My First Kiln - Considerations Before Purchasing an Electric Kiln. Written 23Jan2017
[ This journal entry was written in 2017 for my old website but since I think it's still relevant I've decided to shift it here. Hopefully it helps you on your journey ]
After an excruciating 4 months of waiting on my mini electric PotteryCrafts P5901A Litres Genesis Kiln, it has finally arrived! That was quite the mouthful. I consider this a pretty big milestone for Lithops Studio. Some of you who have been following me for some time would know that I used to be more of a metalsmith and wire-wrapper than a ceramicist. I've been weighing the pros and cons of each medium and I've come to the consensus that, if I had to choose a medium to work with constantly, ceramics would be my choice. I think I'll leave this for another post altogether.
Now back to the kiln.
I wanted to go through some of the considerations I had when selecting my kiln. I know how exciting the thought of having your own kiln is, to be able to fire it up and have your creations vitrify to their final form and all of this under your own careful control. The satisfaction is going to be leaps and bounds from sending your treasures out for firing. And you know what, this time you get to be the first person who cracks the door open to see your pieces. Dibs on first peep. But before all that, you need to do some research and figure out what kiln is going to work the best for you. If you're like me and hate looking at these technical things.. Just know it's gonna be worth it when your kiln arrives and you don't have buyer's remorse.
These are some considerations I took when researching which electric kiln to get.
1: Size - Think of what kind of items you are making, if you make tableware that are relatively big, don't get a mini kiln to realise that you can only fire one item at a time. Conversely, if you're making very small items, a big kiln is going to take you ages to fill up to a full load! And we always want a relatively full load to make the most efficient use of energy and the kiln. Every firing creates wear and tear so you'd want to fire only when it's worth it.
2: Maximum Firing Temperature - Some kilns fire to a maximum of 1000degrees celsius while others fire to 1230degrees celsius and everything beyond and in between. To determine which temperature is suitable for you, you need to think of the application of your pieces as well as the materials you are working with. I have a friend who only fires pre bisqued items that have been glazed with a low fire underglaze that reaches maturity at 999degrees celsius. In her case, she can use the kiln that fires to a maximum temperature of 1000degrees celsius. On the other hand, I usually fire items that only reach maturity at 1200degrees celsius so her kiln wouldn't work for me.
3: Energy Consumption - Different kilns have different energy consumption, the same way different type of lightbulbs use different amounts of energy. Lower energy consumption, lower carbon footprint. It's also good to monitor this so you can add it into your overhead costs to get a more accurate accounting for costs associated with production if you're selling your pieces.
4: After Sales Support - This is was a big factor for me when I was deciding. I don't want to fork out a bomb for my kiln and not have a competent crew to save me when anything happens. In Singapore there are a limited number of companies that supply kilns and provide after sales support. To be honest I didn't do that much research on this as I purchased my kiln from Sam Mui Kuang where I was learning throwing and I knew with their experience and clientele base that I was in safe hands. It also provides an additional comfort knowing they are a certified distribution agent for Potterycrafts in Singapore and my kiln comes with a warranty of 3 years from the date of delivery/purchase. (This warranty does not include wear and tear of heating elements)
5: Front or Top Loading - When I was considering this factor, I for some reason thought a front loader would be so much more convenient to load than a top loader. Just open the door and start placing items in rather than having to bend over for a top loader. A front loader definitely saves you from back aches but what I realised is that it doesn't give you a birds eye view of your items while you are loading them into the kiln. You can't really see the exact spacings between your items or the distance away from the kiln walls/elements. Especially for the items further in the back which wouldn't be an issue if you were using a top loader. Despite all that, you can overcome the issue by arranging your pieces along with your kiln furniture before placing the shelves into the kiln. At the end of the day, I think they both have their perks.
|Front Loader||Top Loader|
- Less strain on back when loading & unloading
- Has a door vs a lid (Top loader lids wear and tear due to gravity causing particles to fall on pieces during firing)
- Relatively cheaper
- Birds eye view of items when loading and unloading
These are some of the factors you can consider before purchasing your own kiln. I hope it was helpful for anyone looking to get a kiln and informative for those of you who are just interested in some kiln knowledge.
I will follow up with an ' unboxing ' post of my own Potterycrafts Kiln soon and perhaps one for my experience with first firing?
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Thank you for reading and take care!
Love and Light