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McRocks

Super New and waiting for a kiln

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Hello, Introduction first. My name is Mara and I have my own Small metalwork studio and make jewelry with unusual things, including ancient beads. I had been In LOVE with the idea of ceramics and pottery since a child and now, for first time I decided that never is too late to start and bought my very first kiln, a firefly Paragon manual seemed less intimidating, and added to the purchase some clay and raku ready to start touching for first time the parcel of heaven that it means to me being able to create things with ceramics. Is so much beauty to create, so many things that can be done!!! SO much to Learn...

The problem? I had never SEEN a kiln before except in pictures, never used one, I don't know any kiln user,  so... I have Zero idea of what to do and in a binge search after decided to click the "pay here"button at the store where I got the kiln in a sudden moment of courage found this forum where I read simple, understandable, amazing information, the communication is fantastic and far for being the intimidating breed that is always to impress the other members with succulent words I realized in here everybody seems helpful and forgiving with extra beginners like me. 

I will be probably asking the silliest most obvious questions so, when that happens please remember I had never ever ever seen a kiln working, been in a pottery studio, do more than Play with the air dry clays with the burning desire to make it "real"solid. I would love any help, from what to do after the kiln arrives -My eyes are rectangular for watching way too many youtube videos trying to find a more visual answer-

How it was the first time You fired a kiln?

It arrives, -How big it as to be the room? It can be a small room? -

Then, you set the wondrous new element far from the walls, check if inside all seems ok and connect to the outlet -mine seems to work with a regular household electric outlet- trying to understand what the manual says... But... What would You tell to somebody that will be standing in front of a kiln that has to be done in this very first experience? I found zero info about that, I guess because most people that get into this passion already had at least proximity with the process, seen somebody, something. 

Second silly question I found still No answer. I don't want to glaze the pieces -that will be small jewelry size-. re they already strong enough or the second firing with the glaze gives the pieces the desired strength? Yeah, I know... I'm in a below zero level, hey, But I want to learn,  and I'm enthusiastic!!! :)

Thanks in advance for the Patience and super thanks or the fluid way you all explain the processes. 

McRocks.

Edited by McRocks
typo error
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Hi Stephen and Old Lady!!! -Darn I feel weird calling somebody Old Lady!!!, ugh-

Thankssss for the welcomeeeeee!!!

Ok, I read the Paragon kiln manual But it doesn't say what I really have to do, check everything is working, connect and... Have I to leave the lid semi open or the first time I have just to leave it closed all the time? Have I to start in low and keep that until it reaches the high temperature? -The kiln will have the pyrometer- Or I have to turn the dial to high? Somewhere -Yeah, dizzy for reading too  much in the binge session- that the kiln needs to "cure"- and has to get very hot, nobody seems to tell How much Hot nor for how long. I sure don't want to mess up the kiln -nor burn the house, hehehe, anyway I work with big torches, this is another breed of danger-

I live in Houston, Texas, Old Lady, and I had been an athlete most of my life, friends and everybody has NO interest in any kind of arts except if BBQ cooking can be considered and "art"hehehe and I Don'T LIKE polymer clay- so, I have no other source of info but internet... I found we have pottery places that teach -I want to make my own experimentation with clays and even if I can clay/mud from my own yard!- and glass and... -  and they don't teach/show/explain the basics of a kiln, they teach to make pottery and I want to make beads, masks, small sculptures that could be worn, even small vessels with organic feel and look, almost aboriginal. I do that with metals and concrete but I reaaaaally want to create elements with Real ceramics, terracotta, raku, all that wonders. I could fire "stuff"in a pit as I had seen in some of the 10000 videos I watched but I want a cleaner, neater, more defined artistic and versatile way to do what I dream. -The ideas are floating in my head already, Just need to learn How... :) -

Oh, I didn't got any cones -Sheshhhhh, and I have no idea what the kiln sitter is, the kiln manual has not a word of that... so, it might have none. 

Hum... I told you, I might be asking for the super basic questions most give for granted. UGH... 

