yarddog, I have an old model K-18 L&L Econo kiln that I bought back in the early 70s. I fired it about 30 times till about 1980 then didn't use it till about three years ago. I am up to firing #78 and it is still going strong. I fire to 04 bisque and 6 for glaze. Those little kilns were make to last.
Some of us have been recycling clay in canvas bags. We have found it to be far better than plaster. The clay is just placed in the bag and the bag hung up to dry. When it begins to get somewhat firm it can be kneaded a bit. If you are willing to watch it more closely it can be put out on a concrete driveway in the bag and will dry out much quicker. It can be turned every couple of hours. When it is "done" the bag can be turned inside out and the clay comes out in a nice lump. I usually take it out before it is quite as dry as it needs to be and put it in a plastic bag.