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plumcreative

Electric Kiln Manufacturers: Which Are Best And What To Look For

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Plumcreative

I have two friends with Geil kilns and have been around a few others.These kilns are made to be used daily

These are brick kilns (soft brick 18 cubic feet) and one is a fiber car kiln(27cubic feet)-They are natural gas or propane fired kilns

Geil make a GREAT gas KILN-they are all downdraft with no chimneys and operate very well .The controls DD1 (his older controllers) are simple to run and work well.

These are what I consider one of the better kilns to buy and operate.

 

Now as to his electric kilns they are newly introduced  and that do not have a long track records like his gas kiln line.

The element is slipped into a round routered hole and has no hard element holder. The brick face is coated with a surface coating.

If I was buying a new electric no matter the size my choice is a L&L with the ceramic element holder-second choice is Bailey with the element ceramic holders.

I see that soft brick edge on the Geils chipping over time like most electrics do.

I love Geil kilns just not the electrics-fiber doors are fine buy the way as long as they do not have elements in them.

I suggest taking your time and read up on all the kilns

There is a small kiln company in Colorado that makes gas kilns that also makes a good product that many do not know about.

Its here  http://www.cooperworkskilns.com

I have a friend with one of these kilns as well.His is a 12 cubic propane kiln

They make a door just like my salt kiln door I made in the early 2000's with a center pivot.

They are the one of the only kiln companies with this type of door and its great functioning door design

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Be sure to take a look at replacement parts prices on electric kilns. Element prices can vary greatly.

 

FWIW, I don't think OldLady meant her comments in an accusatory, judgmental way, but rather was just shocked to realize that there are kilns out there that cost that much. I didn't read it as a comment on you, but rather on the kiln market in general.

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Both things you say make sense. I hadn't thought to price out the consumables with a kiln.

And I read the "pricey kiln" comment to A friend they took it the same way I did but I see what you mean. No hard feelings to anyone it's just that I often see people making completely non-germane comments on posts and think it is better to stay on topic. Adding something unrelated to a useful reply is OK but a totally unhelpful post is, well, unhelpful. (But sorryOldLady if I took it wrong).

I've asked questions on Amazon about a product and gotten answers like "I don't know but I think..." When I really just wanted someone who bought the product to tell me some facts about about the thing.

In general I have found this site to be extremely helpful and maybe someday I will know enough to add some useful info too.

Cheers everyone.

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Full disclosure- I'm an L&L distributor. But I'm also a kiln repair guy, and have had the opportunity to work on one Geil electric. I didn't love the engineering- it's a little overly complicated but not too bad. I've definitely seen much worse. The customer has had issues with it over the last year. She's had several misfires, but there's nothing technically wrong with the kiln. It just seems to be touchy. That said, it is an older model (not that those kilns have been around very long), and they have apparently made changes since it was built. This particular kiln had elements in the door.

 

My thoughts on front loaders in general is that they should have elements in the door. Would you buy a top loader that only had elements that wrapped 3/4 of the way around? Not putting elements in the door is cutting corners IMO. I've worked on enough glass kilns to know that elements in the ceiling always fall out. Gravity is a powerful force, especially on pottery kiln elements that get a lot hotter and softer than glass kilns. I'm also not a fan of floor elements because they get a lot of crumbs in them. You have to keep up on vacuuming them out. In my experience, simple design works best. Elements in all 4 walls provide uniform heating.

 

The Geil 'easy' change element system will work great as long as the element hasn't expanded so much that it's sticking in the hole. And I would think that old elements are very likely to break when you pull them out, so then you have to try to slide the element out of the hole with a screwdriver, chipping the bricks along the way. Or if something blows up and gets into the element hole, it's going to be very difficult to clean it out. I just see that as a maintenance nightmare. I would definitely talk to someone who has used that system and changed the elements a couple of times.

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Thanks.  It does seem that L&L keeps coming up as a good way to go for a front loader.  The fact that you don't see a lot of them used does seem to say they are held on to or get bought fast if they ever are on the market.  And the element holders are one of the things that made me look at the L&Ls in the first place.

Thanks for the info.

