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Pugaboo

That Time Is Approaching... How Hard Is It To Change Elements On An Olympic Kiln?

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Pugaboo    438

I am noticing a slight increase in time to run a cone 6 glaze firing and my witness cones are starting show slightly less of a bend than previously so I think it's time to start planning an element replacement. I am at 180 total firings, 87 cone 6 slow glaze, 72 cone 04 slow Bisque and 21 cone 05 slow glaze transfer firings.

 

I've never done this before sooooo how hard is it? Do I need to replace anything else while I am doing it? Like relays, pins, high temp connectors, etc? I have an Olympic Freedom 1823HE.

 

I have found a repair man that will come down from the John C Campbell school and do it but I have no idea what price range I am looking at for the job. I'd also really REALLY like to learn to do it myself BUT don't want to mess up my kiln. I think knowing how to replace the elements in my kiln is vital to my growth as a potter, I like to understand how things work and go together, etc.

 

Sooooo honestly speaking how hard is it and are there any tricks I should know going in?

OR

Should I just bite the bullet and let someone else do it for me?

 

Thank you all once again for your help.

 

T

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Joseph F    867

I replaced mine and it took about 2 hours, 4 elements. It was a process, but I have an L&L so no pins to fool with. Not sure how your kiln is setup on the inside. I found the hardest part was getting the long parts of the elements through the holes then wrapped properly around the terminals. That was difficult. Also your going to need a good pair of wire cutters. I went and bought some because mine wouldn't do the job.

 

It wasn't super hard, but it wasn't super easy either. It took a fair amount of concentration and manual effort. I did take pictures of everything in order as I took it apart so I could put it all back the same. I highly recommend doing that. I was pretty nervous putting it all back together and firing it! But it all worked out. I didn't replace any other parts though, just the elements and the terminals they are attached too. Which I am glad I bought since one of them snapped in half. 

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bciskepottery    925

Might be worthwhile to hire the person, then watch him change the elements . . . or better yet, let you help him change the elements. 

 

Also think about swapping out thermocouples and, possibly, relays. 

 

Good preventive maintenance reduces problems later on. 

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neilestrick    1,381

Might be worthwhile to hire the person, then watch him change the elements . . . or better yet, let you help him change the elements. 

 

Also think about swapping out thermocouples and, possibly, relays. 

 

Good preventive maintenance reduces problems later on. 

 

There is nothing I hate more about repair work than when someone watches me work. I think most repair people in any trade will agree. If you want him to teach you how, then you need to discuss that before scheduling the job, because he may charge differently for that service, or he may flat out say 'no, that's not my job'.

 

You can do it yourself. It will take a few hours the first time, but there's nothing all that difficult about it. Just do one ring of the kiln at a time, so you have the other rings as a point of reference when you put it back together. You'll need some needle nose pliers for putting in the pins, a flat screwdriver for holding down the element while putting in the pins, and a good pair of wire cutters. Cutting off the element pigtails can be difficult. I use mini bolt cutters. You may also need a wire stripper and crimper depending on if you need to change out any of your terminal ends. I don't remember if Olympic element connections are crimped or if they use a screw connection. Just take your time. The pins should go in 90 degrees to the wall, making sure that they go over the element wire, holding it down into the groove. It's not difficult, just time consuming when you're new at it. Also replace any broken bricks while you have the elements out.

 

Definitely check the thermocouple. Let the relays go until they die. You may get another 150 firings or more out of them.

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Pugaboo    438

I replaced the thermocouple less than a year ago so it should still be good but I will check it just to make sure. Yes I am a firm believer in Maintenance and preventative measures.

 

I have a good pair of wire cutters and the kiln came with the electric crimping tool and a wiring schematic. I definitely plan in taking pictures as I go along just like I did when I replaced the TC. Doing that has saved me more than once when repairing an air conditioner or pool pump. It can also help when you mess up so you can show the repair man sent to rescue you what it SHOULD look like.

 

I should note it's a stackable kiln not a solid jacket so with help I think I can unstack the layers and place them on a work table to remove and reinstall the elements. Am I thinking correctly on this?

 

T

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Pugaboo    438

Neil,

 

When I pull the pins do I replace them in exactly the same place or do I have to move them a bit to have fresh brick to support them? (Thinking along the lines of pulling a nail from drywall it tends to leave a weak spot so it's better to move over a bit and re-nail.)

 

The only part I am a bit nervous about is replacing the wire crimps... what if I use too much pressure and crimp it so it causes heat to build up because it is too tight OR what if I don't crimp it hard enough and end up with a loose live wire in there?

 

I have a pair of smaller bolt cutters, not sure if they qualify as mini, I use them to cut the high temp wire I use to make bead rack wires.

 

I don't have any broken bricks at the moment... that may change once I start moving the rings around though lol. Nobody has ever told me I'm graceful.

 

OH! Should I be thinking about flipping my floor while I have it all apart?

 

Thank you so much Neil and everybody else you are all super amazing.

 

T

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Dick White    155

I would not try to take the sections apart and move them to a work table. Some kilns have a lid hinge bracket that braces the whole back of the kiln, so you'd have to take that apart too (and reassemble). Also, the main power wiring harness is arranged somehow with leads to both sections, and you'd have to take that apart (and reassemble). If you are going to just replace elements, do it in place. Two sections should not be difficult to get down to the lowest element.

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neilestrick    1,381

I always unstack kilns when I have to do pins. It's a major back saver. On a 3 ring kiln you can't tell what you're doing at the bottom unless you unstack it.

 

It's difficult to over-crimp, and you'll know if it's not crimped tight enough.

 

Flip your floor if it needs it.

 

Put the pins into fresh brick or they won't hold.

 

The bolt cutters will work great.

 

I take lots of pictures, too, when I get into wiring configurations I'm not familiar with.

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Denice    243

I am lousy at rewiring kilns my husband and I have tried twice and never again.  My local ceramics dealers offers that service but there is a waiting list.  I getting a new kiln next time I need new wires.  Denice

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firenflux    45

I bought a new thermocouple awhile ago but have been too scared to attempt to replace it. I need to watch someone do it a few times to learn how.

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Min    784

I bought a new thermocouple awhile ago but have been too scared to attempt to replace it. I need to watch someone do it a few times to learn how.

 

Do any of these help? (take pictures along the way if you are worried about putting it back together)

 

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neilestrick    1,381

I bought a new thermocouple awhile ago but have been too scared to attempt to replace it. I need to watch someone do it a few times to learn how.

 

Thermocouples are the easiest repair you can do. All you need is a screwdriver. What brand of kiln do you have? For most kilns without thermocouple protection tubes, all you need to do is: unplug the kiln, open up the control box, undo the 2 screws holding the thermocouple terminal block, pull out the thermocouple, loosen the 2 screws holding the thermocouple in the block (red leg of TC to red wire), and put it all back together. Just check that all the screws are tight.

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I thought I would allow you to learn from my mistakes (I did it on my skutt).

Do not be overly efficient with your movements. I just started clipping off the wires from the elements with reckless abandon.

Unless you have a perfect memory, this is a bad strategy.

Take one element off at a time and rewire it. Otherwise you'll be spending quality time with the wiring diagram.

 

Overall it wasn't a difficult process once I got bast my bonehead mistake.

 

Marc Mc

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