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 Oh, I forgot to add, I make this kind of things and is how I would love to work with ceramics, inclusive might be asking -after I learn how to start the process and make my first things- IF I can add maybe metals -other than the nickrome is that is the one used for some ceramics- and what about  gemstones? Or they will totally explode?  Can I mix glass and ceramics in the same element? This is why pottery regular classes and the commercial typical studio would not work, I don't want to make a mug -at least for now, hehehe- This pics are some of what I do I want to create with ceramics... Among the million ideas I have, hehehe. I even started making copper texture/molds for rolling clay on them and make sea urchin looking things, coral looking things, well, hum, everything I can find in my path. the sole obstacles:  How I start the kiln, will smoke when fired first time? Open lid, how hot, all that... 

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Edited by McRocks
More typo errors, I think way faster than I type!
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First thing I did when I got my kiln was buy a notebook with a good solid cover and started a kiln log.  Every time I turn the kiln on I write down what I do, what time I do it and  then what happens.  This way I can repeat what works and not repeat what goes bad.  

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Hi Viking Potter! Great idea!!! That takes the eternal trial/mistake deal oit of the table, specially because I will be firing small and sometimes not too thick pieces. :)

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If adding a few hundred to your kiln cost is not a problem you might contact paragon and have an electronic controller added. Manual is fine but with a controller it will likely be less hassle AND might make more sense for jewelry as firing programs will take care of ramps and holds and such, Just a thought. Don't let the name scare you off as the controller is just a few button clicks to set, seriously not a big deal and you might even find it much simpler than manual once you get used to it as it just takes care of everything.

Beautiful work!

Hey I grew up in Houston nice place! 

Edited by Stephen
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So, here we go with some basics from a guy that barely knows anything, buys ancient used equipment and then builds his own stuff cause he is too cheap to get real stuff.  

The only reason to own a kiln is to heat stuff.  And the only use for a kiln is to heat stuff.  So you first decide what you want to heat.  Could be clay, metal, glass etc.  Then you figure out how hot and how to get the kiln to do that.  So, for clay you will learn that different clay bodies act differently depending on how much heat you use.  Likewise the different glazes act differently.  And that is when you start learning that a cone number relates to a certain heat range and that a cone 06 and a cone 6 are not the same thing.  

A kiln sitter is a mechanical device on the side of the kiln that drops a weight and turns off the electricity in the electric kiln when the inside has reached a certain temp range as determined by the cone that you placed on the holder inside the kiln.  It works as follows: the kiln gets hot, the cone sits  horizontally on two arms that hold it at each end and a rod sits on top of the cone between the two arms.  When the inside gets hot enough the cone bends in the middle and the rod moves down where the cone bends.  On the outside of the kiln the other end of the rod moves up releasing the weight that drops down and shuts off the power switch.  This is the way that you control the maximum temp of your kiln equipped with a kiln sitter.  

The rate of the temperature  increase is controlled by the switches on the kiln, often low, med, and high.  When you switch from one to the other determines when the heat starts to increase from any given point.

As Stephen stated, and electronic controller can be used to perform the same functions, allowing you to set specific increases in heat, how long each temperature should remain constant and the ultimate top temp within the limits of the kilns design.

Witness cones inside a kiln are the equivalent of a meat thermometer in a roast.  With your oven dial set on 350, you might still want to know that the inside of the roast is at a certain temp.  Witness cones are usually set in a manner inside the kiln so that you can see that one cone bends as you approach your desired temp, the next cone bends as you arrive at the desired temp, and the third cone stays upright unless you exceed the desired temp and then that cone bends to show you things got too hot.   

For a first go at stuff, get some clay, make some stuff, let it dry (probably a week or so) fire it with the understanding that water boils at about 230 degrees (depending on elevation and other factors) so you want to make sure that your clay is well dried before you try to ramp up any heat above 250 degrees.  Then heat the stuff up to your target temp.  Wait a long, long, long, long time for things to cool back down then open the kiln and see what you get.  I go nuts waiting to see .  Remember the old commercial with the lady who has her face pressed against the store glass, chanting "Open open open open".   That's me .