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A few other points are

what is your planned temperature range that you will be firing to?

The reason I ask if its cone 10-I suggest gas kiln

if its lower electric kilns work fine for those lower temps

 

You mentioned a hybrid kiln so that made me wonder what your plan was.

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  I am planning to just fire to cone 6 at this point since that is what they do at community college I go to.  They have both electric and gas kilns there but I have not done much reduction work.

  Someday I may want to try my own gas kiln-- as I very much like to try everything.  I was thinking that, if there were some kind of hybrid kiln, it would be a way to try it on my own without having to buy a second kiln.

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So my own recommendation (and the path I am taking) is to purchase a nice electric kiln as the primary workhorse. I am very happy with my 8 cu ft ConeArt. I can fill and fire it a few times a month. I am sort of production-art potter instead of a production-production potter.

 

I do plan to experiment. For this I will get a used and abused kiln from craigslist. Something to put propane burners in or use for raku. And keep covered outside.

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I have seen an electric kiln that uses a small propane tank to introduce a reduction atmosphere. It is hard on the elements, and you need to do do an oxidation firing  after each reduction firing to reset the protective oxidized coating on the elements.

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That's been around for some time, I remember seeing it a few years ago. At $12,000 you could get an actual gas kiln, so what's the point? It also appears that he buys kiln shells from other manufacturers and outfits them with his controls and reduction system, which means the kiln manufacturer will not warrant their product due to the modification. I wonder if Fallon warrants the whole system, or just his add-on parts? I also haven't found any comments about the kilns on the net more recently than 2011, so it appears they never really took off. I've certainly never met anyone who uses one. There is still a Fallonator web site, though, so apparently you can still get them. He's claiming 3 times the element life of a normal electric kiln, but I certainly don't believe that, especially if you're messing with reduction. I also don't put much faith in someone who calls thermocouples 'thermal couplings'.

 

That's not to say that it won't work, because in theory and according to what I've seen online, it does work. It just isn't worth $12,000, especially considering you could easily build your own reduction system for a fraction of that cost. It might not be totally automated, but then I would never leave my electric kiln unattended if there was a highly flammable gas being pumped into it.

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I had forgotten about the propane small tank kilns which I thought where more of a for novelity show than a real gas deal. I do recall they where priced to the moon for a small bottle feeding small amounts of propane. That small canister would not fire a small raku kiln yet alone this full sized electors-it just adds a small amount to reduce the atmosphere .

I always said I'm getting less smart-now the long term memory is fading.

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The President of an (unnamed) kiln company told me at the recent NCECA conference that Bartlett is coming out with a new controller in the near future. It will allow changes in the firing mid cycle. Meaning you can change the programming from the current segment forward. Not sure what your time frame is on kiln purchase- but that will be a giant leap forward in flexibility for Bartlett. Reason I went with Orton because they already have this technology.

Nerd

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The President of an (unnamed) kiln company told me at the recent NCECA conference that Bartlett is coming out with a new controller in the near future. It will allow changes in the firing mid cycle. Meaning you can change the programming from the current segment forward. Not sure what your time frame is on kiln purchase- but that will be a giant leap forward in flexibility for Bartlett. Reason I went with Orton because they already have this technology.

Nerd

 

http://www.bartinst.com/kilns/31   I get what you're saying, but 99.9% of users have no need to change programs mid-cycle. The glazes you're working on require greater precision and flexibility in the firing schedule than typical glazes require. Most potters have a schedule that works for them and they don't need to change it in the middle of a cycle.

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If I bought a new electric since I only bisque fire in it and thats rarely , all I want it to do is turn itself up and off-I have a magnetic fire right switch that does this as well along with the setter and a spare so it may even be a new manual kiln as the bells and whistles have no purpose for me other than resale.

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I appreciate all of the information in this posting regarding kilns.  I am a fine art major preparing to graduate and want to set up a home studio.  We use Skutt kilns and  one massive gas (cone 10 kiln) at school ... I prefer working with high fire pottery and really enjoy the aesthetic benefits of cone10 porcelain.  I enjoy making both large sculptural and smaller functional pieces.  

Regarding kilns, I prefer front-loading kilns.   What steps should I take to have a gas kiln installed?  What are the best types of gas front-loading kilns?

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5 hours ago, mishelart68 said:

I appreciate all of the information in this posting regarding kilns.  I am a fine art major preparing to graduate and want to set up a home studio.  We use Skutt kilns and  one massive gas (cone 10 kiln) at school ... I prefer working with high fire pottery and really enjoy the aesthetic benefits of cone10 porcelain.  I enjoy making both large sculptural and smaller functional pieces.  

Regarding kilns, I prefer front-loading kilns.   What steps should I take to have a gas kiln installed?  What are the best types of gas front-loading kilns?

What do you mean by 'aesthetic benefits of cone 10 porcelain'? Porcelain is the least affected by reduction, and the best candidate for working in oxidation. Cone 6 porcelain is just as tight and translucent as cone 10, and with the exception of tenmoku and shino type glazes, you can easily recreate cone 10 glazes at cone 6. Don't discard cone 6 oxidation just because your experience in clay  up to this point has been focused on cone 10. I say this because hooking up a gas kiln at home is not a simple thing, especially if you live in town. If you live in the sticks then you'll have a lot more options. Do a little searching here on the forum and you'll find lots of information about what it takes, zoning rules, building codes, etc. 

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I have been one to start my journey with the ^10 redux, and loved it immensely I helped load, but did not fire in undergrad, then did some firings in grad.  I also was firing electrics nearly twice a week in a HS setting where I taught. We bought a larger L&L Jupiter with 5 sections that I would fire often with all sections. I replaced elements in this kiln often, and in some of the other buildings the other kilns. Element replacement in any kiln is not an easy job, but the amount of damage over the years of hard labor that my L&L put in would be deceiving when you would compare the way the interior was compared to others after 10 years. L&L were made to take a fire, over and over without any hassle.  When it came to buying my own kiln, over the years I had lost that ^10 redux lust, and after pricing out a proper sized gas line 100 ft long, to the garage, looking at the insurance, pricing a gas kiln, and considering space. . . . . settled for my own L&L. 

You have to remember that in the 70's we started to think differently about fuels, gas prices were up, and so were other fuels. At the same time many folks were doing alternative firing with waste oil, coal, and other fuels. The move to ^6 was appearing, and made the possibilities for using electric much easier, especially when you lived on main street 5 blocks from the center of town. I had thought that we had become more open about ^6 aesthetic as compared to ^10, yet still hear those that say they just can't lower themselves to move to the lower temp. On the other end of the coin there are those that would not lower themselves to fire with gas, as real potters only use wood. . . . .. REALLY!  I hope to someday do a wood fire, get a chance to make some larger pots for a ^10 redux, and even have a little fun with the things Marcia is doing lately. Time will tell, but then I am really open to a wide variety of techniques, processes and my tastes aesthetically are a lot less unforgiving as in my younger years.

 

best,

Pres

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23 hours ago, mishelart68 said:

I appreciate all of the information in this posting regarding kilns.  I am a fine art major preparing to graduate and want to set up a home studio.  We use Skutt kilns and  one massive gas (cone 10 kiln) at school ... I prefer working with high fire pottery and really enjoy the aesthetic benefits of cone10 porcelain.  I enjoy making both large sculptural and smaller functional pieces.  

Regarding kilns, I prefer front-loading kilns.   What steps should I take to have a gas kiln installed?  What are the best types of gas front-loading kilns?

Step one check with your city/county where you live in terms of whats permitted in your Urban area (if you live in the boonies and want to fire propane -send me a Pm for advice )

In terms of front loaders-Geil and Cooperworks kilns mentioned earlier are great ones as well as Baileys . Get a sprung arch soft brick kiln with k28s in the fireboxes

You will need a cement pad and a metal roof shed  or large building for this kiln as well as gas from the city (unless its propane)

Some of us always did cone 10 and never looked back-I'm one of those. Back then you could build your own kiln and get a permit nowadays thats harder but all the commercial kilns are certified  these days so check what the kiln needs to be before buying one depending on your location and the permits.

I suggest you build the shed after the inspection.-Just a thought .

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