Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts about electric kilns

In case you were wondering what we look like.

Yesterday we did make it out to the studio.
 There were pots to be made and that pesky electric kiln to fix.
It turned out to be two lose connections.
Mark had lent our kiln repair box of connectors and such to a fellow potter up the raod.

With ice on both ends of the quarter mile driveway it was to tricky to have him drive in or Mark drive out.
So Mark walked out to meet him while I finished up some plates.

Later, we both spent some time looking over new electric kilns on line.
Wishful thinking.
They are not that expensive when you look at the whole picture.
Yet, in February it is not wise to spend 2 to 3 thousand dollars.
I was happy to have the fix it guy fix this one yet again.
We have bought 4 electric kilns since 1982.
We sold the first one off years ago.
The second one has been running like a top with only one change of elements, but it is 7 cubic feet and runs a bit slow now.We figure this kiln to be at least 25 years old.

The other two, one of which is the one with age problems, has been a good sound reliable kiln.
No computers, just a kiln sitter, which we now bypass.
We have replaced the kiln sitter 3 times on this kiln.
It has issues on when it likes to pop off.
So one day I thought I would just use the pyrometer and forgo any cones.
We have done that ever since.
But this does mean a lot of back and forth checking the kiln as it gets close to target temperture.

We did buy a short round electric computer kiln for the tiles.
Punch in the numbers and leave it alone.
So here is the thoughts and weight in on this.
Keep in mind we are only useing these kilns for bisque .

Do we buy, sometime this year, a programmable kiln?
Or just stick with a cone sitter style?
Any thoughts?
Any pros and cons?
Some better then others?
What about repair cost if something goes wrong.

And Tracey- there might be an old kiln in your future to turn into a Raku kiln after we get this all figured out.


Tracey Brome said...

I'll come for it anytime just say the word! I bisque in my gas kiln and have to babysit it, only using a pyrometer and it's fine for me. I just plan the day around it. I just have to make sure I'm there when it's time for holding the temp. It's not really a big deal, but some days it would be nice to just punch in some numbers and off I go. I will say doing it all manually has taught me about the firing process, not letting a computer think for me and all. Just don't by an f'ing Olympic!

Alex Solla said...

Morning. Sorry to hear your kiln is giving you grief. Having fired (and fixed) almost all of the major brands (except Duncan which I dont think they even make anymore)...
here are my thoughts.

BUY an L&L. Sure, they cost more, but they run impeccably. Elements cost money for any kiln, but changing elements is YOUR time lost. L&Ls are super easy to change elements on. First time you do it, it might take you an hour, but the second time wont take half that long!

Support from L&L is awesome. I had some weird programming I wanted to do on my 10cu footer, and Rob Battey was ultra-helpful in sorting things out.

Here's the downside: You wont have any excuse for staying up late turning switches up and down and such. Get the Bartlett controller, three zone pyrometers. Get the whole deal. You will LOVE IT! And twenty years later, when you want a new kiln because this new one seems a bit long in the tooth, it will still have a resale value!

Good luck.

Laurie said...

Don't know nothing about no kilns, but I love the snow portrait!

Anonymous said...

i only have one electric kiln that i can vouch for. 30 years ago in school we had a collection of kilns with knobs and whatnot but i had forgotten all about that when i purchased my new coneart with the 3 zone bartlett controller that alex mentioned above. i have not heard a peep from this kiln yet and i have preset profiles, press "start" and go about my business. i can't speak for customer service but my wheel is a shimpo and coneart is shimpo and the customer service on my wheel was exemplary.

Anonymous said...

forgot about the picture of you all... which one of you has the tail?

Linda Starr said...

I use a pyrometer and a cone in the sitter to fire mine seems to work well except when spiders or dust get in the way. HA.

Once I get settled I plan on getting a programmable electric kiln that has a door on the front where I don't have to lean over to load and hopefully don't have to watch as closely. good to know about the controller info from Alex and Jim.

looks like six more weeks of winter, I see shadows.

Ben Stark said...

