and after firing. Cracks or defects may occur during the firing process, and it’s important to fix them before glaze firing.

  • Firing pottery can release fumes and gases, so it’s essential to have proper ventilation in your workspace and wear a respirator for protection.

  • Firing pottery is a delicate process, so it’s essential to handle the pottery with care and avoid sudden temperature changes, which can cause it to crack or break.

Following these steps and safety precautions will help you successfully fire your pottery and create beautiful and durable ceramic pieces.

Cooling and Unloading the Kiln

After the pottery has been fired in the kiln, it is crucial to allow it to cool down properly before unloading. This controlled cooling process, also known as “cooling cycle,” helps prevent any thermal shock, which could cause the pottery to crack or even shatter.

Here are the steps to safely cool and unload your kiln:

  1. Turn off the kiln: Before starting the cooling process, ensure that the kiln is switched off and the power is disconnected.
  2. Wait for the kiln to cool: Give the kiln ample time to cool down naturally. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the size of the kiln and the thickness of the pottery.
  3. Monitor the temperature: Use a kiln thermometer or pyrometer to keep track of the temperature inside the kiln. It’s important to wait until the temperature reaches a safe level before proceeding.
  4. Open the kiln: Once the kiln has cooled down to a safe temperature, carefully open the kiln door. Take caution as there may still be residual heat.
  5. Wear protective gear: Before unloading, put on heat-resistant gloves, a dust mask, and safety goggles to protect yourself from any remaining heat, dust, or fumes.
  6. Remove pottery: Start unloading the kiln by gently lifting the pottery out using both hands. Use caution, as the pottery may still be hot in some areas.
  7. Inspect the pottery: Examine each piece for cracks, glaze imperfections, or other issues. Make a note of any damages or defects for future reference.

Remember, the cooling and unloading process is just as important as the firing itself. Take your time, be patient, and handle the pottery with care to ensure the best possible outcome.

Finishing and Decorating the Pottery

Once your pottery has been bisque fired, it is ready to be finished and decorated. This step is where you can truly make your pottery unique and personalized. Here are some techniques and tips for finishing and decorating your pottery:

  1. Sanding: Before you start decorating, it is a good idea to sand your pottery to smooth out any rough edges or uneven surfaces. Use a fine-grit sandpaper and gently sand the entire piece, paying special attention to the areas that need extra smoothing.

  2. Glazing: Glazing is an important step in finishing pottery. Choose the glaze colors you want to use and apply them to your pottery. You can use a brush or dip your pottery into the glaze. Make sure to follow the glaze manufacturer’s instructions for application and firing.

  3. Decoration: There are many ways to decorate your pottery. You can use underglazes to paint intricate designs, carve patterns into the clay, or apply decals or transfers for a more detailed look. Experiment with different techniques and find what works best for your style and vision.

  4. Firing: Once you have finished decorating, you will need to fire your pottery again. This firing will melt the glaze and fuse it to the clay, creating a finished, durable piece. Follow the glaze manufacturer’s instructions for firing temperatures and times.

  5. Finishing touches: After the final firing, you can add additional finishing touches to your pottery. This could include adding a layer of clear glaze for added shine, sanding any rough spots that may have occurred during firing, or adding additional decorative elements like gemstones or beads.

Remember, finishing and decorating pottery is a creative process, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new techniques. Each piece you create will be unique and reflect your own personal style. Have fun and enjoy the process of transforming your bisque-fired pottery into beautiful finished pieces of art.


What is bisque firing?

Bisque firing is the process of firing clay pottery at a low temperature to harden it before applying glaze. It removes all the moisture from the clay, making it ready for glazing.

Why is bisque firing important?

Bisque firing is important because it makes the pottery stronger and more durable. It also removes any impurities in the clay and prepares it for the application of glaze.

What temperature should I bisque fire at?

The temperature for bisque firing usually ranges from 1650°F to 1940°F (900°C to 1060°C). The specific temperature will depend on the type of clay you are using, so it’s important to check the instructions for your particular clay.

How long does bisque firing take?

The time it takes to bisque fire pottery will vary depending on the size and thickness of the pieces, as well as the kiln being used. Generally, it can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours for bisque firing.

Can I skip bisque firing and go straight to glazing?

No, it is not recommended to skip bisque firing. Bisque firing is necessary to remove the moisture from the clay, making it ready to absorb the glaze. Skipping this step may result in the glaze not adhering properly and the pottery cracking or breaking during the glaze firing.

What are some tips for bisque firing pottery?

Some tips for bisque firing pottery include ensuring the pottery is completely dry before placing it in the kiln, using proper kiln ventilation to prevent uneven heating, and using proper stacking techniques to avoid pieces sticking together or causing damage during firing.

Can I bisque fire pottery without a kiln?

No, bisque firing cannot be done without a kiln. The kiln is necessary to provide the high heat required to harden the clay and remove the moisture. If you don’t have access to a kiln, you may consider taking your pottery to a local pottery studio or finding a community kiln that you can use.

Understanding Pottery: Chapter 3 Bisque Firing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *