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SabrinaG

Updating kilns

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I've bought two small used kilns that I want to try and replace the control box to a digital one and I'm not sure what all I would need to actually buy.  These kilns are Skutt Electric Kilns the model number is 145, I've found the manual online,  the kilns are the same except the plug-ins are different, I'd like to make them the same. Also they say 120/240-208 does this mean I could make it either 120v or 240v, what materials would I need to change them? Could I possibly stack them and wire them together to make one kiln?  I'm currently only using a 120v kiln for my work as I don't have heavy duty outlets, the house I live in doesn't have washer or dryer hook ups. Thank you for the help!

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I'm not sure why it says 120/240. It'll need to run on 240. The breaker must be 25% greater than the draw of the kiln, so you'll need a double pole, 30 amp breaker for that kiln. It'll pull 20 amps at 240 volt single phase power. You can change the plugs to be the same as long as they're rated for 30 amps. Call Skutt to verify all that, though, just to be sure.

Be aware that the kiln will only go to cone 6, which means it will go to cone 6 only if the elements are new or in really good condition. As soon as they start to wear a little it will not get to cone 6. The kiln should only be fired to cone 3 or lower.

I'd also check out the wiring and replace it if it's old and crispy. Wiring harnesses are cheap.

If you want to go digital, the best bet is to get a wall mounted controller that the kiln plugs into.

Edited by neilestrick

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9 hours ago, RonSa said:

Curious why a wall mounted controller would be better than one that is installed on where the old Dawson sitter was.

Such as this one, first two pages of this PDF shows an easy retro-fit

http://www.clay-king.com/MANUAL_ELECTRO_SITTER_3_KEY_MANUAL.pdf

I think that specific one is made to fit Olympic kilns, or kilns with that particular control box configuration. Besides that, the wall mounted systems are easy to set up, and the relays and controller will last longer since they're far from the heat of the kiln.  And you can still use the sitter as a backup shutoff.

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The Electro Sitter is made by Olympic, but it isn't specific to only Olympic kilns. They have several models, based on the configuration of the Dawson Sitter it is replacing, e.g., one in a separate gray box (e.g., L&L) or one mounted in the wiring box (e.g., Skutt), long tube, short tube, etc. In addition to the reasons Neil gives, consider cost. Since you have 2 kilns, you can buy 2 Electro Sitters for ~$500 apiece, or 1 wall-mounted controller for ~$500. Either way, you apparently don't have an appropriate circuit, so you will have to install one, and then you will have to unplug one and plug in the other when you change kilns. Would you rather unplug/plug the kiln power cables into the plug on the side of the single external controller, or would you rather pay $500 more so you can unplug/plug the kilns into a plug on the wall. Either way, you are unplugging/plugging to change kilns. Or you could pay several hundred more and have the electrician install 2 separate 240V/30A circuits, and then you can run both simultaneously. For that, you would install the Electro Sitters so each has digital control.

Finally, you asked about combining them into a single kiln. Yes it can be done. Should you do it? Probably not. If you did it, you would have a kiln that is twice as tall (and deep once you are inside) and likely to be next to impossible to load.

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8 hours ago, Marcia Selsor said:

Don't they make them to hook up more than one kiln?

Marcia

 

Depends on what you mean by "hook up." The controller panel in a wall-mount is the same as installed directly in a digitally controlled kiln, and can only turn one kiln on/off at a time. When such a controller is installed directly in a kiln, it turns the elements on and off as needed. If the controller is in an external wall-mounted box, it turns a plug on the side of the box on and off, and the old manual kiln is plugged in there, not into the wall socket, while the external controller is plugged into the wall socket. The manual kiln is turned on High for maximum heat whenever turned on, and the controller trips it on and off as if unplugging it for a few seconds and then plugging it back in for a few seconds (in tune with the relays clicking).

On the other hand, with Bartlett controllers (regardless of the brand of the kiln, as many use the same Bartlett controller while other kilns use Orton controllers), you can get additional adapters for the digital controller in each kiln and computer software that will allow you to manage up to 50 individual kilns with controllers from a single central computer. I think Orton has something similar.

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Yes, Dick. bartlett makes them for a variety of kilns. I am pretty sure that the Custer County Heritage center had a wall mounted controller with 2 kilns plugged into it back in the 90s when Sue Tirrell was the ceramics teacher there.

I believe, and this could be wrong, but I thought they could each be programmed separately. I had a wall mount controller in 2002 for one large oval kiln.

Marcia

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At the school where I first did pottery, we had one programmable controller and two kilns.  There was some kind of "switch" to change kilns.  The evening class teacher set the kilns going each week, incorporating any work the school had done.  One week we turned up and the school teacher had set the kiln going, but hadn't changed the programme.  All the kids work got fired to cone 6 as that was the last firing we had done.  OOOPS.

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1 hour ago, Chilly said:

At the school where I first did pottery, we had one programmable controller and two kilns.  There was some kind of "switch" to change kilns.  The evening class teacher set the kilns going each week, incorporating any work the school had done.  One week we turned up and the school teacher had set the kiln going, but hadn't changed the programme.  All the kids work got fired to cone 6 as that was the last firing we had done.  OOOPS.

It's definitely possible to do that, you'd just need a toggle that would switch the control wires from one circuit to the other. As far as I know that's not commercially available, although I could be wrong.

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The power side of it is easy, though expensive, with an appropriately rated transfer switch. We have 2 of them in the community center studio where I teach. Handle up, 60A kiln plug on the left has power; handle down, 60A kiln plug on the right has power. We do that not for control purposes, but because there isn't enough power/circuits in the building to run both at the same time. A shared digital controller is going to be the issue. The thermocouple driving the controller must be in the kiln that is being powered by the controller. We can swap the power from one to the other with a switch (or manually unplug kiln A from the receptacle on the side of the wall controller and plug kiln B in), but swapping thermocouples from one kiln to the other (or installing a switch to change between 2 thermocouples in different kilns all the while ensuring that the thermocouple switch position matches the power direction) is a another kettle of fish.

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I use  one controller for 3 each 2 zone kilns and just plug in the the power to the kiln I want to use and plug in  the thermocouples for the kiln  I am going to use into the controller .  I use the thermocouple plug in connectors from Omega.com.  The only draw back is the possibility of forgetting to change the thermocouples.  The contoller usually will come up with an error signal of  FAIL and shut off the kiln if this happens.  I have been using this set up for over 5 years now.

David

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