 

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Hi Stephen!!! Even when I will totally sound "grandma-ish"when explored options my first idea was starting with a small device -I can get a bigger one if the passion takes me to larger objects, wink- and a manual controller since if I hate something in the nowadays things is Code error, blab blab, press 1 and then 2 and then... The programmable things seem way to easy to fail, anyway in "modern times" everything is that way, LOL. I like the rough and more artisan way,  also to turn a dial seems way easier than error code in a console that just need me to "tell it"what to do,  I need to know the same, understand the heat, time... I guess it just ramps and shuts down itself, or something like that...? To me sounded when I saw the video about how to program them like "tell your dad to put the trash out" thing when one is in the same room, hahaha. I know I can buy the controller and I can get an electrician -electricians do that???- to change the manual thing for the programmable one if I think I need it, and that sounds super cool! Having options is a need to me.

Your kiln is one of that modern things? Are you comfortable managing the press 1 and all that?

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Viking Potter, Well, you know way more than I do, thou! :) 

I didn't try to build my own kiln because it needs more knowledge than I have -and I would hate to electrocute myself and carbonize my poor me, hehehe- or I would be doing that. I like the old style, the ancient techniques to do things but I can't be firing pits all over the yard every time I want a ceramic piece soooo an electric kiln seemed "the deal". That is why I chose a manual one, turn the dial -I thought, Haaaaaaaa- and Magicccc, hotter, on, off... Hum, and after started reading my eyes also started to look like sunny side up fried eggs. OMG, is NOT just On, Off, Hot. Is how long, depending of the materials, how cold, how hot, how. Holy Clay, Batman! Cones, ramps, sitters and Hey, will that Smoke???? At least now I know what are the lil stick looking things I saw on videos and pics, The famous sitter!!! -Thank Youuuuuuuuu,, EASY explained!!! YESssss!!! Ops.-

I have a pyrometer thou.... I guess manual controller can force me to stay put aside but also to have fun, enjoy the process, learn and more learn. I'm just fascinated with the idea. Cones, sitter, hum, so the pyrometer would let me now what otherwise cones and sitters do. When the temperature is enough, how high is going. Is that pyrometer a "caveman style"way to control the kiln? Is not the same to spy the cones than to check the temperature with the pyrometer? Don't both show sort of the same? Or I understood nothing at all?

Oooooooooh I just read where you say the witness cone is like a meat thermometer. Hum, does the pyrometer like the cones? Instead of bending I can see numbers? 

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

My Kiln Just arrived when I was writingggggggg!!! And Clay, hehehe, raku, a terracotta and a "normal kind of speckled clay. I will TOTALLY do that you said, make some things, let it dry -hum, can I use an electric hot place if I get super anxious and want to have it dry fast/er? - while I keep learning and then fire the "magical box". I might set it at the garage with a big fan -I read somewhere it would be a good thing- where if smokes I would not have every fire alarm and Co2 detector giving me a heart attack thinking that darn, eventually, I'm burning the house and studio! 

I might need somebody to chain me to a pipe or tree because I would probably will try to open that lil door before is cool enough. At least you have self control and wait saying Open, Open, Open, LOL. 

Really Thank YOU. I guess I don't want to mess it all up. Ohhhhhhhhhh questionnnnnnnnnnnn, the ceramics get red like incandescent? Glowing? Can I put pieces of metal or that can be like a homemade bomb??? 

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I think the best thing you can do is take a ceramics class. Even just one 8 week session. You'll learn a lot, and have the opportunity to ask a lot of questions to someone with knowledge. They'll probably even let you help load and fire the kilns if you ask nice. You can learn a lot on the web, but there's no substitute for someone watching over your shoulder while you do it.

