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HI All,

I am currently helping with a just starting out Art Gallery and Community art center. I have worked in community studios for quite a few years and have helped a similar style studio start their ceramics room/department. 

My concern is that The Owners were gifted a kiln that is a VERY OLD manual electric  Duncan -  I heard somewhere that the year is in the serial number; if true the kiln is from 1964 . The kiln is in pretty bad shape. The electrical and the heating elements don't look too bad, but the floor and the lid are in really bad shape. The floor is crumbling, the edges of on the outside are rusted, the brick/board on the lid is cracked, and it just looks rough. I have told the owner, his wife, the Gallery Director; anyone, that will listen, that I am not comfortable firing it with how rough this kiln looks to be.

The Owner had his friend, who seems to know a great deal about kilns, to look at it. The friend is suggesting repairing it by pouring, a concrete-like, floor and just tightening the lid. He said he could rerun the heating elements as well. 

This is beyond my knowledge, and if it was my center I would just buy a new kiln. They have invested a great deal of money into the space. I have offered a huge amount of free knowledge and experience to help get this up and running but am not financially contributing. The Owner doesn't seem to be interested in investing in a new kiln.

My gut is telling me not to fire the kiln. . . but I am a very cautious person naturally . . . Am I worried about nothing? How old and how damaged is too damaged? 

:) Thank you for any help or insight you have.

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@aperhapshand  There's no such thing as a free kiln. ;)

What type of material are they planning on using for the floor? Castable refractory is not cheap, and doesn't insulate like soft brick. Are they thinking of just pouring a layer on top of the brick floor to seal up the cracks? If so it won't hold very long unless you also put  full layer of thick sheet metal under the kiln to support it, at which point you've spent more money than getting a new floor slab. And even then it's going to crack with the expansion and contraction of the bricks. Tightening up the lid is a temporary solution if it's cracked all the way through. It will fail at some point soon, no matter how much you tighten it up.

If it's a typical Duncan, it will be expensive to maintain because it uses a single element for each wrap of the kiln instead of wrapping twice. That means twice as many elements when they need replacing, so the cost is almost doubled. They also typically have twice as many switches to control those elements, so more parts to replace, more money spent. We used to be able to get parts for Duncan kilns from Paragon, but they are no longer supporting them. They may have old inventory, but if not, then you'll have to get custom elements made by Euclids or some other source.

If it's really that old, and has been used for that long, then the wall bricks are probably nearing the end of their useable life. If the wiring has never been replaced, it should. Old wires are brittle and more likely to fail. Kilns wear out, plain and simple.

I don't think Duncan kilns are worth the hassle any more, and I certainly wouldn't put that much effort into a kiln that old if it's that rough. You'll just be throwing money away.

Post some pictures if you can.

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Thank you, Neil. 

He said he was going to remove the whole bottom and put plywood underneath - pour the "cement" (as he kept calling it, but explained that it was a castable material for kiln repair) - - I would assume that after the "cement" is set the plywood would be removed and the kiln would be placed on a regular metal kiln stand. 

I will see if I can take some pictures tomorrow when I am in the space. 

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@aperhapshand Has he done this before?

Here's the other big issue. Regardless of whether or not all these repair ideas work, the art center is opening itself up to a great deal of liability. If anything goes wrong with the kiln and any part of the building is damaged, or someone gets hurt, and the insurance company sees that the kiln is a total homemade shim-sham job, they're not going to be happy and may not even cover the claim. The kiln isn't UL listed, or at least won't be once the floor is replaced with a non-factory-original homemade thing, and the cracked lid is a safety and fire hazard. The fire marshal would not allow it. Do they really want to open themselves up to that much liability? I get that they're trying to save money, but this isn't their home- it's a business and public space, and is therefore subject to more rules and regulation.

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Casting a new floor sounds like a bad idea. I have used a kiln with pretty beaten up brick work so it is not uncommon for them to still work and look terrible. Depends how bad this kiln is and what state the electrics are in. 

I did replace the kiln lid after it getting really bad with a homemade brick one. I am still not sure if it was a good idea but the kiln lid is still going strong three years on. The metal band supplies most of the force to keep the bricks together. If that goes the bricks will crumble.

 

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