Computer controlled all the way!! I hope to never fire another manual kiln--unless it has real fire :)

I had to go back and look for the tail ;)

mandolinartist aka amanda said...

Wow... the shadow in the snow photo turned out well!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Its funny, so many potters like gas and salt kilns, and I DON'T. I like bright and shiny and colorful glazes, not smoky colors at all. I know exactly what I want, and I get it from electric kilns. I am not a traditionalist.
My second and 3rd electric kilns were skutts, the third being a 20+ year old used kiln that was wonderful, but I gave it to a friend after several good years when I bought a (rhymes with taragon) sh!tty and inexpensive kiln that is programmable. Hit the buttons, let er rip was what I thought. Never buy a kiln from (rhymes with taragon--terrible customer service, cheap workmanship, parts that wear easily). Skutt on the other hand is FANTASTIC and I have been using my little skutt kiln (today too!) for 15 happy years. The customer service guy is terrific and helpful. L and L of course makes the most durable looking kilns, and that is hard to argue with, those hard brick channels for the elements.

cindy shake said...

Currently I'm using an older Crucible and used Olympic electric kilns. Both have been wired to plug into a new Bartlett V6-CF Electronic kiln Controller. For me, the controller is a must because of my inexperience. It's also extremely convenient and seems very accurate. HOWEVER, my dream kilns would hands down be an outdoor gas RAKU set-up with a Skutt KM-1627 Oval (18.5 cu.ft.!) with a Enviro Vent attachment for my bisque work. ...now that's a lot of sculptures I need to sell!!

Hollis Engley said...

I bought a Skutt computer-controlled kiln a few years ago from a woman who thought pottery would cure her mental problems. Didn't work that way, unfortunately. She hadn't even taken the tags off the kiln, so I got a decent price on it. I'd never had a computerized kiln and I love it. Love it, love it, love it. And a good friend of mine in Virginia, who does crystal-glazing on her pots, couldn't live without the ability to program climbs and drops and soak cycles into her firing. A nice thing to be able to do, if you're into that crazy crystal stuff.

cookingwithgas said...

This is great advice.
There is nothing like straight from the people to help you through a thought.
When I am online just looking at all the choices my head starts swimming.
And I know there have been lots of changes since we last bought a kiln.
SO thanks!

ang said...

if i was buying today it would be a programable, even though i love gas firing its exhausting and pretty much the whole wkd is wiped out just looking after it..

powen liu said...

Buy a programable. The kiln controller can help you to do many wonderful things: 1)help you to "read" the firing progress. 2) Help you to diagnosis problem when the kiln is not firing properly. 3) Help you to "inspect" thermocouple, relay, and elements. Just by pressing few keys, you can do all these things.
Most kiln companies use the same controller but with different keypad layout. Therfore, what kind of controller is not a big concern here. What you need to look for is body construction of kiln and wiring.
Cone Art kiln and Skutt kiln are always 2 companies on my recomendation list. I would say Skutt is "good" but Cone Art is "the best". If you would like to learn more about Cone Art kiln, just let me know. I know it pretty inside out.

Linda Starr said...

I forgot to mention my kiln is a used Skutt, probably from 1978 or so and worked fine (it's now in the back of my car).

cookingwithgas said...

more choices but all vote for a programmable kiln.

Note on the tail- it is Mark- he is wicked that way

Really he is holding my walking stick- it was slick out there!


Mark's wicked tail has me laughing!

I have a 7 cu ft paragon that I have used for years, both for raku (using the top shelf only) and for bisque or cone 6 or 10 firings. I use a gas kiln, too, but only for specific glazes where I want the reduction effects I can't get in my electric. She has never failed me and even after 15 years I have never had to replace the elements. The firebrick has had to be repaired in spots, but I'd buy another paragon in a heartbeat. Mine has a kiln sitter, but no fancy computer stuff...I'm not that technologically advanced. I don't even use the sitter, but use a pyrometer instead. I've never had problems getting help or service from paragon.

That said, the next electric I have my eye on is L&L - mostly because of options in size.