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Hi Neil!I would LOVE to be able to see somebody firing a kiln, feel the heat, smell the "how much" and have a visual and sensorial experience learning like we suppose to do. I checked that... So far, the few available pottery classes in my area -Houston, TX- have or "lets go to do some mug coloring deal party style, other is once a week  older people  learning to make mugs -Oh, No, please, don't make me do thattttttttt!!!- and most are hours and the classes where the firing -The only thing I Super need- is done by them, no hands on kilns, gulp.  I don't even know people that used kilns... That is why I started to do the "binge internet research" where I probably know now how to make japanese style bisque, ancient viking pottery and how a programmable kiln works, but Nothing about my small humble manual firefly like: Turn on, lid open -or closed- warm up, 2 hs, -maybe is 3? turn to medium, will smell like smoke, 3 hours hot -maybe less, more???. Let cool, bah, this is how I fantasize it might be- No Info about the very first and this has been By Far, the most impressive and at same time easy to understand for people like me, below zero experience. 

The kiln arrived but still is unpacked, I reaaaaaaaally don't want to start freaking out because I don't know how to start, is like start driving a car and nobody tells you your foot has to be on the break, hehehe. I want to feel comfortable, confident using it, Hey, you are right, I just have nobody around that does the kiln use teaching thing. :)

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14 hours ago, McRocks said:

Your kiln is one of that modern things? Are you comfortable managing the press 1 and all that?

Yeah they are all controllers but your plan is fine. Being more involved will be a cool side to it. Hey just go for it. Unpack it and run through the steps. Once you finish your 1st empty firing you will get it. Just respect the heat and be safe. I second Neil's advice on classes. I think you have preconceived notions on pottery classes that don't line up with what I've seen. Maybe check out some handbuilding workshops or a class that includes handbuilding.

I tuned up a couple of ones that do:

 http://www.foelberpottery.com/classes.html

Don't worry no one is going to force you to make mugs :-)

...although I love making them everyone has to find their own passion in clay and I have always found potters to understand this without question.

Have fun and don't overthink it too much. You will be fine. 

 

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None of the the classes are going to say they teach kiln firing. That's something you'll need to talk to the teacher about. If it's a good studio they'll be happy to teach you. It's always nice ot have help loading kilns. Also, don't worry about what you'll be making. It's all about learning about clay, and the skill you learn will transfer to what you really want to make.

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Think of attending a class as like having driving lessons.  The lesson teaches you how to drive, but during that lesson you didn't go on a journey or get anywhere other than back home.  Lesson are the opportunity to learn and pick other's brains.  A class where they teach old people to make mugs will still teach you how to handle clay, and what can happen to it.  I'd be happy if I was teaching a group and a new member was asking (appropriate) questions about clay, glazes, firing etc.  

If you have the opportunity to join a class, do it.  Never mind what you might actually make, absorb everything else that is being said and going on around you.

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mcrocks, glad to hear you are so close to paragon's factory.  since you do not want to take classes that will teach you what your will be using to make your jewelry, contact howard arnold at paragon.   that kiln is so tiny and so different from any other one i have seen that i bet you will be one of very few people who own one.  paragon will be happy to make you a satisfied customer.

TALK TO ARNOLD.  DO NOT EMAIL. DO NOT TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE.   go straight to the source.

ask simple questions and ask for a reference to a BOOK or some written instructions.   if he cannot suggest anything you are willing to do, go to a local paint your own pottery place and pay someone to let you learn how they fire THEIR kiln.  yours is not like theirs but maybe you can learn enough to feel comfortable with your own. 

 your photos show a skill level that you have worked to achieve.  you can do this.

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Well guys, all the waiting, excitement, even concern... and it seems Mrs. New Kiln is Not working. I connected it to the wall, followed every lil instruction, turn it on, the red light is on but is no heat whatsoever, except if takes hours to get at least warm. the pyrometer marked my body temperature when approaching the hand to it, so, is not the pyrometer, is not the outlet, tried 2 different ones... so, contacted the ClayKing -store- to see what is next. Darn. I guess I will be back with questions when at least I can make the thing work. :( 

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mcrocks, glad to hear you are so close to paragon's factory.  since you do not want to take classes that will teach you what your will be using to make your jewelry, contact howard arnold at paragon.   that kiln is so tiny and so different from any other one i have seen that i bet you will be one of very few people who own one.  paragon will be happy to make you a satisfied customer.

/////////////////////TALK TO ARNOLD.  DO NOT EMAIL. DO NOT TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE.   go straight to the source./////////////////////

I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE UNDERLINE SO THIS IS MY WAY OF SAYING,  GO TO THE SOURCE TO GET THE RIGHT ANSWER THE FIRST TIME!!!!!

 

ask simple questions and ask for a reference to a BOOK or some written instructions.   if he cannot suggest anything you are willing to do, go to a local paint your own pottery place and pay someone to let you learn how they fire THEIR kiln.  yours is not like theirs but maybe you can learn enough to feel comfortable with your own. 

 your photos show a skill level that you have worked to achieve.  you can do this, too.

Edited by oldlady
EMPHASIS
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On 3/17/2018 at 3:36 PM, McRocks said:

New Kiln is Not working. I connected it to the wall, followed every lil instruction, turn it on, the red light is on

yeah seems unlikely that its busted, call Arnold to confirm before you box and send back. Clay-king is just the distributor, they may or may not be able to troubleshoot your problem but Paragon will.

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Hi Guys!!!!

I contacted the ClayKing folks and they contacted me with Paragon's tech guy. Their place is few hours away from home -we are in Houston Tx, they are close to Dallas, in Mesquite- so, I imagine they can send a tech here instead of shipping the kiln back. I told ClayKing No way I put my hands into it even if is a lose connection, I don't want to BBQ myself, It is like changing the car's tire, sheshhhhhhhhhh... Paragon has still to call me back. 

The kiln is defective, can you believe thattttttttttttttt? All this time wonder and wonder and when eventually opened the box and tried to "feel the heat" ... Nothing.  UGH. Anyway I guess if something good came from this is that I explored the kiln structure and found it very simple! I  guess the Real Magic is in HOW . It is sooooooo cool to have so much to learn!!!

I Guess -yeah, just Guessinggggggggg- I might try to go and try to learn to make a mug, If they don't toss me out because of asking too many questions, like "what happens if I mix clay with glass enamel???? -In the "dough"- or what happens if I add metal shapes and "bake it all"... If I add glass  spheres, will they melt and the pottery will look like swiss cheese with glassy craters??? Hum... well, I will have to wait a little longer but by sure I will be asking you all "weird stuff"... ;) 

Can I start now? Had somebody tried the glass balls into clay thing? Can I fill a space in copper -fold formed maybe? - with clay and bake it all at same time? I will soooooooo TRY!!! :) 

 

Thank You ALL a whole lot!!! :) The patience and cool ways helped to feel optimistic and happy with the new challenge instead of feeling like a moron because I just don't know  this or that.

(I'm an athlete and when somebody starts if the teachers/coaches are Good,  they make a champion, if they are smart idiots, they lose an athlete.) 

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go ahead and ask weird stuff but please do us the courtesy of learning a little of the basics.  we do not bake dough.  many of the people here are truly experts, years of teaching experience and experimentation.  your questions sound a little like a discussion of Shakespeare's plays with a major stage actor when you have not studied the alphabet.  do not feel offended but you really do need a basic class or at least a good textbook.

  i know nothing about making metal jewelry but i would not ask how you got those "bumps" in the metal and could you fill them up with something so you don't cut yourself.

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HolY Moly, I'm not underestimating the knowledge of none of you, guys, it is because I think you already tried it all and probably know more than whatever written thing can put my hands of is why I was thinking in asking "weird" stuff. :) 

The "baking dough" was an analogy meaning something like "materials" into the conventional clay, and hey, worry not, I'm trying to read already as much as I can and discovering how complex all is to the point that small details can make a huge difference. It can take me ages to learn enough, But I'm totally willing to. :)

 

Sorry if you felt bad with my extra enthusiastic curiosity, It was not my intention. :) 

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